August 7, 2014

Several of you asked if my July 20 sermon, “Hope’s Daughters” was available in print. Here is an executive summary of the sermon. The central texts were Psalm 86:11-7 and Ephesians 4:25-5:2.

  • This morning the world is awash with grief and anger. There are many sources of this pain but chief among them are the inability of Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a just and lasting peace and the downing of the Malaysian airlines flight by the Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. It causes us great pain to see what innocents suffer.
  • We have a hard time knowing to do with our anger. Many of us have been taught not to get angry. Indeed, much Christian teaching insists that anger is a deadly sin.
  • The Bible, however, has a very nuanced view of anger. It recognizes that anger can be addictive and inflammatory. It also recognizes that it is also an essential human response.
  • The Psalm does not say that our God is merciful and never gets angry. It says that God is merciful, gracious and slow to anger. The writer of Ephesians tells us to be angry and sin not as well as not to let the sun go down on our anger. Jesus himself got very angry when he saw people mistreated.
  • The great theologian Augustine of Hippo accurately summarizes the biblical view of anger. “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
  • Malcolm X said something very similar. “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”
  • Following Augustine and Malcolm, an appropriate order of response might be grief>anger>prayer>courageous action.
  • The Reverend Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches issued a statement about the tragic events of the week of July 13- 19 that models this grief>anger>prayer>courageous action way of response. He wrote: “The recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas only add to the enmity between the two and add yet another obstacle to the prayers and efforts of many to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestinians. This most recent armed conflict arose from the tragic and horrible deaths of four innocent men and is now claiming even more innocents. While each side may seek short-term tactical gains they do so at great cost to themselves and the world as anger, resentment and revenge prevail over the hard work of a politically negotiated peace. Likewise, the conflict in Ukraine is bringing untold suffering to that country and not to the families of the innocents on Flight 17. … At the same time that these conflicts have dominated the news we remain painfully aware of the continued conflict in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Congo which is one of the bloodiest conflicts in the world. This conflict, which is largely ignored in the Western press, continues unabated…Let every American Baptist congregation offer prayers this Sunday, and each remaining Sunday through the month of August, for peace and for those, especially the churches in each area, who labor for peace turning spears into pruning hooks and swords into plowshares.”
  • Anger need not be a rejected as a sin. It can be a beautiful daughter of Hope, a most appropriate response to the way things are.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for reading.

Peace,

Jim H.