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Mark 5: 21-43 | When God interrupts

WHEN GOD INTERRUPTS

MARK 5:21-43

JUNE 28, 2015

 

“WE JUST KEEP LOSING THINGS: WIVES, HUSBANDS, FRIENDS, HEALTH, THE DREAMS AND SECURITY OF THE PAST. NOTHING STAYS THE WAY IT WAS.

 

I HAVE YET TO MEET AN ADULT WHO IS LIVING THE LIFE HE OR SHE PLANNED.”

 

WITH THESE WORDS THE REVEREND M. CRAIG BARNES BEGINS HIS BOOK WHEN GOD INTERRUPTS, WHOSE TITLE I HAVE BORROWED FOR THIS SERMON.

 

BARNES THEN GOES ON TO DESCRIBE ALL THE WAYS THAT LIFE GETS INTERRUPTED – FROM WHAT WE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE, TO WHAT IT IS, SOMETIMES FOR THE BETTER AND SOMETIMES FOR THE WORSE.

 

INCLUDED IN HIS BOOK IS ALSO HIS PERSONAL STORY OF BATTLING THYROID CANCER AND HOW IT CHANGED THE PATH OF HIS LIFE AND MINISTRY AS WELL.

 

BARNES IS RIGHT: LIFE RARELY TURNS OUT EXACTLY AS WE PLAN.

 

AND JOHN LENNON WAS RIGHT TOO WHEN HE SANG THE LYRIC, “LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE BUSY MAKING OTHER PLANS,” THOUGH IT WASN’T ORIGINAL TO HIM.

 

MAKING PLANS IS GREAT. IT IS A ROADMAP, A COMPASS, A GOOD WAY TO GET FROM POINT A TO POINT B, BUT RARELY DO THINGS TURN OUT AS PLANNED.

 

TAKE FOR INSTANCE THE TWO WOMEN IN OUR STORY FROM MARK THIS MORNING. BOTH ARE SICK. BOTH ARE IN NEED OF HEALING. AND BOTH JUST HAPPEN TO BE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE JESUS WALK INTO THEIR LIVES.

 

JAIRUS, THE FATHER OF THE LITTLE GIRL IN OUR STORY FOR THIS MORNING NEVER DREAMED THAT HIS DAUGHTER WOULD GET SICK TO THE POINT OF DEATH – NO PARENT EVER REALLY BELIEVES THAT IT WILL HAPPEN TO THEIR CHILD UNTIL IT DOES.

 

AND THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUANCE OF BLOOD, CLEARLY NEVER WOULD HAVE EXPECTED IT TO LAST TWELVE YEARS, AND THOUGH SHE HAD GONE TO MANY PHYSICIANS AND HAD SPENT ALL OF HER LIFE SAVINGS TO GET BETTER, SHE ONLY GOT WORSE. THAT’S NOT HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO WORK.

 

IN CHARACTERISTIC STYLE – AS I MENTIONED TWO SUNDAYS AGO – MARK STARTS ONE STORY – INTERRUPTS IT WITH ANOTHER – AND THEN GETS BACK TO THE STORY WITH WHICH HE BEGINS – AGAIN, NOT UNLIKE THE INTERRUPTIONS IN LIFE ITSELF.

JESUS HAS JUST ARRIVED FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SEA OF GALILEE, HAVING BEEN TEACHING AND PERFORMING MIRACLES MOSTLY AMONG A MORE GENTILE POPULATION.

 

NOW BACK IN A PREDOMINANTLY JEWISH TERRITORY, JESUS, I IMAGINE, PLANNED TO DO A LITTLE PREACHING, A LITTLE TEACHING, PERHAPS A MIRACLE OR TWO – ANYTHING HE COULD TO GET PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

 

HE IS MET BY A VERY SIZABLE CROWD, AND AGAIN, I IMAGINE JESUS WAS EXCITED AT THE PROSPECTS OF THE DAY, OF MEETING AND GREETING THE CROWDS AND BRINGING EVEN MORE OF THEM INTO GOD’S FOLD.

 

IMMEDIATELY, HOWEVER, A CRISIS: JAIRUS THE HEAD OF THE LOCAL SYNAGOGUE FALLS AT JESUS’ FEET BEGGING HIM TO COME HOME WITH HIM AND HEAL HIS DAUGHTER WHO IS SICK AND PERHAPS DYING.

