Zechariah won the lottery. Zechariah was chosen by lot to “enter the sanctuary and burn incense in the presence of the Lord.” Many priests may never get such an honor. Zechariah was an ordinary priest, one of a thousand serving twice a year for a week at a time because there were so many priests. They drew lots to see which one would enter the temple and burn incense. We are already told Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth honored God and obeyed God, but something was missing, they had no children (Luke 1:7). Perhaps, Zechariah might think, the honor of being chosen for this sacred once in a life time act of service for God was making up for some of the emptiness in his life. A great crowd was there (Luke 1:10). This is Zechariah’s moment, a time of great honor and amazement.
The miracles of Jesus are divine interruptions. How people respond is perhaps more important than the miracle itself. Could you imagine being divinely healed and nothing changing in your life?
The angel that confronts Zechariah is a divine interruption! Zechariah is a man of order, he had all his ducks in a row, serving God ~ he has now reached the pinnacle of his life, and God dares to send an angel, and what does the scripture say, “Zechariah was overwhelmed with fear.” Uh, oh, maybe he is getting what he asked for. Overwhelmed with fear ~ all interruptions are like that….they make you afraid because that was not on the master plan for the day. A flat tire interrupts your day and instantly floods you with questions. A diagnosis of cancer instantly transforms your life because suddenly everything you planned is reoriented, unknown, overwhelmed. How do you plan for the unexpected? Fear, overwhelmed sense of the unknown. You draw a blank. An angel would be scary.
A divine interruption is a game changer ~ instantly you are required to think through what is most important. Sometimes, for me, it’s a matter of heading to Bellingham instead of Sumas. Sometimes the interruption could mean far more profound changes. Divine interruptions change you from the inside out, and they cause you to re-think your Priorities. What does God want from you? How are you going to respond? What’s most important?
We easily become self centered, wanting our lives to be ordered according to what we enjoy, what gives us pleasure. But for followers of Christ, what is more important is what God wants for us. I like the quotation in the bulletin: “God has a right to interrupt your life. He is Lord. When you accepted him as Lord, you gave him the right to help himself to your life anytime he wants” (Blackaby). We need/want God to interrupt our lives to keep us focused. And when he speaks, and when we listen, we ALWAYS must consider what is most important in our lives.
The men heard this little joke about priorities at a men’s breakfast a bit ago: A Londoner parks his brand new Porsche in front of the office to show it off to his colleagues. As he's getting out of the car, a lorry comes speeding along too close to the kerb and takes off the door before zooming off. More than a little distraught, the Londoner grabs his mobile and calls the police. Five minutes later, the police arrive. Before the policeman has a chance to ask any questions, the man starts screaming hysterically: 'My Porsche, my beautiful silver Porsche is ruined. No matter how long it's at the panel beaters it'll simply never be the same again!'
After the man finally finishes his rant, the policeman shakes his head in disgust.
'I can't believe how materialistic you bloody Londoners are,' he says. 'You lot are so focused on your possessions that you don't notice anything else in your life.'
'How can you say such a thing at a time like this?' sobs the Porsche owner.
The policeman replies, 'Didn't you realise that your right arm was torn off when the truck hit you.'
The Londoner looks down in horror.!' he screams...'Where's my Rolex?
Zechariah was in the sanctuary, the holy place, when the angel came to him. The truth is that we don’t want God to interrupt us because we have a hard time changing. “Get our attention God, but don’t change me too much. Just a little off the top today, I don’t want the haircut to be too radical…” Zechariah was in the right place to hear from God… and God interrupted him and he was afraid. Nothing is more satisfying in life than for the Lord to completely make you new. Welcome the interruptions, cause guess what? The plans you had for your life were not all that exciting anyway. We live in a linear world, so I suggest going with God’s priorities if you want to know real living!
