Saturday, February 15, 2014
Let me tell you about Bill. He is three years old. I've changed his name to protect the guilty.
Bill’s life recently changed. His parents brought a new baby home from the hospital, and Bill is resisting the new situation.
Before the baby, Bill woke up every morning knowing that the day would be about him. The world revolved around him. His parents’ primary concern was him.
Now, there is this intruder. If he cries, people come running. If he is hungry, he is quickly fed. If visitors come to the door, they want to see this new guy who does nothing but eat, sleep, grunt, cry and make messes. And if grandma shows up, she first wants to hold the baby, not Bill.
Bill’s reply to all this, “he’s not yours,” he tells his mother. “He’s not yours.”
Once, Bill knew that life was all about him. It was about keeping him happy and giving him what he wanted and needed.
Now, he must learn that the story of his home is about others, too. It is about finding a way for everyone to get what they need, so there is unity and peace, care and concern for everyone in the household.
It’s a tough learning process for three year-olds, with lots of disappointments, anger and tears, but this is the way of maturity.
It is hard for us, too. Maturity, spiritual maturity is about learning to live in a larger story that is not all about me. …. And this is what Jesus invites you and me to learn as we walk with him.
When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he invites us to see what God is doing. He calls us out of our narrow, ego-centric worlds and shows us that God’s plan for the universe is to draw everyone and everything into a unity of peace where his care and love is shared with all.
He invites to live out this larger story in every relationship of our lives so that God’s kingdom might come and his will might be done.
He invites us to spiritual maturity, where his will for unity and peace, for mercy and justice for everyone stands at the center of your hearts and minds.
This is a big shift. And it also why he talks about our anger.
Our self-centered angers are a chief obstacle that prevents us from walking his way. It gets in the way of the unity and peace that is God’s will for us.
It takes very little thought to see this.
Every day, I drive north on Mill St. as I come to church. And every week, at least once, someone cuts me off at one of the four-way stops. Someone can’t wait their turn.
And every week, some part of me is aggravated that they think they are more important--or where they are going--is more important than my business.
I know you’ve never had this experience or that reaction. And no one here has ever said a few choice words or gesticulated when you get cut off on the highway.
We all have an in-born sense of fair play, and our internal fairness monitor sounds an alarm we are treated unfairly or don’t get our share. Anger springs to life because we feel diminished or taken advantage of.
Ego, pride, our sense of self and value can easily get violated, even by something as small as someone going out of turn.
The anger that follows separates us from each other. It moves us to push others away, to reject or pout. It even divides entire nations, peoples and ethnic groups, making enemies of each other and creating alienation that last for centuries. I certainly saw that in my years of reporting from troubled places around the world.
Anger creates the hell of separation and hatred. It moves millions to resist the unity and peace, of compassion and joy into which God is drawing us.
So what do we do with that anger? What do we do when partners or family, friend or strangers offend and trouble us, which always happens sooner or later?
We walk the way of Jesus. We pray our anger in all its rawness and bitterness. We offer it to God knowing all we are is accepted and will be healed as he wraps us in love as we pray.
We exercise or run or work off our excess energy. We share it with a friend or partner willing to listen and let us get it off our chest, people who will remind us that … we are not our anger. We are not the momentary emotions that pass through us.
We are players in a big story, the story of a love that wants us, and wants us to follow and live the way of peace, the way of mercy, the way of Jesus that heals a broken world.
Pr. David L. Miller
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Last night, the evening news carried faces of anger into my living room. Nothing unusual about that, the news always includes stories about the destruction wrought by people and nations enflamed by rage.
But these images were disturbing because they were close-up and involved people doing something most of us do everyday--driving.
The subject of the story was road rage. And the disturbing images were faces of people carried away by their anger, twisted and distorted faces yelling and cursing as they physically beat on the cars of those who had become objects of their rage.
Their twisted faces are, in fact, a distortion of humanity, a degradation of what human beings are and are created to be.
This is easy to see when the anger is that of someone else and when we are calm and uninvolved. But when we are violated by injustice or disrespect anger makes us forget that other human beings are so much more than objects for our approval or disapproval.
It is easy to forget that each is an expression of the creative love of God, even when they don’t act like it and seem to deserve condemnation. It is also easy to forget that our lives are not about winning and losing or about protecting ourselves and our dignity.
We are players in a big story. The Spirit of God is working unity among all people and creation.
The anger that separates us from each other, the anger that denounces and rejects, that pushes others away and divides people and nations from each other violates the Spirit’s work. Such anger creates the hell of separation, the twisted distortions I saw on my TV screen.
There is a good anger, a righteous anger that knows and feels what God is doing from one end of creation to another. We have seen such anger in the lives of great saints and leaders, the Martin Luther Kings of the world, but also in common lives moved to feed the hungry, seek justice and live with mercy.
Their anger is directed toward all that destroys the holy oneness, the unity of compassion and joy into which God is drawing us. In that unity, no one is an object, and twisted faces can relax and find their dignity.
Pr. David L. Miller