 

GOD INTERRUPTS – AND JESUS’ BEST LAID PLANS FOR THE DAY GO AWRY, AND JESUS GOES WITH JAIRUS TO HIS HOME.

 

DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN TO YOU? YOU MAKE PLANS FOR THE DAY AND THEN SOMETHING – INTERRUPTS – AND CHANGES THOSE PLANS, TAKING YOU IN A WHOLE DIFFERENT DIRECTION THAN YOU WERE EXPECTING.

 

HOW DO WE REACT? FRUSTRATED? ANGRY? RESENTFUL? AT THE VERY LEAST – PUT OUT?

 

WE HAD OUR WHOLE DAY PLANNED OUT – WE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT WE WERE GOING TO DO, AND WHEN, AND WITH WHOM – AND BOOM – IT ALL GETS BLOWN UP FOR THE DAY BEFORE WE’VE EVEN HAD A CHANCE TO SIP OUR COFFEE.

 

“MY LITTLE DAUGHTER IS AT THE POINT OF DEATH. COME AND LAY YOUR HANDS ON HER, SO THAT SHE MAY BE MADE WELL, AND LIVE.”

 

SO OFF JESUS GOES TO JAIRUS’ HOUSE TO HEAL HIS LITTLE GIRL.

 

BUT BEFORE JESUS AND JAIRUS ARE HARDLY UNDERWAY ANOTHER INTERRUPTION;

 

IN THE MIDST OF A HUGE THRONG OF PEOPLE FOLLOWING THEM, SOMEONE TOUCHES JESUS – NOT EVEN REALLY TOUCHING HIM BUT RATHER JUST THE FRINGE OF HIS GARMENT – AND JESUS FEELS A BIT OF HIS HEALING POWER GO OUT FROM HIM.

 

HE STOPS – “WHO TOUCHED ME?” HE ASKS.

 

THOSE WITH HIM, AND YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE JAIRUS IN PARTICULAR MUST HAVE BEEN THINKING – “WE’VE GOT NO TIME FOR THIS – WE’VE GOT TO GET TO MY LITTLE GIRL BEFORE SHE DIES…”

 

THEY EVEN SAY AS MUCH: “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘WHO TOUCHED YOU’? THE CROWD WAS PRESSING IN ALL AROUND THEM.

 

BUT JESUS KNEW THAT SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED, AS DID THE WOMAN WHO HAD BEEN SUFFERING FROM HEMORRHAGES FOR TWELVE YEARS, THE SAME NUMBER OF YEARS, BY THE WAY, AS JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER WAS OLD.

 

THE WOMAN – IN THE INSTANT SHE TOUCHED JESUS’ CLOAK WAS HEALED.

 

FIXING HIS EYES UPON HER, JESUS SAYS, “DAUGHTER, (NOTICE THE WORD – “DAUGHTER”) YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL; GO IN PEACE, AND BE HEALED OF YOUR DISEASE.”

 

IT WAS ONLY A MOMENTARY INTERRUPTION, HARDLY ANYTHING AT ALL, BUT AS SOON AS IT HAPPENED; SOME PEOPLE WHO HAD COME FROM JAIRUS’ HOME ARRIVED TO TELL HIM THAT HIS DAUGHTER WAS DEAD.

 

“THERE’S NOTHING MORE THAT CAN BE DONE. NO REASON TO TROUBLE THE TEACHER ANYMORE.”

 

BUT OVERHEARING THEM, JESUS SAYS TO JAIRUS, “DO NOT FEAR, ONLY BELIEVE.”

 

DO NOT FEAR, ONLY BELIEVE.

 

YOU HEARD, AS I READ THE REST OF THE STORY FROM MARK, HOW JESUS ARRIVES AT JAIRUS’ HOME; HOW HE ASSURES THE PEOPLE THAT THE LITTLE GIRL IS NOT DEAD, ONLY SLEEPING; AND HOW THE PEOPLE LAUGHED AT HIM.

 

THEN, AFTER PUTTING EVERYONE ELSE OUTSIDE, JESUS TOOK HER FATHER AND MOTHER INTO WHERE THE CHILD WAS LYING. HE TOOK HER BY THE HAND AND SAID TO HER, “TALITHA CUM” – “LITTLE GIRL, GET UP!”

