By Pastor Vince Gerhardy
Interruptions can be annoying. You are watching a movie on TV and just when the story is getting exciting an advertisement comes on destroying the moment.
You decide that it’s about time you replied to the letters that you have received. No sooner do you get started and someone in the family is hungry, can’t find something, want some help or just want to talk, and there goes all you good intentions. Sometimes interruptions, though initially annoying, can be creative and constructive.
A pastor tells the story of how he was interrupted by a phone call at a youth meeting where he was leading a Bible study. The pastor admitted that he felt annoyed being interrupted at a critical moment when he was coming to the main point of the study and the young people were following him intently. He was gone for the rest of the meeting. Some members of the group expressed their annoyance that the pastor had even answered his phone. The pastor came back just as everyone was leaving and told them that an unknown young man had been on the line. He had decided to take his own life but wanted to give someone – anyone – one last chance at arguing why he should continue to live. The interruption to the Bible study interrupted and stopped this young man’s intentions.
The whole story of the Bible can be looked at from the viewpoint of interruptions.
The devastating effects of sin interrupt the peace and harmony of life in the Garden of Eden.
Sin interrupts God’s plans for the world and so he interrupts sin by becoming a human being who lives among us filled with grace and truth and dies for us.
Jonah was fleeing from God who had commanded him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. His escape was interrupted by God’s big fish that swallowed him and while in the belly of the fish he repented and then went on to Nineveh.
God’s people were caught in sin and were drifting away from God and so he sent the prophets to interrupt their drift away from him and bring them back into a relationship with their Creator and Saviour.
The story of Jesus in the gospel is one of interruptions.
The announcement of the birth of Jesus interrupts a young girl’s life and her wedding plans. The silence of the night is interrupted when angels announce th birth of the Messiah.
Jesus’ sermon is interrupted by a man with an evil spirit. The sermon gives way to the power of God which interrupts the power of Satan in this man’s life and with just one word from Jesus the evil spirit is cast out.
As the disciples stroll into the town of Nain enjoying a friendly chat with Jesus and listening intently to what Jesus had to say about the kingdom of God they are interrupted by the loud wailing and crying as a group of mourners pass by. Death is always a powerful interruption to our well-laid plans. This funeral procession and the mourners’ grief are interrupted as Jesus restores life to the dead man and gives a promise that all of us who believe will one day experience this same interruption to death when we are raised to life.
A traitor friend who needs to go and sell his Lord for the price of a slave interrupts Jesus’ celebration of the Passover with his disciples. This same traitor and the armed guards interrupt Jesus’ prayers in the Garden. And finally the sadness and confusion after Jesus’ death is interrupted by the news that he has risen. His tomb is empty.
Interruptions are events in our lives that can’t be forced back any more than the sea can be kept three metres from the shore line.
In my ministry I have seen many interruptions in people’s lives.
A young 21 year old, fit and popular with his mates, passes away during the night with an athsma attack.
An 8 year old just disciplined by his father ran out on the road and was killed by a passing car.
The life of a young mother is interrupted as disease invades.
Without a doubt some interruptions are painful.
On the other hand interruptions can bring joy.
The Holy Spirit interrupts a young man’s life and points him to Jesus.
The birth of a baby interrupts the life a couple but it is an interruption they have waited for.
The progression of disease is interrupted by a miraculous recovery.
A married couple interrupt the downward spiral of their relationship.
Today’s difficult gospel text makes us aware of the interruption that will affect the whole world. Jesus is leaving the temple and he is looking around at one of the most magnificent structures in the world at that time. He tells his disciples that this grand monument will be destroyed. We know that this happened at the hands of the Romans, but even if the Romans hadn’t touched the building, the forces of earthquake, fire, storm, and plain old neglect would lead to the ruin of the temple much the same as the once magnificent structures in Greece and Rome. The history of the temple will be interrupted and brought to an end, he says, and it was.
