Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Ministry of Stopping: Luke 8:40-56

"When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they had been waiting for him. A man named Jairus, who was a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus' feet. He pleaded with Jesus to come to his house because his only daughter, a twelve-year-old, was dying. As Jesus moved forward, he faced smothering crowds. A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had spent her entire livelihood on doctors, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the hem of his clothes, and at once her bleeding stopped. "Who touched me?" Jesus asked. When everyone denied it, Peter said, "Master, the crowds are surrounding you and pressing in on you!" But Jesus said, "Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me.When the woman saw that she couldn't escape notice, she came trembling and fell before Jesus. In front of everyone, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed. "Daughter, your faith has healed you," Jesus said. "Go in peace.While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the synagogue leader's house, saying to Jairus, "Your daughter has died. Don't bother the teacher any longer." When Jesus heard this, he responded, "Don't be afraid; just keep trusting, and she will be healed.When he came to the house, he didn't allow anyone to enter with him except Peter, John, and James, and the child's father and mother. They were all crying and mourning for her, but Jesus said, "Don't cry. She isn't dead. She's only sleeping.They laughed at him because they knew she was dead. Taking her hand, Jesus called out, "Child, get up.Her life returned and she got up at once. He directed them to give her something to eat. Her parents were beside themselves with joy, but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened. " Luke 8:40-56

I've just sat down to start working on my sermon. I know where I'm going with it and I'm ready to knock this thing out! Then the inevitable happens -- someone calls. Sometimes it's an easy task that's asked of me. Sometimes someone has gone to the hospital and I need to visit them. Sometimes it's a matter of life and death. 

I have a tendency to think of these moments as interruptions, annoyances, aggravations. Sometimes I stop what I'm doing; sometimes I don't. Many of us have moments in our days and weeks when something unexpected comes up in the midst of doing whatever it is that we are supposed to be doing, the activities we already have planned.

This is where Jesus is, I think. He's on his way to heal a young girl, but on his way he is stopped. What does he do? He uses that moment. He stops. He takes advantage of the opportunity that is in front of him. He heals. And he goes back to what he was doing in the first place. 

What he doesn't do is equally important. He doesn't keep going. He doesn't say, "hold on, I've got other business, but I'll be back." He doesn't ignore the woman.  He doesn't take care of his more important business first. Jesus uses the moment he's been given. Instead of thinking about this woman as an interruption he thinks about her as an opportunity to serve. She is important to him. 

  What if we treated all of our interruptions like opportunities for service? Would that change our outlook? Would it create more space for us to serve and for God to work through us? More than likely, I believe the answer is a resounding, YES!

It's not always easy or convenient to stop when we're asked. Perhaps there are even times when it's not possible (though, I would think these are few and far between -- If you're like me, you tend to equate impossible with inconvenient). I wonder if being inconvenienced is a part of what we sacrifice in participating with God in ministry. What I do know is God's grace was evident in Jesus' stopping. God's grace was evident in the woman being healed. God's grace was evident in the woman's faith. 

I think an often unnamed grace in this scripture is that Jesus, though he stops, is able to go back to the task he began initially, against all odds and expectations. And because he stops, the healing he does for the girl is even greater than it would have been if he had made it to her earlier.

I think there's a lesson here for us. Today I will start again, and I will try to stop when I am interrupted. I will see that moment as an opportunity. And I will trust that whatever it is that I am doing at the time will be there when I return, by the grace of God.

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