A Theology of Interruptions
How many of us like being interrupted? We may be in the middle of doing something, and then someone unexpectedly comes up to us, interrupts us, and disrupts our planned schedule. How about when we’re doing something really important? How do we act when such interruptions happen? What is our reaction?
Interruptions can be quite inconvenient and annoying, and yet, Jesus offers an important lesson on dealing with interruptions. Think about how He treated people who interrupted Him? Remember when the children wanted to interrupt Jesus, and the disciples tried to send them away? Christ promptly corrected His apostles, then welcomed and even blessed the children. This interruption was no bother for Christ, but he saw it as an opportunity to bless the children.
Then there’s the story of Jesus sitting in the home of an important religious leader. In the middle of their meal, a prostitute comes into the house, interrupting their conversation and basically scandalizing the host by falling at Jesus’ feet, crying uncontrollably while washing the feet of Jesus with her tears. As the Pharisee is ready to cast the woman out of his home, probably furious at her audacious disturbance, Jesus softly addresses the woman, forgives her sins, and offers healing for her broken life. For Christ, this was no interruption – and here is the essence of His ministry and life – it was an opportunity to offer love and good news to a person in need.
What about the story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus praises the one who interrupts his journey to reach out to the person in need, while criticizing the priest and temple worker who had no time to interrupt their important plans.
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear yet another example of Jesus dealing with interruptions. He was going to the home of Jarius, the ruler of the town synagogue, and obviously a very important person, whose daughter was deathly ill. Jarius urgently wanted Christ to come to his home. In the midst of this emergency, however, a simple woman, an outcast of society due to her illness and gender, approached Jesus in the most unnoticeable manner. She didn’t feel worthy to bother Him, and knew that others would scold her and even chase her away if she bothered the Master. They would perceive her interruption as quite inappropriate and even outrageous, especially since Jesus was with such an important person, and she a nobody, a lowly woman. Yet quietly, humbly, inconspicuously she approached Jesus, only wishing to touch his garment, believing that such contact would bring her healing.
Well, she was immediately healed; an illness of 12 years cured by simply touching Christ. What is just as amazing as the miracle itself, though, is how our Lord responded to this inconvenient interruption. Although He was with a VIP whose daughter was dying, He took the time to look for the woman in the midst of a crowd, and when she came forth “trembling,” afraid of her impudence, Jesus comforted her, saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
The synagogue leader may have been distraught, or even annoyed and angry at the delay, especially after learning that his daughter had died. Yet Jesus always dealt with whoever was in front of Him with respect, kindness and love. Christ treated an important synagogue leader, and an outcast and despised woman, in the same manner. Rank, fame, wealth, or position meant nothing to Jesus. He saw each and every person as a beloved child of God, worthy of respect and attention, no matter what their earthly status was.
So he gives His attention to the outcast, the marginalized, the broken woman, healing her not only physically, but also restoring her dignity. Then after that, He goes on to Jarius’ house, addressing the next issue at hand. And when people are in despair at the death of the little girl, Christ reveals once again his love and power to Jarius, raising his daughter from the dead and giving her back to her family.
Two wonderful miracles in today’s Gospel, showing Christ’s power over illness and death. Yet, what I would like to highlight is how Jesus dealt with the unexpected interruption. A good friend of mine, Dr. Jon Bonk, made me aware of what he called a Theology of Interruptions. Throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, Christ always strove to make the Kingdom of God present in the lives of whomever He met, whenever he met them. Whether someone was important or insignificant, whether they were rich or poor, whether they were faithful or heretical, whether they were pious or sinful, Christ met them wherever they were, whenever He encountered them. And with whomever he met, through His power He would heal, would forgive, would proclaim Good News, and would even raise the dead. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God whenever he had an opportunity. He had no agenda. Christ’s agenda was to be present for whoever was in front of Him at the present moment. If there was what seemed to be an interruption, He simply looked at it as an opportunity. If a woman of no consequence interrupted his meeting with a VIP, he gave His attention to the woman and addressed her needs, while also taking care of the VIP at the appropriate time.
This Theology of Interruptions is something I think each of us can learn from and strive to imitate. Oftentimes we are too full of ourselves with our own important agenda, and don’t understand what and who God brings before us each and every day – people with whom are opportunities to fulfill His will. Of course, we each have a daily schedule, with its plans and programs and tasks we want to accomplish. And yet, throughout our busy day, people may show up unexpectedly, and we will then have a choice to make. Should we ignore them? Should we be annoyed by their presence? OR should we see each person as an opportunity to bring God’s love and good news to them?!?
Yes, our schedule may have to be adjusted. Our plans may have to change a bit. Maybe we won’t accomplish quite all the tasks we wanted. Yet if we are aware that God is asking us to be instruments in bringing His love, His compassion, His mercy and His grace to the world around us, to whomever we meet whenever we meet them, this understanding changes our entire worldview. No longer will there ever be any annoying or inconvenient interruptions. Instead, every interruption will become a new and exciting opportunity to serve the Lord and bring glory to His name!
Macarius the Great of Egypt; Mark, Bishop of Ephesus; Arsenius of Corfu; Makarios of Alexandria; Makarios, Hierodeacon of Kalogera, Patmos; Removal of the Honorable Relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian; Branwallader, Bishop of Jersey
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