Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
I’m sure Abraham had other things to do that day.
Well, maybe not Abraham. He was the patriarchal head of the clan, and it says he was just chillin’ by his tent in the heat of the day, but I bet Sarah had other things to do than whip up a batch of biscuits. I bet the servant had other things to do than slaughter and prepare a lamb (I’ve never done it, but I imagine it takes more than just a few minutes).
These three mysterious visitors…interrupt whatever it was they were doing…They disrupt the daily routine…
Now, maybe it was a welcome interruption. I’d rather make biscuits than scrub the floor or do laundry. I’d welcome the interruption of preparing a lamb if the chore ahead of me was mending fences, or hauling water in the heat of the day. I love interruptions when I’m procrastinating writing a sermon…or putting off that conversation I know I need to have but really don’t want to. Interruptions can be a nice break in the day. But more often interruptions are a disturbance…a rupture in the regular order of things.
God interrupts a lot. I have never known God to book an appointment in advance. “Can I come see you on Thursday at 2?” No. It’s always just “Here I am…deal with it!” We all know these mysterious visitors today are divine intervention…a divine interruption. They interrupt the day, and disrupt Abraham’s and Sarah’s life with this news about a child.
Jesus is an interruptor as well. He interrupts a group of fishermen casting nets and says, “follow me.” He interrupts Matthew while he’s engaged in what may have been a very lucrative job of collecting taxes. Interrupts Zacchaesus watching the crowds up in the tree (and invites himself to lunch, no less). He disrupts unclean spirits and demonic forces that hold people hostage. He interrupts James and John when they’re arguing about who is the greatest. He interrupts the disciples when they’re arguing about bread and the yeast. He interrupts their sleep as they doze in the Garden of Gethsemane. He interrupts Sabbath practices, and storms, and the corrupt practices of the Temple by overturning tables. Jesus is an interrupter.
Jesus is frequently interrupted as well: Peter. Peter is constantly interrupting Jesus; the disciples were always peppering him with questions. He’s constantly being interrupted by lepers, and paralytics, and the blind and deaf; by crowds that followed him; by anxious disciples in a boat, by centurions with sick servants, parents with sick children; women with hemorrhages, rich young rulers, and women with alabaster jars of ointment. By Scribes and Pharisees questioning and probing and always looking for a way to trip him up.
Life is full of interruptions. Maybe we should acknowledge the simple truth that…God is in the interruptions. When Jesus is interrupted, he sees God at work. He recognizes an opportunity for God’s realm to be more fully revealed. When Jesus interrupts, he proclaims God’s divine power working its will in the world. Through God’s interruptions Jesus enacts healing, lifting up, bringing sight, hearing, wholeness…When God interrupts there is always the possibility for bringing God’s reign to light.
Tracey Lind, who for years was the dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio, wrote a book called “Interrupted by God”, in which she writes, “I am coming to believe that the incarnation itself was a divine interruption in the earthly realm.” Then she quotes Johann Baptist Metz a German theologian, who says, “Christianity is something that interrupts something. Christian faith insists upon a different, unexpected and unpredictable kind of future, in a situation where the future is assumed to be already familiar and under human control.” (Lind, p. 114). Our future certainly doesn’t seem to be familiar or necessarily under human control. But I would argue that our Christian faith still an interruption…still insists upon a different, unexpected, unpredictable kind of future than the one we’ve been hurtling toward.
As Christians we are called to lean into the interruptions that surround us and help God bring about a future that looks more like God’s dream for us…and less like the nightmare we have created for ourselves. And that’s a challenge. It’s a challenge in a couple of ways.
Lind says “the first challenge of gospel living is to make room for interruptions.” And not just when someone says, “excuse me.” We all know that in showing hospitality to strangers we often entertain angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2). We need to open ourselves up to the big interruptions as well. We’re all getting an ongoing lesson in this now. This pandemic has been a massive disruption in all of our lives…If God is in the interruptions, then we can and should legitimately ask: where is God in all of this? Where can we see God at work? What is God asking us…demanding us…to attend to?
We can certainly see God at work in the healing and care that continues to be possible…in the neighborly concern to physically distance and take care of one another and continue to flatten the curve…We can see God in the work that doctors and nurses, and all essential personnel have continued to do…We can be and are grateful for that.
But the reality of this pandemic has also interrupted many of our cherished beliefs and ideologies…It continues to lay bare weaknesses and defects in multiple system that we have constructed…how we house and care for our elders…how we house and care for those in prisons…how we support parents and take care of children in day cares…It is exposing inequalities in our economic structures…We always knew these were present, but that reality is getting harder and harder to ignore.
What if we began to see all of this as God interrupting our business as usual so that we have to refocus on how we actually live in communities…how we actually care for one another…so that we can reexamine our priorities and begin to make changes?
Which brings me to the second challenge.
The first challenge is learning to welcome the interruptions…the second challenge of gospel living, says Lind, “is to be willing to interrupt, to interrupt our neighbor when we need help; to interrupt our neighbor on behalf of another who needs help; to interrupt the status quo when it needs changing; to interrupt acts of hatred, evil, and oppression whenever, and wherever they are found.” (Lind p. 114). We’re living in that moment too, aren’t we? Learning how to welcome interruptions…and learning when and how to interrupt…faithfully…intentionally…
It’s like these readings were just meant for today. Here we have Abraham and Sarah showing us how to welcome interruptions, and Jesus instructing us on how to be holy interrupters.
The harvest is indeed plentiful…lots of interruption to welcome and interrupting to do…There’s plenty of work for everyone…feeding people…housing people…welcoming refugees…healing centuries of racial injustice. God is indeed interrupting us, so let us pray that we may have the grace and courage to embrace and live faithfully into those interruptions so that God’s will is done on earth. Amen.