The Holiness of Interruption

Right after Christmas, we were on vacation in New Orleans as part of our family quest to see all of the lower 48 states before Lewis and Caleb graduate from college. I also was helping officiate Ann Marie Honeycutt and Pat Ramirez’s Wedding. I was feeling deeply relaxed.

 

I woke up at 6 o’clock in the morning and realized I would not be going back to sleep, so I got up, threw last nights’ rehearsal dinner dress shirt and jeans and headed to the lobby to get some coffee, allowing Connie and the boys to sleep.   The coming Sunday’s sermon was swimming beautifully around in my well- rested head.

 

In the lobby I spied some beautiful white armchairs, the perfect place to write down the sermon that was resonating in my soul.   I didn’t see any coffee. The clerk told me that there was no coffee in the lobby and the restaurant would open not be opening for 30 minutes. She said there was a Starbucks across the street.   Starbucks sounded good..

 

I stepped from the lovely lobby onto Canal Street, where a light rain drizzled down in the predawn darkness. Did I need a raincoat? Nah, I’ll be fine. I got my coffee at the Starbucks across the street and considered staying in the coffee shop to write, but it was just too loud. My coffee, journal, and iPad in hand, I stepped back out onto Canal Street. The rain fell much harder. Passing the streetcars, halfway across the street the stoplight changed, but a taxi driver wave me onward, I hustled across . Did I mention I was wearing flip flops. Boogying across the rain slick street, coffee and books in hand, I raised one finger to offer my thanks to the taxi driver… .

 

Suddenly I was flying for ever so brief a moment, like Pete Rose diving headfirst into third-base, but I was not flying but instead I was falling. I crashed into earth kissing the New Orleans granite pavement. Immediately my right shoulder radiated pain. A man delivering Coca-Cola’s inquired, “Are you all right?”. The question made me appraise my situation. I saw my iPad in a Canal Street puddle, Completely sober, my shirt and jeans soaked, and my whole self laid out like a drunken sailor a block from Bourbon Street, I answered the kindly delivery man “I am not all right, but I will be.” I gradually arose and gathered myself and my gear and headed back to the hotel.

 

As I walked my shoulder felt a little better. I turned into the McDonald’s right next to the hotel, wondering why the hotel clerk did not mention it and wishing I had saved 2 dollars and a lot of pain by getting my coffee there. Strewn about McDonald’s were many folks, likely homeless, seeking refuge from the rain.. As I stood in line hoping for a cup of Joe, the throbbing ache in my right shoulder and began to subside, and I instinctively began to move it, subconsciously checking it’s range of motion. Reaching up over my head, pain as intense as any I’ve ever felt shot through my shoulder, my knees buckled, my eyes watered- I felt like I was going to vomit and pass out right there with all the other hurting souls taking refuge in McDonald’s.

 

But amazingly, seconds after the worst pain I have ever felt shot through my shoulder, I then felt an incredible almost miraculous relief. I returned to my hotel room went to fetch the ice bucket somehow not waking Connie. When I returned I could not work the electronic key with just one arm. I knocked, a barley awake Connie, opened the hotel room door to see her husband standing in a soaking wet lavender dress shirt, smelling like a New Orleans sewer with an ice pack on his right shoulder, Jeans and flip-flops. Did I mention I was wearing flip-flops? I said “I think I separated my shoulder”. Connie is a physical therapist and quickly examined my shoulder and there is some debate about her reply. She either said “no you did not” which is what she said or… “It’s not out of socket now” which is what she said when she tells the story. I was wide awake! Turns out I did dislocate my shoulder and likely put it back into the socket while standing in line at McDonald’s, but I would not know that for another week .

 

I iced my shoulder for the next hour, drank some in room brewed coffee, and even typed some sermon notes. We went to eat biegnets and tour the town. Raising one arm to do the blessing I presided over a joyous and fun wedding that night. We had a grand time in NOLA.. The next day we walked around the World War Two museum with my arm in a raincoat sling. Lewis drove us home and I preached that Sunday!

 

That Sunday night, I rolled over in bed and screamed so loudly that Caleb heard me from the far other end of the house.   Now, he did not come and check on me, but he heard it! The next day I took Connie’s advise and saw a doctor. On January 21 I had outpatient arthroscopic surgery getting two anchors and some wire in my shoulder.

 

Interruptions

 

Sometimes you’re just kicking along in life- everything is going so very well – promise of the New Year right in front of you and it seems like the very next second you’re lying in the New Orleans gutter pondering your next move.

 

Maybe you have big plans for this weekend and snowmagedon came.

snow cancelled

 

Maybe you found yourself unexpectedly in the gutter.

Maybe you’re feeling a little bit powerless- anxious- unable to do all that you might like.

