Today’s Word from Pastor Tom…
I was pot banging cupboard slamming mad. It did not matter what Brenda said to me, I was steamed, and no one was going to deprive me of my “mad on.” The wind had been blowing. It was late; I had forgotten the depth finder, but with my inflated sense of self confidence I was confident I could drop my two pots just fine. Wrong. The next day the buoys were nowhere to be seen. I had dropped them in deep water (spoiler alert, metaphor) and I was sooooo angry at myself. The interior conversation was the predictable caustic, cruel, self-incriminating conversation many of us have at such moments… “How can you be so stupid?” What do you know? Eight hours later during a minus tide there were the buoys.
“They have risen!”
“They have risen indeed!”
While the details may be mine, we can all empathize with the experience of beating ourselves up over a failure, perceived or real. Sadness can also be rooted in failure. It was early in my ministry career I learned it was critical to have the names of the betrothed printed in front of me… there are some guffaws that merit a cringe even decades later. The sadness I can feel at the memory of such moments still has life. “What kind of pastor are you?” Both sad and mad can be debilitating.
Last week I left you with two questions: “What do you do with your anger?” and, “How does your sadness inform your faith?” It continues to be my contention that generally sad precedes mad. Many of us (especially men) did not have good role models with regard to dealing with sad, so we learned to do mad as a default. Mad is easier. Having said this, I do believe there is a constructive place for a righteous anger. Nowhere in the Gospels do we read Jesus getting angry at someone’s sin. Never. The two exceptions were his anger directed at the self-righteous who acted as though they were without sin, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” and when religion was used as a weapon against the most vulnerable. The best example is Jesus throwing the money changers out of the Temple.
The Law required every faithful Jew to make sin sacrifice in the Temple once a year. The poor would purchase their sacrifice from the priests, at a mark-up. But before that, they would have to exchange their Roman money for Temple currency, at a mark-up. Those in religious authority used their power to extort from the poor who were trying to be faithful. It would be something like a Constitution that defines a faithful citizen as someone who votes, but those in authority use their power to make it difficult for the most vulnerable to vote.
There can be a place for a righteous anger if it is constructively directed, especially if it is motivated by love. I think of Ghandi, MLK Jr., John Lewis, Jim Lindus, the thousands of volunteers seeking to register voters, Peace Corp volunteers, Karl Olsen, Deacon Amy, food bank volunteers, Trinity Lutheran members whose joy it is in giving… it is a long list. It is everyone in Christ, who in that interior conversation might well feel a sadness but says, “Dammit, this isn’t right!” and they give themselves in love for change.
Our sadness makes us human, the crown of God’s creation. Our anger at our own failure as well as at the economic and social injustice that Jesus defined clearly for us, “In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me,” is our energy to act in love for those whom we have been blessed to be a blessing. Here’s a thought for you, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness… so that we may share in his divine nature.” II Peter 1:3-4. We share in Christ’s very nature. It helps with the sad and mad of life. Or, as I picture our Lord saying to us when we get stuck in our sad and lost in our mad… “Move on, you are loved, there is nothing you can do that will separate you from my love. Mad or sad, stay with gratitude.” Amen!