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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Life, Interrupted

Girl interrupted at her music
Johannes Vermeer

“Do not fear, only believe.” (Mark 5:21-43)
IV Pentecost – June 28, 2009
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor.

One of my favorite modern theologians once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy doing something else.”

Believe it or not, that was John Lennon. Yes, one of the Beatles.

He also wrote, “All you need is love.” That’s a nice sentiment, but he was wrong about that one. I’ll save that one for another sermon.

“Life is what happens when you’re busy doing something else.”

To put it another way, “Sometimes, the best part of life is the annoying interruptions.”

This morning’s gospel story is an important case in point.

Jesus is being interrupted. Several times. Let me put the scene in context for you. Jesus is in his hometown of Galilee.

He had been drawing large crowds of people from all over the region – even from “Judea and Jerusalem, Idume’a and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon” (Mk 3:7-8) – so he instructed his disciples to get him a boat “because of the crowd, lest they should crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.” (Mk 3:9-10).

He was on a teaching mission, and he taught from his boat in the water so that the people could hear him. He could teach from the boat uninterrupted by people trying to get close to him, to touch him. He and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, stopping to teach at one side and then crossing to teach at the other.

Our gospel lesson last week told the story of the storm that came up on the sea as they were crossing to the other side. In my imagination, I can see all the fishermen from all the other little boats that had followed him, excitedly telling everyone else how this man had calmed the storm and led them all to safety.

Jesus intends to resume his teaching, but he no sooner lands on the shore in the country of Ger’asenes when he came upon a man who was quite mad. He had been living ‘among the tombs’, scripture says. One can only assume what grief had driven him to such madness which Mark describes as “unclean spirits.” Jesus heals him and then gets back in the boat to once again cross to the other side.

He is no sooner out of the boat than a man named Jarius, a religious leader in the synagogue, falls at his feet and begs Jesus to heal his little daughter. Jesus immediately agrees and follows Jarius to his home, but lo! There is to be yet another interruption.

A woman – a woman, for goodness sake, and one with a 12 year hemorrhage, no less – was desperate to be healed. She said to herself, “If I just touch the hem of his garment, I shall be healed.” She did and she was, but that did not escape the attention of Jesus. Well, he knew that “power had gone forth from him,” so he turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”

I can only imagine Jarius at this moment, standing at the sidelines, pulling his hair out in frustration and worry about this unnecessary and annoying interruption. I mean, his daughter was sick unto death, and there was Jesus, wasting time with an unclean woman!

Jarius’ worst fears were suddenly realized. Even as Jesus was pronouncing her healed, word came that the daughter of Jarius had died. You can hear the sadness behind the angry words of the messenger who said to Jarius, “Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

Jesus ignored even the interruption of death and said, “Do not fear, only believe,” and continued the journey to the home of Jarius, taking only Peter and James and John with him. Once there, he took the little girl by the hand and said, “Tal’itha cu’mi; which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.”

And immediately the little girl, the 12 year old daughter of Jarius, got up and walked.

Jesus had been on a teaching mission in his hometown and had been interrupted by no less than three acts of healing and a major storm. Scripture tells us that he left that place and went to his home synagogue where he taught on the Sabbath.

The people there, who had known him since he was a child, took great offense at his teaching and would not receive him. So, he left that place and continued his teaching mission, often interrupted by other miraculous acts of healing.

Are you noticing a pattern, here? It is in the interruptions where healing happens. Even when death interrupts, there is, with Jesus, new life and renewed hope and healing.

This morning gospel story asks us to take a look at our lives to see what we might learn. Look over your life and begin to notice the patterns.

Have you ever been on a path, thinking that you were working toward your goal, and then found yourself – your life, the pursuit of your goal – interrupted? Did you ignore the interruption?

Or, did you follow it? Where did it lead you?

If you ignored it, where do you suppose it might have led? Would you be in a different place now?

Are you in a different place because of that interruption?

Did you find that it took you someplace you never would have asked for or imagined, but you are now exactly where you are supposed to be, because of that annoying interruption?

I believe we are where we are supposed to be, even when where we are feels as if it is, itself, an interruption.

How many of you have raised your voice to heaven and asked, “Why this, God? Why me? Why now?”

And, how many of you, having thought you were on one path but feeling yourself pulled away by life’s interruptions like illness, or death, or something like madness, have fallen on your knees and pleaded with God, “What am I supposed to do now?”

Pay attention to those times. Pay very close attention.

Interruptions, I have come to believe, are holy moments – God-filled, Spirit-sanctified moments.

Interruptions – especially the most annoying ones – are moments when Jesus may be calling you to do something different. Take a new path. Learn an important lesson that you couldn’t learn any other way.

In those moments, it may be important for you to remember two things.

Remember the words of John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy doing something else.”

But, more importantly, remember the words of Jesus who said to Jarius, “Do not fear, only believe.”



Utah Savage said...

I am in the midst of one of life's interruptions and it is expressing itself in poetry. I have never experienced such a prolific phase of poetry writing. This is not the path I thought I would be on this year. This was supposed to be the year I concentrated on getting published. Now it is the year my best friend fights cancer and pulmonary emboli. I am the smoker, she is the one of almost ascetic vegetarianism and clean living. I'll eat any old crap I have a craving for.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Oh, swell, hit me with the Shekinah stick again.

Last night I was reading out of "St. Benedict's Toolbox" and they were discussing "interruptions."

I joke that I am the "grand poobah of multitasking" b/c I am constantly interrupted by phone calls from docs, techs with tests that are not working, etc. while I am sitting at the microscope with my cases. (When it's really in "peak mode" my mother inevitably calls me at work to give me "non-news" like that someone she knows but I am not sure who that person is, is sick or died. LOL)

One of the "tools" the book suggests is: "Use interruptions to practice obedience. Today when your boss, co-worker, spouse, partner, or child comes to you at an inconvenient time, set aside your agenda and be fully present for them. Listen and respond."

So you WOULD have to choose the "interruption" as your homing point on the text, wouldn't you?

As per our FB messages, this makes two licks with the Shekinah stick for me. I give up. I am just going to bare my backside and take it, like a pledge at frat hazing! LOL

Doug said...

Interruptions as thin places. That is really helpful, and I think I needed to hear that. It is so easy to get frustrated, and stepping back to ask why and listen to the answer is something I am not very good at.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for all your wonderful comments. I hadn't thought of interruptions as 'thin places' but that's exactly what I was trying to say. Ms. Conroy is very much into Celtic spirituality. I guess it's rubbing off, eh?