 

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done…

God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.(Psalm 46:6-8, 10 NIV)

 

Would you stand in honor of the reading of the Word of God.

 

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” ….

 

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged Jesus to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:1-7, 39-42 NIV)

 

This beloved story of the woman at the well, where Jesus shows loving grace to a woman living on the very edge of society, is an interruption in Jesus’ schedule!

 

First, John tells us that Jesus, sensitive to the Pharisees’ critique of John the Baptist, moves his ministry to another area. The story begins with an interruption.. What do we do when we are forced to move on- When life or sinful people interrupt our plans?

 

Second, John writes that they “had to go through Samaria”. Jews and Samaritans did not talk to one another, so the disciples find themselves in a place that they do not want to be- “they had to be there” an interruption. What do we do when we find ourselves in a place we do not want to be?

 

Third the Scripture says Jesus was tired from his journey. Physically Jesus likely was not feeling ready to care for one more sinner. What do you do when you are worn-out and one more problem presents itself?

 

Jesus does a remarkable thing– Jesus dwells in the interruption.

Jesus embraces

Amid all the distractions and needs that might consume him-

Jesus never ceases to be right where he is.

 

Tired, traveling, and having to be in place he did not necessarily want Jesus to be, Jesus ends up dialoguing with this woman- saving her soul, changing her life , transforming her from the talk of the town into the first female preacher in Samaria .

 

I love that the scripture says Jesus stayed there another two days.

When the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

 

Can you dwell in the interruption? When things get tossed around, when priorities get changed, when we encounter disappointments; can we dwell in the interruption and find God there? Have you ever experienced a divine interruption?

 

In many ways the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert came as a four decade long interruption, but it is truly in this 40 year interruption where they found their identity as God’s people. In the wilderness they learn to eat the Manna God provided each day. In the wilderness God separated the Red Sea, giving them their most profound story of deliverance. In the wilderness they build the tabernacle. In the wilderness God gives them the 10 Commandments, thundering and appearing in smokey fire. In the wilderness they make a covenant with God. During their 40 year change of plans God meets them every day- a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire every night. Indeed their destination, the promised land, proves more spiritually harmful to them than their 40 year interruption in the wilderness. Indeed they meet God in a huge uncomfortable interruption. Maybe that’s happened to you?

 

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV)

 

Jesus begins his ministry with an interruption spending 40 days out of the wilderness being tempted. .

 

The prophet Elijah is running for his very life, hiding in a cave, his ministry so interrupted, his nation so off track, the people of God so engaged in pagan practice, that Elijah just wants to quit. Holed up in the cave of interruption and defeat- God the appears in power.

 

There Elijah came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the LORD said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:9-13 NLT)

 

Sometimes when we are knocked down, slowed down against our will, laid out in the gutter, lacking a strong right arm- a divine interruption comes.

 

So the past few weeks have been an interruption. I will wear this sling for 6 weeks total, more for protection against aggressive hand-shakers or accidental collisions in public. I will begin physical therapy this week and will not be able to swim, my primary exercise for at least three months. I was feeling good enough to feel sorry for myself when I should not go sledding with the boys.

 

The only activity that has really hurt has been typing, but the amazing thing is my iPad can take dictation.   Due to the aggravation of sitting at a desk and my need for midday ice packs, I’ve   been home more than ever. I have found a strange lovely solitude in this interruption. For a day and a half I sat down and read a book cover to cover, a unread birthday present given in July. Skye Jethani’s book- WITH deeply spoke to my soul. I’m fairly certain I would not have even picked up the book if not for interruption. This book is going to be a sermon series after Easter. Still, more than productivity, something monastic-soul soothing -and holy has come from my interruption.

 

Will we dwell in the interruption? This our crazed desire to do- our taking value from only achievement, our constant motion- our irritation at interruption is the soul sickness that may keep us from finding life.

 

A mother wrote raising children is one big interruption. Our phones, jobs, looking for work are all interruptions.

 

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done…

God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.(Psalm 46:6-8, 10 NIV)

 

Do not fret. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and God will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret. (Psalm 37:1-7 NIV)

 

Can we dwell in the interruption?

Can we be still and know the Lord?

Can we wait for the whisper that comes during the whirlwind?

Can interruptions- change of plans- sojourns in the wilderness- places of injury and disappointment become holy ground where we meet God?

 

One more story

Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader and said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” (Luke 8:41-49)

 

Jesus is moving from place to place, from interruption to interruption, from need to need, and yet he never ceases to be right where he is. Jesus dwells in the interruption. Jesus does not need to be somewhere else he is content to be right where he is and to live there! Let us do the same, and all God’s tired people said amen!

 

 

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