My wife Emily is a task-switching ninja. While she’s laying clothes out for the kids, she’s confirming weekend plans with family. She’s replying to an email while the pans are soaking in the sink. No matter how many interruptions come along in the course of a day, she keeps all the plates spinning.
This is great, of course, but also pretty annoying. Because I am interrupted easily. I need long, quiet stretches without dings from phones and demands from kids in order to be productive. I need the house to be straightened up, the pens to be set in a line on the desk, the dog to be fed. Once it’s all settled, then I can get down to business.
I’m writing this week about the selection “Interruptions” by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice from Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People because our service on Sunday was, well, interrupted. We were out of town with family, so I am relying on eyewitness accounts that when the projector went down, there was a sense among those leading the service that our ‘regularly scheduled programming’ had just been interrupted. Suddenly, many of the things we don’t usually have to think about were thrust to the forefront of our attention.
This is the quality of interruptions I hate most. I’m humming along with my day, laying out my own plans, and suddenly something happens that says: Here, now deal with this.
The selection relays the story from Luke 7:36-39 in which a wealthy Pharisee has invited Jesus to dine with him. Surely this man had worked to ensure that this ‘celebrity dinner’ was the event of the season. Surely, he’d arranged the whole evening to be able to talk and debate with the great rabbi who had captivated the country. Then, suddenly, in comes this ‘sinner’, a woman who was most certainly not on the guest list, who crashes the party by crying at Jesus’ feet. Here, now deal with this.
The beautiful irony here is that this is precisely what we are called to deal with as the Church. As Katongole and Rice write, “it is through interruption that the beloved community is called to see more clearly that we are not a lifestyle enclave.”
In our individual lives, we might say that we are defined by who we are when we are interrupted. Those moments expose in us the fragility of our tempers, the selfishness of our demand that the world adapt to our schedule, our unwillingness to submit to the needs of others.
How much more can this be said of our communal life as the church. Do we worship only when conditions are just right—no crying kids, no glitchy sound system, no tempramental projector? Do we serve others only when it’s a carefully mapped-out program that’s been scheduled not to conflict with the rest of our lives? Who are we as a church when we are interrupted by either the fickleness of circumstance or the desperate needs of those around us?
I received an email this morning from a church member who said that this Sunday “was a special gift to us as a body.” It’s a scary prayer, but I think I’ll ask God to feel free to interrupt us a little more often, if only so that we might learn to find and savor his presence and his call for us in those moments.