Interruptions – July 1, 2018

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Sermon Preached by the Reverend Peter Thompson
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 1, 2018

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Mark 5:21-43

Let us pray.
Take our lives and let them be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take our moments and our days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

It was like a Beyoncé concert, or perhaps an Elizabeth Warren rally. After weeks of teaching and healing, Jesus had become quite the darling of the public—a celebrity, a VIP, a rockstar. When his boat arrived on the shore, he was met by a great crowd that gathered around him, ready to listen and watch and attend, eager to lap up any kernels of wisdom he could throw their way. He could have put on a performance for them, created some viral moments, increased his book sales, gained hundreds or thousands of more followers on Twitter. But instead Jesus got distracted by a leader of the synagogue named Jairus, who told Jesus that his daughter was near death and asked Jesus to heal her.

It made sense that Jesus was willing to abandon his grand public appearance to follow Jairus to his house. Jairus was also a very important person in Jesus’ time and place, a religious and spiritual leader; it was beneficial for Jesus, who often conflicted with religious and spiritual authorities, to be on good terms with him. And part of Jesus’ mission was healing, so why wouldn’t he be willing to drop everything and heal a little girl who was dying? Plus, the crowd could follow Jesus to Jairus’ house, so Jesus’ performance for the people didn’t really have to end.

But while traveling to the very urgent situation at Jairus’ house, while rushing to heal a child on the verge of death, Jesus stopped for a woman who touched his cloak. This decision of Jesus’ was a more curious one. As the disciples pointed out, there had been a whole crowd swirling around Jesus. How was Jesus able to notice the touch of one particular person? And why, when Jesus was on the way to save a child who was in imminent danger, did he stop for a woman who had been already suffering for twelve years? Her situation was hardly urgent, and it’s not like recognizing a woman who had been healed quietly and imperceptibly would have earned Jesus any points with the crowd.

Once Jesus had sent the woman on her way, emissaries from Jairus’ house came to announce that Jarius’ daughter was dead. They wanted Jairus to leave Jesus alone and go back and bury his daughter. But Jesus didn’t let them rest secure in the conclusion they had reached. He insisted on still going to Jarius’ house, where he ordered mourning bystanders to stop their weeping, ejected those who ridiculed him for his hope, and roused the girl who had seemed to be gone. 

The story we hear this morning is a story of interruptions. First, Jairus interrupts Jesus and pulls him away from the crowd. Then, the woman suffering from hemorrhages interrupts Jesus on the street by touching him, by forcing him to stop and look for her. Finally, Jesus himself interrupts the fatalism and cynicism that sees death as the end and believes that nothing can be done, and also interrupts the calm of the girl who had been lifeless and immobile, summoning her to get up and walk around.

Understanding interruptions appears to be key to understanding Jesus’ actions in these verses. Many scholars believe this passage was originally two separate and distinct stories, one about Jarius’ daughter and the other about the woman suffering from hemorrhages. The compiler of Mark’s Gospel, the theory suggests, intentionally combined the two stories, inserting the second into the first in order to interrupt it. If that’s the case, the person or people behind this passage were so invested in getting us to think about interruptions that they created within the text an interruption of their own.

This passage demonstrates how healing depends upon interruptions. Jarius interrupts Jesus to tell Jesus what his daughter needs. The woman suffering from hemmoraghes interrupts Jesus because his touch is the thing that can heal her. Jesus interrupts the placidness of a dead girl so that she can live. Without interruptions, a woman’s suffering keeps on going and a daughter dies and is buried. Interruptions are not problems or pests that cause more pain; interruptions are blessings that help make things better.

Remember that the next time you get interrupted by an irritating phone call or an aggressive person on the street. The interruption you experience as bothersome or inconvenient may be the beginning of healing for another person or for you. Remember that, too, when you hesitate to interrupt something that appears to be important. Perhaps your reason for interrupting is more significant than you think. The healing work of Jesus is powered by interruptions. May we all have the courage to interrupt Jesus with what we need and the patience to let Jesus interrupt us.

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