God’s Gentle (and Healing) Interruptions — June 5, 2016
Blessed be name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Amen.
Starting last Sunday, we’ve embarked on a journey through the great stories of healing and teaching in the ministry of Jesus. Stories which will take us through various cities, places, and landscapes in Palestine. Stories which will remind us that God in Christ can do extraordinary things in the most mundane places amongst ordinary people. Stories that will remind us that God is always with us, inviting us to be whole once again.
From last week’s story of faith and healing in Capernaum, this week we are brought to a new sight; a new dwelling place for Jesus’s ministry to expand: the town of Nain. We’re told that upon entering the gates of Nain, Jesus encounters a funeral procession. However, we are not told much about what has taken place. Rather, we are simply told that the man who has died has left behind his widowed mother. A mother, who like any parent, mourns and weeps at the loss of her child. To this very scene, a scene of death, pain, sorrow, and mourning, Jesus walks into.
Jesus has not merely entered into a new city but has entered into one of the hardest and most painful experiences of any human being: the death of a loved one. And upon entering this great moment of pain and suffering, Jesus tells the weeping mother to stop and touches the bier where the corpse of the mother’s son laid.
In the middle of a burial rite and in the midst of deep mourning, a strange man has come and interrupted a funeral. I wonder how you would react if this happened to you? If you were mourning the loss of a loved one and a stranger interrupted their funeral.
And while for us it might be a common occurrence to see individuals touch the coffin of a loved one at their funeral, in the world of first century Judaism, the only world Jesus would’ve of known, this would have not been the case. We are told that upon Jesus touching the bier, the bearers stood still. While we could romanticize this story and claim that the bearers stood still because their Lord and messiah has graced them with his presence, this is most likely not the case. Rather, they’ve stood still because a complete stranger has interrupted their funeral procession and has forced them but pause to their burial rite.
It is sometimes the case that in our deepest moments of grief and suffering, what allows us to begin healing and to begin to look towards the next chapter of our lives is a subtle interruption. A gentle interruption – like the touch of a stranger, breaks us out of our routine. Even in the hardest times of our lives an interruption allows us, if not forces us, to step back even if for just a brief moment. And sometimes those interruptions are God’s way to remind us that we are not alone. It’s God’s way to remind us that even in the deepest moments of grief and mourning, God is with us.
Dare I say, God is more often than not an interruption to our lives. For Elijah, God interrupts his daily life and tells him to go to Zarephath. In Jesus, God interrupts human history: inviting humanity to reimagine itself. And in today’s Gospel reading, God in Christ interrupts the weeping mother and the crowd that has gathered to buried their dead to remind them that death is not the end.
God interrupts our lives not so that we may panic or be burdened but to remember that God is always with us. God’s interruptions take place so that we may realize that in our life journeys we are not alone. As busy as we may be and hard as things may get, God will not abandon us. And thanks be to God, that we who proclaim a common faith in Christ are not merely friends or acquaintances but part of the Body of God.
And you, St. Paul’s, are part of that Body. A Body of faithful people who is here to pray for one another, to break bread together, and to bury the dead who have called this sanctuary their home. And your witness in the world whether in worship, or at a homeless shelter, or at Pride in the Park, is a reminder to the world that God is among us. So be ready to be interrupted by God, it’s simply a matter of time. Amen.