It’s not unusual to get a phone call and be asked, “Are you busy?” Now that question is tricky. Of course I stay busy. If I’m in the office, I’m not doing crossword puzzles.
However, I know the question is a courteous one. The caller doesn’t want to impose on my time if I’m involved in a more important matter. I usually say, “I’m not too busy to talk to you.” Some people are actually reluctant to call their pastor because they think their pastor is too busy to talk to them. The truth is, the people ARE our ministry.
Recently, Dr. Howard Giddens died at the age of 98. Many years ago Mercer University established the Howard P. Giddens Endowed Chair for University Ministry. It was named for Dr. Giddens because of the ministry he established, a ministry of interruptions. His office was at the end of the hall on the second story of Knight Hall. His desk faced his door, which was always open. As you walked down the hall, you could see directly into his office. There was no secretary, no barrier and the door was always open unless he was having a confidential conversation with a student. The door was open for a reason. It was an invitation for interruption.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was part of the resistance against Hitler in Germany wrote: “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans … sending us people with claims and petitions…. It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God’s ‘crooked yet straight path.'”
A father sits behind his newspaper, a mother is engrossed in a television show, a sibling is playing Nintendo or texting when another member of the family interrupts them for some conversation. What’s the normal reaction? “Don’t bother me now; I’m busy.”
Think about your own schedule. Do you like interruptions? Probably not. If this is true in our homes, might it not be more true in the business world when interruptions often mean a loss of income or when you are at play where an interruption might mean one less round of golf? How open is your door?
I must confess that interruptions can be frustrating. I don’t always like or want to be interrupted either. Sometimes I forget why I go to the office. Sometimes I’m like the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable who passed by on the other side of the injured man, rather than have their schedules interrupted by helping him. Sometimes God has to show me the good I’ve done to remind me of the importance of ministering through interruptions.
Jesus loved us enough that in the fullness of time he was willing to be interrupted from the comforts of heaven to walk among us and show us the nature of God’s love.
His life was a ministry of interruptions. Remember how his disciples interrupted his sleep to tell him that a storm was about to capsize the boat? Remember when he was interrupted while teaching as friends of a sick man tore a hole in the roof to lower their friend down so Jesus could heal him? Remember how the people interrupted Jesus to bring their children for him to lay his hands on and bless them? Remember how his meal with a Pharisee was interrupted by a woman who poured expensive perfume over his feet? Remember how Jesus interrupted a Passover meal, put on a towel and went around and washed his disciples’ feet? Remember how Jesus praised the Samaritan who allowed his trip to be interrupted in order to bind up the wounds and care for the man who had fallen among thieves on the road? Remember how the brightness of the day was interrupted as Jesus hung on the cross and cried from the darkness in a loud voice, “It is finished”? Remember how Jesus interrupted death and rose from the grave on Easter morning?
Praise God for that interruption! That interruption gives us hope that our own death will be interrupted and the words of the Apostle Paul will come true: “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.'”
Wow! What an interruption that will be!
Michael Helms is pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga.
Michael Helms is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Georgia.