 

AND IMMEDIATELY SHE GOT UP AND BEGAN TO WALK ABOUT, AND HER PARENTS WERE AMAZED, AND AFTER INSTRUCTING THEM TO TELL NO ONE;

 

JESUS TOLD THEM TO GIVE HER SOMETHING TO EAT – A COMMON PRACTICE IN THAT DAY – A TEST, AS IT WERE, THAT SOMEONE WAS NOT MERELY A GHOST OR APPARITION, BUT A LIVING, BREATHING, HUMAN BEING.

 

ALL IN ALL, NOT A BAD DAY’S WORK: TWO MIRACULOUS HEALINGS FROM THE INTERRUPTIONS IN JESUS’ DAY.

  1. WADE HUIE, MY PREACHING PROFESSOR AND MENTOR AT COLUMBIA SEMINARY WAS THE MAN MOSTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING ME INTO MY FIRST PASTORATE.

 

OVER THE YEARS HE HAD SUPPLY PREACHED AT THE CHURCH IN WHICH I FIRST SERVED AS AN ORDAINED MINISTER;

 

SO WHEN THE PASTOR SEARCH COMMITTEE CALLED HIM AND ASKED HIM IF HE KNEW OF ANYONE IN THAT YEAR’S GRADUATING CLASS WHO MIGHT BE A GOOD FIT FOR THE CHURCH, HE GAVE THEM MY NAME, AND I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BE CALLED TO BE THE PASTOR OF THAT CHURCH.

 

  1. HUIE PASSED AWAY RECENTLY AND I SPENT SOME TIME REMINISCING ABOUT WHAT HE HAD MEANT TO ME, TO MY MINISTRY, TO THE SEMINARY, AND TO THE CHURCH.

 

BECAUSE HE WAS A PROFESSOR OF PREACHING, DR. HUIE WAS IN GREAT DEMAND TO FILL PULPITS ON SUNDAY MORNINGS WHENEVER HIS SCHEDULE PERMITTED. HE ONCE LET ME IN ON A LITTLE SECRET OF HIS;

 

(ACTUALLY, HE PROBABLY TOLD IT TO EVERY SEMINARIAN AND PREACHER WHO EVER STUDIED WITH HIM.)

 

  1. HUIE HAD A HABIT OF ARRIVING A LITTLE EARLY AT THE CHURCHES AT WHICH HE WOULD BE PREACHING, AND WHILE THE SANCTUARY WAS STILL EMPTY OF PEOPLE, HE WOULD SIT IN VARIOUS PLACES AROUND THE ROOM, AND PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE WHO WOULD SOON BE SITTING THERE.

 

IF IT WAS A CONGREGATION WITH WHICH HE WAS FAMILIAR, HE MIGHT KNOW WHO WOULD BE SITTING WHERE, HE SAID, AND HE WOULD PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR THEM AND WHAT HE KNEW WAS GOING ON IN THEIR LIVES;

 

OTHERWISE, HE WOULD SIMPLY PRAY IN GENERAL FOR THE PERSON ABOUT TO FILL THAT SEAT;

 

AND MOSTLY HE SAID, HE PRAYED THAT WHAT HE HAD TO SAY THAT MORNING – WHAT GOD HAD GIVEN HIM TO PREACH – WOULD SOMEHOW MEET THE NEEDS OF THAT PERSON, THAT DAY.

 

OVER THE YEARS, FROM TIME TO TIME, NOT EVERY SUNDAY MIND YOU, BUT EVERY SO OFTEN, I HAVE DONE, STILL DO, THE SAME THING IN THE CHURCHES I SERVE.

 

I KNOW SOME OF WHAT IS GOING ON IN YOUR LIVES, AND I PRAY ABOUT THAT, FOR YOU, IN YOUR SEAT.

 

THERE IS MUCH I DON’T KNOW, SO I OFTEN PRAY IN GENERAL, ASKING GOD TO MEET YOUR NEEDS WHEREVER NECESSARY.

