Summary: What if ministry is interruptions?
“Interruptions or Opportunities?”
How do you react to interruptions?
Think about that for a moment.
Think about times you have had your plans interrupted.
Perhaps you had bought plan tickets to visit someone or go on vacation and your flight is delayed.
How did you react?
Perhaps you are on your way to an appointment and you get stuck in traffic.
What emotions does that conjure up in you?
Maybe you are in the middle of a fascinating conversation or you are reading a really good book and the phone rings.
What is your first thought?
Or perhaps you have a landline and the phone is ringing and you are in the bathroom.
So, you rush to the phone half-dressed, out of breath, heart beating a million miles an hour and it turns out to be a tele-marketer.
Maybe you are on your way into a restaurant and a needy person asks you to stop and give them money for a bus ticket.
How does that make you feel?
If you are like me, almost nothing in life is going to go as planned.
And that is because, just about no matter how hard you might try to avoid it, something or someone is going to interrupt you!!!
Maybe it’s your kid wanting breakfast.
Perhaps someone knocks on your door.
Maybe your smartphone starts buzzing with text messages or news updates.
Perhaps someone really needs to talk with you about something.
And before you know it, your plans have been interrupted.
Perhaps our entire day has taken a different turn.
Interruptions are inevitable, and we can look upon them as something bad…
…something that drives us crazy…
…something that stresses us out…
…we can take an entirely different perspective altogether.
In our Gospel Lesson for today we are told that “A man with leprosy” interrupts Jesus.
“He came to him and begged him on his knees, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
How did Jesus handle this interruption?
What was His first “gut” reaction?
Did He tell him to get out of His way?
Did He breathe hard and act annoyed?
Did He tell Him to go to a doctor instead?
Instead, we are told the exact opposite of all that.
We are told that Jesus’ immediate reaction to being interrupted is that He was “filled with compassion.”
The Greek word translated here for compassion literally means to “snort like a horse.”
Now, since it would be pretty strange, to say the least, to read that “Jesus’ snorted like a horse and then reached out his hand and touched the man,” translators, instead try to find a common English word to convey the feelings of Jesus at that moment.
And so, the feelings that Jesus had when he saw the leper came automatically—Jesus was suddenly and deeply moved by the situation of the man.
His experience was one of complete empathy—Jesus was totally in-synch with this man’s difficulty and pain…
…so “at one” with the man that it was as if He felt what he felt.
And a noise arose out of Jesus, a deep guttural noise like the snorting of a horse.
That is intense, when you think about it!!!
As you know, my dad passed away in August.
The Sunday before Labor Day our small family held a memorial service in my middle sister’s back yard.
It was really emotional.
In any event, my oldest sister—Wendy—had this really cool idea to release like 30 Monarch Butterflies at the end of the service…while Mary Ellen sung the Hymn of Promise out of the United Methodist Hymnal.
I happened to have my eyes on Wendy when the butterflies were released.
Her “guttural reaction” will stay with me forever.
She literally convulsed with grief and pain.
That’s kind of how I think of Jesus’ reaction to the man with leprosy.
Jesus convulsed with compassion for the man.
In Jesus’ day lepers suffered, not only from a physical illness, but from a social illness.
They were considered to be impure; unclean—dangerous.
For that reason, when a priest would discover their impurity, he would cast them out of society to wander in the lonely and isolated places.
They could no longer pray in the synagogue or the Temple.
They couldn’t be with their family, their friends, their children.
They were, quite literally, a separated species.
Again, let’s talk about the word translated as compassion—it’s a Greek Word—“splanch-ni-zomai”—not only does it mean to “snort like a horse” it also means “a profoundly intense emotional response that viscerally propels someone feeling compassion into action on behalf of others.”
The compassion of Jesus is not just some sentimental pity for this poor man.
It doesn’t just cause Jesus to say, “I feel sorry for him,” and then be on His way—it compels Jesus to reach across the boundary of disease to touch an untouchable, which violated Jewish Law—according to Leviticus Chapters 13 and 14.