It’s humbling when God interrupts your life. It’s fearful. Yet it’s good. Like the pain that comes when you know a wound is healing. I love the scene in Disney’s jungle book at the end in which the boy Mowgli, the mancub raised by wolves in the jungle, is smitten by a village girl drawing water. Mowgli gets starry eyed, in a daze, and his two friends Baghera the panther and Balloo the Bear whisper conflicting messages to their pal Mowgli… “Go on go on…” whispers Baghera knowing he needs to go on to a regular life among people, “Come back, come back” whispers Baloo simultaneously, not wanting to let go of the past and continue to hold onto the mancub. We often have that same conflict when God gets our attention, wanting to stay where we are, holding onto the present, but knowing God has something much better waiting for us…a divine interruption. Wait for the bells to stop ringing and listen for God’s voice as the peal wafts through the air. Do you feel the pull of God to go deeper in faith, to be obedient to his calling, to reorient your priorities…. Zechariah was afraid. But all the angel says is that God answers his prayer…and he was afraid. Was he afraid of the angel? Or was he afraid his prayer was answered?
Zechariah’s life is interrupted by an angel to tell him that God is on the move. The interruption in your life? Same message…God is on the move. are you going to listen? Are you going to work with God to figure out renewed priorities?
I love this lesson from Zechariah: Zechariah prays to the Lord, WITHOUT conviction. and God hears his prayer anyway, and answers anyway. Zechariah was missing something in his life: he and Elizabeth had no child. He prayed to the Lord, but he appears to be praying without conviction. Sounds like me. I so often don’t know how to pray. God, does prayer really work? What if you answer and the Foothills explode with people seeking you? I don’t know what I’d do… What if the Sumas community explodes with people on fire for you? What if broken people are healed? Zechariah is afraid because part of his problem was that he wasn’t so sure he really wanted God to answer. When God answers your prayers life is never the same: go on, go on, come back, come back… most people can’t really handle winning the lottery, it’s too life changing, what if God really answers my prayers?… When God is in your life, it is an act of faith to allow him to reorient your priorities… to change you by getting your attention through a divine interruption.
I once prayed a prayer I did not want God to answer, and he did anyway. BTW, I love the Facebook posting I saw several months ago that said God answers every prayer one of three ways: yes, no, or 3. I have something better in mind. That’s true. I know God answered this prayer of long ago with a simple yes, to get my attention, to be careful with my prayers and not be so selfish. I was young and dumb at the time. A team of us went up to Kulshan Cabin to spend the night to climb Mt. Baker the next morning. When 2 a.m. rolled around, the sleeping bag felt so good… so I convinced the rest of them to go on without me. Before I went back to sleep, I pleaded with God to not let the team make it to the top, because I did not wan to miss it and I wanted to justify my decision to stay in bed. Hours later, when I finally got up, I had a lot of hours to kill. I wandered up a hill so I could see the Mountain. Off in the distance, I could see my climbing team, like a tiny little ant line, making the last ascent to crest the ridge and reach the top. Oh, well, good for them, I thought. As the hours past, a storm started coming in. I didn’t want to wait for the team to come back to the cabin, so I packed my pack and scurried the three miles to the car before the rain hit. Thank goodness I made it, because that would be inconvenient if I got wet. Time moved like a snail. I sure wished they would hurry up….Finally, they all make it to the car. The rain is pouring down hard. They hurry to throw their gear in the cars, my dad climbs in our car, and we start driving down the road. “How was the top?” I asked my father sincerely. He said, “Well, we almost made it, but the storm was coming in and the wind was blowing so violently, we had to turn around about 100 yards from the top.” Instantly, my selfish prayer in the night flooded my soul. Don’t tell me God does not answer prayer. God hears our imperfect prayers, our less than pure prayers, he hears our prayers that we maybe even don’t want him to answer, he hears the prayer of Zechariah spoken out of a heart that is not fully convicted. Yes, no, I have something in better in mind. One way or another God answers prayers even if he has to interrupt your day to get you to hear the answer.
I dare you; I challenge you today. The next time an interruption comes along to mess up your busy day or schedule, maybe it’s something little, maybe it’s a game-changer, don’t just get annoyed and curse God, but stop to see if this is not a God given opportunity for you to be used of God, to get your priorities in order, to allow God to change you. Always listen for God, look for the interruptions, for it may be that God is speaking. Get ready to focus on his priorities for your life, what God wants for you is vastly more important than what you want for yourself. When you gave your life to the Lord, it’s his life anyway and you gave him permission to interrupt you. Even if you pray without conviction, he hears your prayers. Interruptions are often God’s way of getting our attention and changing our plans and changing our lives. Amen.