Interruptions can be annoying. They can be distracting and frustrating. They can get us side-tracked and make us forget the important task we were doing. But interruptions can also be important, sometimes they may be even more important than the activity you were doing in the first place. I’m friends with a couple who were planning on getting married last summer, but postponed it because of covid. A lot of lives were interrupted because of covid, including a lot of weddings! But nevertheless, they were excited to get married and planned a wedding for this summer instead. Well in the meantime they got pregnant and the week of the wedding the baby decided it was time to be born! The interruption of this little one obviously meant the wedding had to be postponed again. But, as you can imagine, their little interruption is actually more important to them than the event he interrupted. It may not always be that obvious for us, but sometimes interruptions are a gift from God. Sometimes it’s the interruptions we are called to appreciate and honor. Sometimes it’s the interruptions that are most meaningful and that we need to pay most attention to.
In the Gospel lesson we just read Jesus is interrupted on his way to heal a girl who was close to death. It was certainly an important request from Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, and it appears Jesus was trying to get there quickly. But then on his way he was interrupted when a woman touched his cloak. She wasn’t trying to interrupt him. It seems like she understood he was busy and didn’t want to bother him. So she reached out anonymously because she knew if she could only touch him she would be healed. Jesus notices that power left him, a very interesting detail, and stops. He wants to acknowledge this interruption because it has value, and because she has value. He wants the woman to know that she is worth his time. She is more than just an interruption; she is a beloved daughter of God.
What Jesus was on his way to do was important. But he wasn’t so distracted by the need to heal Jairus’ daughter that he forgot to pay attention to the needs of the present moment. And the need of the moment revealed itself when the woman touched his cloak. Jesus models for us how to handle apparent interruptions with grace, attention, and mindfulness, so that what’s ahead doesn’t distract us from what’s right in front of us now.
It’s important we learn to understand the interruptions in our lives as meaningful events in themselves. Of course maybe we need to learn to not be distracted by so many things—that can be a spiritual practice in itself. But when we learn to focus on what’s happening in front of us, when we learn to not be distracted away from the present moment, we may find ourselves giving more value to the interruptions in life. Because we can find God at work in the interruptions, maybe even more than the goals we’re so focused on.
Perhaps you consider the past 15 months of Covid-19 one giant interruption from life. The pandemic certainly interrupted business as usual. Lives have been lost, disrupted, or changed forever. Whether it was work, school, or church, everything went virtual. And we were forced to re-envision community, productivity, and society’s priorities.
Now that we’re moving forward from the pandemic, time will tell if our world has truly learned something of value from this worldwide interruption, or if we return to business as usual. Going forward, will we be willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others? Will we continue to value community, so much of which was sorely missed during the time of pandemic? Will we continue to understand the need for vaccinations and healthcare to be free of charge? Only time will tell if society views the Covid-19 pandemic as an inconvenience we couldn’t wait to get past, or if it creates any lasting change in the way we relate to each other and the world.
Our high school seniors have lived through this time of interruption. And I’d say our youth have had their lives interrupted probably more than anyone. Although school activities, sports teams, and celebrations like prom and graduation have all been quite different, our youth have adjusted and demonstrated a great willingness to adapt and understand the need for things like mask wearing and social distancing better than many adults.
I’ve seen their resilience and their optimism and their perseverance. And in a few minutes we’ll send off our graduating seniors with a moment of recognition and prayer. In college or wherever you’re headed to next, you will experience more bumps in the road, more interruptions, more setbacks and challenges. But when you face something that interrupts your best laid plans, remember that sometimes there’s an important lesson hidden in the interruption. Sometimes the interruption is the point. Sometimes life is about stopping to smell the roses instead of forever plowing ahead. Whether it’s in college, in the workforce, in church or in family life, or in whatever situation life brings you—embrace the journey, be mindful not only of your goals but also the stops along the way. Like Jesus shows us, sometimes the interruptions are just as important, necessary, and holy as the destination.
And so I invite us all to reflect on how we handle life’s interruptions. Do we begrudgingly tolerate them or do we embrace them as possible learning experiences? Are so focused on the good we’re going to do in the future that we walk right past the good we can do right now in the present? Do we rush with blinders into the future, or do we stop and embrace whatever the interruption may be that needs our attention?
It can be challenging to maintain that kind of attention to the little things. Especially in such a fast-paced, fast-moving world. But following Jesus’ example, we might find that those moments of interruption are just as valuable as whatever it is we are most striving for. Whether it’s someone who needs our help, or a challenge that requires a new set of skills, or a pause that presents opportunity for a much needed rest, we know that God is present with us in whatever we experience, and will be our guide through life’s interruptions, our long term goals, and all the moments in between. So thanks be to God for moments of holy interruption that can teach, heal, and transform.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of Holy Spirit. Amen.