 

I ALSO PRAY IN THE EMPTY PLACES – AND AS YOU SEE, IN THE SUMMERTIME THERE ARE PLENTY OF EMPTY PLACES, ESPECIALLY UP FRONT, THOUGH THAT’S PRETTY MUCH TRUE OF UP FRONT YEAR ROUND; BUT I PRAY FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT SHOW UP.

 

AND I PRAY THAT WHAT I HAVE TO SAY – WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN ME TO PREACH – WILL SOMEHOW MEET THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE SITTING IN THIS ROOM, THIS DAY.

 

YOU SEE, BEING A VIRGO – EXTREMELY ORGANIZED AND REGIMENTED; AND A SLAVE TO MY DESK CALENDAR;

 

AND A LIST MAKER WHO TAKES NO GREATER PLEASURE IN LIFE THAN PUTTING SOMETHING ON A LIST SO I CAN SCRATCH IT OFF WITH GREAT FERVOR WHEN IT IS ACCOMPLISHED;

 

I DON’T DO INTERRUPTIONS VERY WELL, EVEN WHEN IT IS GOD INTERRUPTING.

 

BUT AFTER NEARLY THIRTY-THREE YEARS OF MINISTRY I REALIZE THAT IT HAS ALMOST ALWAYS BEEN THE INTERRUPTIONS WHERE MY BEST MINISTRY, MY MOST IMPORTANT WORK WAS DONE;

 

AND WHERE THE CHURCH’S BEST MINISTRY AND MOST IMPORTANT WORK IS OFTEN DONE.

 

LIKE THE LATE NIGHT PHONE CALLS I USED TO GET ON A FAIRLY REGULAR BASIS FROM THE WOMAN WHO DIALED UNDER THE INFLUENCE TO TELL ME ABOUT HER LATEST STRUGGLES, CHALLENGES, AND DISAPPOINTMENTS;

 

OFTEN ABOUT HER SON, WITH AN ADDICTION PROBLEM OF HIS OWN, WHO WAS REGULARLY IN AND OUT OF JAIL, AND WHO I VISITED THERE ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION OVER THE YEARS.

 

OR A FORMER STAFF MEMBER AT ANOTHER CHURCH I SERVED WHO CALLED ME EARLY ONE SATURDAY MORNING ABOUT HER ADULT DAUGHTER WHO HAD JUST LEARNED THAT HER HUSBAND WAS HAVING AN AFFAIR – AND HOW THEY WERE BOTH ON THEIR WAY TO MY OFFICE AT CHURCH, AND WOULD I MIND MEETING THEM THERE TO HELP THEM?

 

OR THE CALL I GOT ONE NIGHT FROM SOMEONE WHO I KNEW TO BE BIPOLAR, THIS NIGHT IN A RAGE;

 

HE WAS CALLING ME FROM HIS CAR, WITH ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHERE HE WAS, AND THROUGH A PROCESS OF GETTING HIM TO DESCRIBE WHAT HE WAS SEEING OUTSIDE THE CAR, I WAS ABLE TO IDENTIFY WHERE HE WAS IN TOWN;

 

I WAS ABLE TO GET HIM TO PARK HIS CAR AND WAIT FOR ME TO GET THERE;

 

THEN I DROVE HIM TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM WHERE I SPENT THE REST OF THE NIGHT WITH HIM, ALL THE WHILE TRYING TO GET IN TOUCH WITH HIS WIFE WHO WAS AWAY FROM HOME.

 

OR THE TERRIBLY TRAGIC CALL I RECEIVED FROM A GRANDMOTHER ABOUT HOW HER GRANDDAUGHTER WAS IN CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL WITH SEVERE INJURIES – THE POLICE ACCUSING HER DAUGHTER AND HER DAUGHTER’S HUSBAND (THE SON OF YET ANOTHER FAMILY IN THE CHURCH) FOR INFLICTING THE CHILD’S INJURIES;

 

AND THE PAINSTAKING HOURS AND DAYS I SPENT WITH BOTH FAMILIES, IN AND OUT OF THE HOSPITAL.

 

THE CHILD EVENTUALLY DIED FROM HER INJURIES, AND I CONDUCTED HER FUNERAL IN THE MIDST OF THE CHAOS, CONFUSION, ANGER, BLAME AND GUILT CONSUMING THEM ALL.