He goes on and says that everything we cherish, every institution and tradition, every treasure that we count on and store up will be interrupted and brought to an end. Wars, earthquakes, famines, and other disasters in nature, persecutions when family members will rise up against other members of a family, will interrupt our way of life and the peace we enjoy. Families will be interrupted, businesses will be interrupted, governments will be interrupted.
We can see this happening in our world.
Peace and safety in our world and in our community are very fragile things and can easily be interrupted by hostility, bloodshed, robbery and fear.
The place that Christ had in the hearts of the people of our nation has been interrupted and replaced with all kind of other religious values that can easily be understood as Christian or compatible with Christianity when clearly they are false.
The strength and harmony in families has been interrupted and eroded by violence in the home, divorce, pressures, stresses, rebellious children, and the need for parents to work longer and harder.
The interruptions that we experience almost on a daily basis are reminders that things in this world are very uncertain. We are reminded that at any time our own life will be interrupted and that there will come a time when the history of our world will be interrupted. This last and final interruption will happen when Jesus comes again and this world will pass away.
When you think about it, the interruptions that we experience in life can make us feel very insecure and uncertain. But I want to make it clear to everyone today that there is one thing that will never be interrupted, that is, the love that our Father in heaven has for us.
St Paul says, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Whoever believes and trusts in Jesus and his saving work on the cross, and whoever holds on to the Good Shepherd’s hand as they walk life’s journey, and listens to his voice and follows his ways when everything else passes away will receive the crown of eternal life. Even though the history of our world will be interrupted, nothing is able to interrupt God’s love for us.
The Bible states clearly that the saving work of Jesus endures for all time and that God has promised that because of Jesus he will not hold our sin against us, that he has established an eternal covenant of love with us and that he will stand beside and help us no matter what kind of interruption will disrupt our lives.
Nothing can destroy this fact. All kinds of disasters may happen to us in our lives and to our world, but that one fact stands forever. God loves us and his saving work will not be interrupted.
When Jesus could see only death ahead interrupting his life on this earth he turned to the heavenly Father in prayer. He was led to see that there was no way he could avoid what was about to happen but he was strengthened by God and enabled to endure what had to be endured. Likewise we are strengthened.
No amount of interruption in our world can take away from us the grace and love of Jesus. It is that love that he has given to us freely on the cross that will stand by us when disasters in our world threaten us and overwhelm us like a giant tidal wave. Every possession, every power and authority, everything that we cherish in this world will disappear some day, either at our death or when the last day comes, but what will not disappear is this – God’s kingdom and our place in it as citizens of heaven and heirs of eternal life.
When Christ bursts into this world on the last day, that will be the last interruption that we will ever experience. There will no more interruptions by sickness, death, wars, natural disasters, accidents, crime or whatever. We will be taken into God’s presence and join those gathered around the throne of God.
The words of the psalm are very helpful when we think of this final interruption, “we won’t be afraid, though the earth changes, though the mountains are shaken into the heart of the seas; though its waters roar and are troubled, though the mountains tremble with their swelling…. (God) is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge (Psalm 46:2-3, 7).
In the meantime we need to deal with the interruptions that take place in our everyday life, especially those interruptions that bring us fear and grief. The apostle Paul had to deal with these kinds of interruptions often. Shipwrecks, jail, hostile people, sickness interrupted him in the work God had given him to tell the good news about Jesus. But nothing interrupted his trust in Jesus.
How easily is our faith in Jesus interrupted?
How readily do we allow our pet sins interrupt the newness that we have in Christ?
How often do we allow or even try to find interruptions that keep us away from reading God’s Word, praying and worshipping together with our fellow believers?
How willingly do we allow our sinful nature and Satan interrupt our walking God’s ways?
God grant that the Holy Spirit would interrupt every sin, every temptation, every fear and doubt, and remind us everyday that God’s love for us is uninterruptible. God grant that our commitment and faith be as uninterruptible as God’s commitment to us.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2004 Vince Gerhardy. Used by permission.