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IT’S ALL IN THE INTERRUPTIONS

TEXT: MARK 6:30-34

Proper 11, B


There is a cartoon in an old issue of Leadership magazine. It shows a pastor standing outside his office talking to the church secretary. His suit is unkempt, his hair is wild and his eyes show he is obviously under a lot of stress. “My door is always open” he says to the secretary. “get maintenance to do something about it.”

The direction of our lives might be in the planning, but the living of that life is done in the interruptions. This fact is a given. What is not a given is how we choose to deal with the interruptions. If we know that interruptions are inevitable, you would think that we could plan to handle them better. But somehow, we don’t. Interruptions, even the ones we are kind of expecting, can still be frustrating.

But what is worse yet, is that none of the ways we usually handle these interruptions work. In fact they often seem to make things worse. The problem is that we either try to run, or we try to hide, or we lash out in our anger and frustration. When you run away from one problem, though, you usually end up running smack-dab into one that’s even worse. When you hide yourself away from the interruptions, you end up missing out on so much that could enrich your life. When you are quick to lash out in anger or frustration, you lose credibility and trust. Especially when the interruption isn’t trivial like insects, but as important as a real live person with hurts and needs and feelings!

All too often, when we get wrapped up in the way we think things should be turning out, we handle the interruptions that come our way in the opposite way in which God would have us do. Instead of having compassion, we run or hide or lash out. That’s part of sin’s legacy. In fact sin itself is one great big interruption in God’s perfect plan. The perfection God created had nothing in it to distract or deter, or frustrate. The interruptions all started with those first little words the serpent said “Excuse me Eve, I’m sorry to bother you, but could I speak to you over by that tree?” From there it has only continued to snowball out of control. Not only the interruptions themselves, but our sinful responses to them!

But in our Gospel reading for this morning we see God’s amazing response to interruptions. Even the interruption of sin. Jesus and his disciples have been reunited after long months of separation. It is a time of both great joy and much suffering. There is joy because disciples have be successful in proclaiming the message of Christ’s kingdom and many miracles were performed. But there is also a note of great sadness, for they are gathering at a time when they have just heard that John the Baptist has been killed for preaching just that same message!

Jesus can see the jittery edge his disciples have. He can see how tired they are, how jangled their nerves are. He was probably not feeling much better. What they all needed was rest. Time to recuperate and regroup. But they couldn’t find it there. The crowds kept interrupting them to the point where they can’t even enjoy a single meal in peace. Jesus and the disciples tried to find that peace by getting into a boat, but it doesn’t work. The crowds interrupt them again. So what does Jesus do? Does he keep trying to run away? Does he try to hide? Does he lash out at the crowds in his frustration? No, even though we might expect that, he does just the opposite. He welcomes the interruption and has compassion on the people.

Jesus is the God of all compassion. He is that shepherd promised in Jeremiah. He is the Righteous Branch, the reigning King, the One who is wise and just. He is the one who will bring back all the scattered sheep of God. For Jesus, people and their problems could never be an interruption. That’s what He came for. Whether it was helping the exhausted disciples or the confused and hurting crowds. He came to gather each and every one of you to himself, showing you his boundless compassion in the midst of all life’s interruptions.

Jesus interrupted his heavenly sojourn, so that he could be born as one of us. So that he could face all the interruptions that sin brings into life in this world. The Gospels are full of accounts where Jesus’ planned ministry is interrupted by people, or events or a lack of understanding. Only Jesus never ran or hid or lashed out. He reclaimed those interruptions, using them to further the work of his salvation. And finally, when his work on earth had been fulfilled; when he had kept the law of God perfectly; he caused a little interruption of his own. He died on the cross. He was buried in a tomb. And he rose again to life on the third day.

Through Jesus’ life death and resurrection he has interrupted our path of sin and death, with the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. He has broken down the dividing wall between us and God. He has brought back all those who had strayed away. Jesus reclaimed the greatest interruption of God’s plan: death. And through death itself brought life and peace forevermore.

And it’s that life and peace that He brings to us time and time again, when we meet together in His house for worship. This time together every week is meant to be a welcome interruption in the daily routine. A chance for us to come away with our Lord Jesus for a time of rest and recuperation. Church is supposed to be that interruption in our life which takes us out of the world for a few precious moments, and places us in the loving arms of our Saviour. It is the time and place where all our worries about the here and now can be calmed. Where in their place we can be given things eternal: God’s Word and the Holy Sacraments. Church is where God interrupts your worried and hectic life with peace and rest, hope and joy, forgiveness and life eternal.

Church is a heavenly interruption which prepares us to face all the other interruptions of our life. It is Jesus’ way of giving us all the gifts we need so that when everyone, and everything seems to come knocking unbidden at our door we don’t have to run or hide or lash out. Instead we can, face those interruptions with the compassion that our Saviour first showed to us. And the more we stop trying to run or hide or lash out at all the interruptions in our life the more we will come to see that our Lord of all compassion is there for us in those interruptions.

AMEN

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