the one about interruptions
January 29, 2018, 12:00 AM

Sermon from January 28, 2017

Text: Mark 1: 21-28

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, what did you do on the first day of your job? Or the first day of school? Normally, you don’t have too much to do that day, right? You get settled in, find out where the bathrooms are, talk to those who you will be working with to begin those new fruitful relationships.

I believe that the first day serving here, the biggest responsibility that I had was making sure I made it to council meeting that evening. Where in my report I wrote a rundown of my day.

9am – I arrived at the church.
9:05am – I got into the building (the key worked).

I then included all sorts of important items like, “put stuff in my office.” “I have a bathroom in here!” “I had a nice lunch!” “I worked on the devotional for this evening.” “I arrived at council meeting on time.”

Most of us – on our first days – don’t have a huge assortment of responsibilities right off the bat. Those responsibilities are coming – for sure – but, on the first day? You’re just getting your bearings straight.

In our Gospel reading this morning, we get to see what Jesus did – according to Marks’ gospel – on essentially his first day serving those around him. Granted, he already reached out to a few contacts and networked a bit as he had a small group with him, but this morning we read of him walking into the local synagogue and beginning his ministry.

What. A. Day.

Sure, it started out pretty easily. He arrived at the synagogue and taught. People were perplexed and amazed at what he was saying and how he was teaching. The people marveled at his knowledge and the authority in which he spoke. He talked like he actually believed this stuff!

Then, the turn in the day happened. A man with an unclean spirit barges in and begins speaking and debating with Jesus.

A fun story, one of my best friends and I did our chaplaincy together at Palmetto Baptist Hospital in downtown Columbia. One of our responsibilities throughout that summer was to be ‘on-call’ overnight. My friend drew the short straw and had to be on call the very first night.

Naturally, he was a little nervous and quite scared about what could happen. Our supervisor told him as he left him for the night, “Don’t worry, nothing ever really happens on the first night.”

Guess what? Something happened.

Around midnight a call to the chaplain from the ER came in. He needed to get down there – fast. A family was in need. Turns out, a young teenager was brought in by her family because she had tried to throw herself from their moving vehicle. Twice. While on the way here. The believed, fully and completely, that she was possessed by an unclean spirit. They wanted her demon to be exorcised.

As my friend was recounting this story to us the next morning, I remember asking him, “What did you do? Exorcising demons is not really in the wheel house of future Lutheran pastors.”

He responded, “I said a prayer and threw some water at her and got out as quickly as I could. The family seemed to be OK with that.”

After that, chaplaincy for the summer was smooth sailing (for the most part) for my friend. He couldn’t have anything more ‘out there’ than what happened that night. It’s still a story that he loves telling as well.

In our Gospel this morning, Jesus is interrupted in his ‘first day on the job’ by this man with an unclean spirit who makes his presence known in the midst of Jesus teaching and proclaims Jesus as the Holy One of God!

How many of y’all enjoy being interrupted? It’s annoying isn’t it? Throws you off when you’re talking about something and someone else waltzes in and tries to veer the conversation somewhere else – or even attempts to call you out in a seemingly unrelated manner.

Throughout my time preparing to be a pastor while in seminary and actively living into this call I fully understand that ministry happens in the interruptions. Sure, there are times when ministry happens according to plan – the way we want ministry to happen. During scheduled bible studies, planned visits, and of course within worship. But, more often than not – ministry happens when it derails us from our schedules.

Those moments that make us drop what we’re doing to be with those who need help.

A crisis in the family. The death of a friend’s parent. The loss of a child’s job. The need of a stranger who walks into your life. The birth of a new baby. The news of an engagement. The beauty of a child wanting to play.

All of those and more are opportunities for ministry. If you notice, those opportunities for ministry don’t just happen to pastors and leaders in the church. Those opportunities to be interrupted for ministry are for everyone. They happen to all of us – all the time.

God reaches out to us in moments that we at times cannot prepare for. God offers us opportunities to be ministers for others during their times of need – not our times of convenience.

Of course, we know that those opportunities can happen at any time and that can make us a bit anxious. I know I can get that way as your pastor. When my cell phone rings and I look at whose calling the first thought that crosses through my mind is, “What’s in store for me now?” Most of the time, those calls are for good things. “Pastor, I just wanted to let you know this good thing.” Or they’re for annoying things, “Hey, I see you’ve stayed at one of our hotels in the past…” But, there are and there will be more of those times that they are calls to help folks in their time of need. Sometimes I know them, sometimes I don’t. Yet, for everyone I know that I am there for them – in the ways that I am capable.

And in those moments, I remember and we remember that God is with us. Guiding us and using us to be ministers to those in need. Being present in the time of crisis. Being joyous in the time of celebration. Being Christ-like in times of the needs of others.

We may not (more than likely probably not) be able to ‘command the unclean spirits’ to come out of those around us who are not in their right mind. My friend still doesn’t know what came of that young girl and the prayer that he offered. But, his presence among them calmed the family down. They were made known. Their fears were heard. They were listened to. He helped them in their time of need. With simple words and a simple prayer.

My friend too was comforted in his time of need. He was present. He knew from that moment on if that was one of the most odd and difficult experiences that God could toss his way – and he survived it – that God truly was in control. That God truly was and is present with him and the rest of us. That God can do ministry out of a simple prayer. That God truly is at work in us, through us, and for us.

Ministry happens in the interruptions of life. God offers us opportunities to do ministry – great and small. All important, all holy. We all get to do ministry. Amen!

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