Monday, December 15, 2014

Sermon for Dec 14, 2014; Luke 1:26-38

Rev. George Miller
Luke 1:26-38
Dec 14, 2014

Today I am going to give perhaps the most knowingly hypercritical sermon of my life. I’m going to talk about the theology of interruptions.

My thesis is that there are times in which God interrupts our lives for the benefit of all and we could do a better job of realizing it.

Hypercritical, because I am perhaps the last person in this sanctuary who can handle interruptions. But they say that often times preachers preach for themselves, and today is going to be one of those days.

I don’t know why I’m not so good at handling interruptions. Perhaps it’s the way my brain is wired.

Maybe it’s a guy thing. Men aren’t the best at multi-tasking.

A woman can answer the phone, duct tape a leaky faucet, and address the 4 needs from 3 different people all within 5 minutes of walking in the door.

Guys have a hard enough time remembering to wash their hands after using the rest room.

Maybe it’s a New York thing; maybe it’s a maturity thing; maybe it’s just a George thing.

Regardless, the ability to deal with interruptions is a life-long learning edge for me, which is part of the appeal of living here in small-town Sebring.

In a land where children are raised to say “ma’am” and “sir” there are still elements of that old-time southern style of doing things in such a way that you don’t fret and you don’t frown, you just go along with it all.

I think of Miss Mona who’s been cutting my hair for nearly 5 years. The first time I met her, the salon was busy with girls getting their hair done up for the prom, yet Mona found the time to cut my hair.

She offered a glass of wine. We talked about this and that. 3 weeks later I was back at the salon.

As Miss Mona cut my hair, we’d talk. The phone rang, she’d answer it. Someone came in, she stopped cutting to acknowledge them and chat. Her daughter stopped by; an employee brought in salads for lunch.

It was very quaint and down home, until the 3rd time when the novelty wore off. I wasn’t used to this particular style of pleasantries and interruptions that took place.

Up north a haircut took only thirty minutes, but with Miss Mona it took an hour.

Miss Mona talked and talked; about her church, about her family; she asked questions, “would I like anything to eat?”, she answered phones, she greeted people.

It was too much- an avalanche of interruptions. I thought I’d never go back.

Fortunately, I did.

But the next time it was with this revelation- I had to accept the fact that it would always take an hour for Mona to cut my hair.

I had to accept the fact that there would always be phone calls, there would always be people stopping in, there was always going to be drinks offered and food being shared…because that’s the way it was.

So I gave in…and I’m so glad I did, because a hair cut by Miss Mona is something I look forward too. It’s therapeutic and joyful.

I’ve learned how to schedule my day accordingly. I’m no longer surprised when the phone rings; sometimes I even know who she’s talking to.

People come in; I say hi. Mona will introduce us and in that small-town sort of way we discover what our connections are.

Through Miss Mona and her salon of interruptions I’ve made some great connections: I met my friend Dominick, was invited to attend a function at the airport, was asked to volunteer for 12 Hours and her family has had me over for the holiday.

Of all the people in Sebring, Miss Mona is perhaps the most happy, content, and fully realized person I know. People love to be around her.

Here’s something else-there are now times in which it is I who stop by Miss Mona’s just to say hi, and I am the interruption.

I am greeted with the best sense of hospitality and I get to hear the stories and jokes from whoever is in that chair.

At Miss Mona’s the interruptions are not the exception, they are the rule; and I would not have it any other way.

When you think about it, isn’t the Bible a collection of interruptions? Holy interruptions you might call it.

Those out of nowhere, “where did that come from?”, jee-whiz-you’re-really-intruding-in-my-day kind of interruptions.

Think of Abraham and Sarah. Here they are, a long-term married, lifetime childless, ready to settle into a lifetime of retirement kind of couple when- “kapooya!”

Out of nowhere and without warning God interrupts their life and says “Go, pack up your stuff, say goodbye to everyone so you can move to a foreign land and have a baby.”

That’s an interruption of life that involves family, land and history.

Think of Moses- a dude just tending the sheep, minding his business, enjoying the hill-country view when out of nowhere “kapooya!”-his work-day is interrupted with a burning bush and a voice telling him to remove his sandals, speak to the Pharaoh and free the slaves.

That’s not just a work-place interruption, but a call to challenge the politics of the day and to perform an act of social justice.

Then there is the boy Samuel. If you recall, he was just trying to get a good night’s rest when “Kapooya!”- God disturbs his sleep by calling out his name not once but three times.

Samuel’s sound sleep is interrupted so he can be a prophet and speak words of judgment against the Eli, the priest.

In these three examples alone we encounter situations in which out of nowhere God interrupts someone’s life and places upon them an opportunity, a burden, a task, that they had no heads-up about.

And yet each of them rises to the challenge and they each step up on faith. Ultimately they, and we, become the better for it.

Today we heard about another holy interruption, a monumental kind.

Here is Mary, a regular ordinary girl just doing her thing. She’s listening to her iPod, checking texts on her phone, posting messages to Facebook.

She’s chilling and spending some time alone when out of nowhere “Kapooya!”- an angel appears and says “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you.”

Talk about a holy interruption!

The angel goes on “So here’s the deal- you’ve made God happy so you’re going to have a baby named Jesus and he’s going to change the world and be a blessing to all.”

I don’t know about you, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how Mary was able to handle this interruption.

I can barely handle someone coming into the office to ask a question, much less an angel coming out of nowhere with a “Your whole life is going to change forever” kind of deal.

For a young girl who is engaged to be married, who’s still living with her dad, who’s not really a child but not yet a woman, this is a big deal.

This is an interruption that will forever change her life. Hard to join the school basketball team or attend your prom or go on a double date when you’re pregnant.

When an angel intrudes upon the mundane aspects of your day and says the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you and your child will be called the Son of God that’s about as holy of an interruption as you can get.

Yet scripture tells us that Mary not only seems to welcome the interruption, she says “Here I am Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”

Think about it. In the others stories the people had different reactions.

Sarah laughed when she heard she was going to have a child. Moses used every excuse he could think of to get out of doing what God asked. Samuel had to be woken three times and told by Eli what to do.

And yet, here is young Mary, alone and unprepared, yet willing to say “yes” to God’s holy interruption.

And if you notice, with the examples given of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Samuel, and Mary, each of these holy interruptions resulted in events that aided in God’s acts of creation, salvation and blessings.

These holy interruptions resulted in family, in freedom, in prophecy and ultimately, they resulted in our Savior.

None of these holy interruptions could have been planned ahead. None of them seemed to happen at the most opportune time.

But all of them occurred for the benefit of God’s kingdom.

In conclusion, the Bible is full of stories about people being interrupted by God, about how the Holy One broke into their lives unexpected and uninvited.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard to be interrupted and to allow those interruptions to take place, especially when it’s a busy time of the year.

But perhaps just for this Advent Season, perhaps just for this week, perhaps even just for this day, we can find our own way to welcome those interruptions when they occur.

To not be so focused on our holiday planning and tasks on hand that we end up missing the holy that is right in our midst.

To realize that sometimes it is the interruptions that are the real opportunities and tasks at hand.

To celebrate that if they are indeed God’s holy interruptions, they are there to serve a purpose to create, to save and to bless.

And perhaps by welcoming in these moments, we are also welcoming in the chance for Jesus to become a little bit more real to a world that seems so rushed, a world so scared and a world so far removed from who we were created to be.

And perhaps by welcoming in these holy interruptions we too can find our own way to say “Here we are, Lord. Here we are.”

Amen and amen.

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