Sermon of the Week
No Insignificant Question: Is it Okay to be Angry At God?
Keywords: Suffering, Anger, The West Wing, Jonah, Jacob wrestling with God.
The thing that particularly struck me in researching this sermon
is how much pain people are carrying.
I read a lot about people’s anger,
and that, in turn, is often about their pain.
Anger is often in reaction to something that hurts
some wrong done
some loss that we experience.
Anger doesn’t just come out of the blue.
It is a response to something.
A dictionary tries to put words of definition to this emotion
by saying that anger is an intense emotional state induced by displeasure
but that’s kind of soft.
We can be displeased by things, or by people,
or often by circumstances caused by people,
and it’s not really accurate to say we get angry at things.
I stubbed my toe really badly the other night
when I was rushing around my kitchen too quickly doing something or other
and I wasn’t wearing shoes.
For a moment, I felt rather intense displeasure at that blimey stool that I hit rather hard
but I wasn’t angry at the stool.
I know better.
Anger, as an emotion, is reserved or directed at someone, at a person,
sometimes at ourselves,
for something that is done, or left undone,
or maybe for conditions that someone has control or responsibility over,
something that they can impact, or effect.
I should have been wearing shoes around my kitchen, you know?
And it is a powerful human emotion.
Anger itself can cause intense pain and hurt,
prompt us to make choices we otherwise wouldn’t.
Unresolved anger often is at the root of a lot of our ailments.
Sometimes it lingers, for days, for years
and if unresolved it can be one of those emotions
that bursts out of us.
People who study our emotions—
psychologists, ethicists, philosophers, advertising executives—
they tell us that anger can also be good thing, at times,
like the emotion of fear, or dislike of something,
because these emotions clue us into what is going on in our world.
Fear is important, right, because it helps keep us safe, when it’s working properly.
In a similar way, Anger tells us of a powerful disconnect
between what is and what ought to be
not just hurt about a situation, but a disruption of what is right, or just, or appropriate
or, sometimes, what I hope for, yearn for, dream about.
Those psychologists, ethicists, philosophers, advertising execs
tell us that these emotions, among others, are what they call basic emotions.[i]
These include happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, and anger.
They’re hardwired in us,
part of our evolutionary history,
and they form the building blocks of all of our other feelings.
Anger isn’t always a bad thing.
It can prompt us to do something important,
take on constructive work to tackle a problem
address an injustice, stand up to a bully.
There’s this great sentence in the book of Ephesians
that encourages people to “be angry, but do not sin.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger,”[ii]
by which the author was trying to make some of these distinctions
to acknowledge that anger can be a helpful thing sometimes
to distinguish between anger and sin…
not always the same thing.
That passage, in Ephesians
talked a lot about justice and righteousness
basically about the shalom or the peace that God intends for the Kingdom of God
and how we need to act in order to bring it about,
Thieves give up your thieving.
Don’t share evil talk with each other.
Use your words to help build up good relationships.
There’s another sermon about forgiveness in there
and maybe a third sermon about what might motivate us to seek the good.
Jesus himself showed flashes of anger, we might remember,[iii]
when he entered the temple
and saw that the moneychangers were taking advantage
of ordinary, everyday people
people who just wanted to be able to have the right dove
for the particular offering that God expected them to offer. [Read more…]