It happened to Jesus almost every day. Someone in the crowd would interrupt him. He would be on his way to do something else, and someone would come up to him with a request.
Here in our scripture reading a man stepped out of the crowd and wanted Jesus to adjudicate a problem he had with his brother. On another occasions people interrupted him with a theological question or a Jewish legal matter…or there were those desperate souls who grabbed hold of him and wanted to be healed.
Interruptions! Life is full of them. We have our schedules set, our plans made, and something comes along to disrupt us.
Children are great ones of interruptions. If you want a predictable life, don’t have kids.
They come along with their insistent needs and persistent questions. And, oh the things they ask. Why is the sky blue? Why did grandpa have to die? Where does God live?
One little girl asked her mommy, “Mommy, where did I come from?” Her mother had been expecting this question, and had her answer ready. She told her little girl about the birds and the bees. The little girl, after hearing her mother’s explanation, said, “Oh, that’s not what I mean.
I mean, ‘Where did I come from? Megan came from Chicago, and Ryan came for San Francisco. Where did I come from’?”
Interruptions. You sail along smoothly for a while, and then sickness intrudes. You get your plans neatly arranged and then some discordant voice breaks in harshly and upsets everything. You attach yourself to someone with a deep, God-given affection and death knocks rudely at the door.
None of us are free from them. One of life’s major challenges is to learn how to handle the unwelcome interruptions.
Well, there are a couple of observations I want to make about interruptions. As much as they annoy us, as much as they throw us, they are a normal part of life. Interruptions are part of life’s scenery. Nothing is more certain than change. If we don’t prepare ourselves for upsetting
experiences, then we never come to terms with life. Someone once said that life is what happens when we are on the way to doing something else.
So many people become angry and resentful at life’s interruptions. They have in their mind that the ideal life is the unruffled life, that happiness is the goal of life, and that they deserve security and protection. And when that doesn’t happen, when their little formula doesn’t work, they become irritable and resentful.
When automobile manufacturers began to make tires, they looked for a tire that would resist the shocks of the road. The first tires were cut to pieces. Then the started making tires that would give a little and absorb the shocks. Those tires are still with us; they are enduring because
they are resilient.
So our first challenge is to take the shocks of life with resilience and not resentment. We should accept the fact that life is full of interruptions, uncertainty and change.
Move on with me now and look at this matter of interruptions from a slightly different standpoint. Interruptions can be opportunities for our growth and learning. They can lift us out of the ruts and call forth from us our highest and best.
When Victor Hugo was forty-eight years old he was banished by the French emperor and for twenty years lived in exile on the island of Guernsey. There, in loneliness of soul, he wrote Toilers of the Sea, Les Miserable and several other of his famous works. He was bitter at the
time of his banishment, but looking back on it later he said, “I should have been banished earlier?”
Langdon Gilkey was a young American teacher at a university in Beijing, China when the Japanese military, under wartime pressure, rounded up all foreigners into an interment camp. Gilkey spent two years in very difficult circumstances in Shantung Compound.
This is what Gilkey concludes about his experience as a wartime intern:
“One of the strangest lessons that our unstable life-passage teaches us is that the unwanted is often creative rather than destructive. No one wished to go into the (interment) camp. Yet such an experience, resisted and abhorred, had within it the seeds of new insight and thus of new
life for many of us. Almost because of its discomfort, its turmoil, and its boredom, it eventually became the source of certainties and of convictions with which life could henceforth be more creatively faced. This is a common mystery of life, an aspect, if you will, of common grace: out of apparent evil new creativity can arise if the meanings and possibilities latent with the new situation are grasped with courage and with faith.
There is only one more comment I want to make about this matter of interruptions. Some interruptions seem to be so tragic and so profoundly disruptive that it seems that nothing good can come from them. A husband is stricken with Covid. A daughter is killed by a drunken driver. A friend contracts Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Not all our frustrations can be fruitful. Not all our failures, accidental or providential, turn into good fortune. Some of them we have to live with endlessly. What then? To live on with a broken heart, a broken body, and a broken life what then?
It is here, when we hit rock bottom, that we discover the meaning of the Cross. For in the cross, we learn that the world’s minus is turned into God’s plus. When we have to carry our crosses, we learn that defeat is never final, that there is always some light in darkness, and that death does not have dominion. The cross is not a success story, not at all. But it still stands, the symbol of victory over the worse the world can do.
Perhaps there are some interruptions that we will have to live with interruptions that are so deep and so painful that they are like the cross. Perhaps there will come no circumstances to make it easy, no miracles that will reverse our hurts. But because we who are wounded belong to our Lord who was wounded, it makes it all mysteriously tolerable.