 

OR THE CALL FROM THE NURSING HOME AIDE IN OUR CONGREGATION ABOUT THE WOMAN WHO NO ONE EVER VISITS – “SO I THOUGHT OF YOU,” SHE SAID – WOULD YOU HAVE TIME TO COME BY AND SEE HER?

 

OR THE MORNING I WAS CALLED AT MY OFFICE FROM A MEMBER WHO LIVED JUST AROUND THE CORNER FROM THE CHURCH – HER AGING HUSBAND WHOSE HEALTH HAD BEEN FAILING HAD JUST SHOT HIMSELF OUT ON THE BACK PORCH, AND SHE COULDN’T BEAR TO GO OUT AND CHECK ON HIM.

 

SHE HAD CALLED THE CHURCH INSTEAD OF CALLING 911, AND SO AFTER DOING SO MYSELF, I RUSHED OVER, BEATING THE POLICE AND EMERGENCY PERSONNEL THERE, ONLY TO FIND HIM DEAD, AND SHE, OF COURSE, COMPLETELY BESIDE HERSELF.

 

NOT ALL OF LIFE’S INTERRUPTIONS ARE THIS DRAMATIC, AND NOT ALL OF THEM, OF COURSE, INVOLVE THE MINISTER OF THE CHURCH, BUT NOW YOU SEE WHY DR. HUIE SAT IN THOSE SEATS IN THE SANCTUARY;

 

AND WHY HE TAUGHT ME AND I AM SURE COUNTLESS OTHER MINISTERS TO DO THE SAME.

 

CRAIG BARNES SUBTITLE TO HIS BOOK, WHEN GOD INTERRUPTS IS THIS:

 

FINDING NEW LIFE THROUGH UNWANTED CHANGE.

 

FOR BETTER OR WORSE, THIS IS WHAT WE ALL DO WHENEVER LIFE GETS INTERRUPTED; WHENEVER OUR BEST LAID PLANS GO AWRY;

 

WHENEVER THE PHONE RINGS; WHEN THE DOCTOR CALLS US TO COME IN TO GO OVER OUR TEST RESULTS; WHEN WE LOSE THINGS –WIVES, HUSBANDS, FRIENDS, OUR HEALTH, OUR DREAMS, OUR SECURITY.

 

SOMETIMES WHAT HAPPENS BREAKS US;

SOMETIMES WE GROW STRONGER IN THE BROKEN PLACES;

AND SOMETIMES WE FIND NEW LIFE THROUGH UNWANTED CHANGE.

 

“DO NOT FEAR, ONLY BELIEVE,” JESUS SAYS; AND HOW FORTUNATE ARE WE TO HAVE JESUS TO WALK INTO OUR LIVES?

 

I DON’T KNOW FOR SURE, BUT IF YOU ARE ANYTHING LIKE ME, THEN YOU PROBABLY DON’T DO INTERRUPTIONS VERY WELL; OR AT LEAST, DON’T LIKE THEM IN THE MOMENT.

 

BUT THE INTERRUPTIONS IN OUR LIVES, AND IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS, HAVE A WAY OF TURNING OUT TO BE THE THINGS THAT REALLY, REALLY MATTER IN LIFE, AND IN MINISTRY;

 

AND WHILE WE MAY NOT EXACTLY WELCOME THEM AT THE TIME, WE DO NEED TO BE AWARE OF THEM;

 

– I’D LIKE TO SAY: PREPARED FOR THEM, BUT WE’RE REALLY NEVER PREPARED

FOR THEM;

 

– SO, AWARE OF THEM, THEN, AS BOTH CRISIS AND OPPORTUNITY.

 

THE ONE THING… THE TWO THINGS… WE KNOW FOR CERTAIN:

 

  • ONE, INTERRUPTIONS HAPPEN;

 

  • TWO, GOD IS WITH US.

 

AND IF, IN SOME WAY, WE CAN BE THERE FOR OTHERS WHEN THESE SORTS OF INTERRUPTIONS HAPPEN IN THEIR LIVES, THEN WE CAN AFFIRM BOTH OF THESE THINGS FOR THEM AS WELL:

 

STUFF HAPPENS – BAD STUFF; AND GOD IS WITH THEM.

 

“DO NOT FEAR, ONLY BELIEVE.”

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