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Sunday message: Having trouble with anger?

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Fifth Sunday of Epiphany- February 3, 2019

Scripture readings:

Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and Luke 4:16-30

How comfortable are you with anger? Are you perhaps like me in the sense that you feel a bit uncomfortable with harbouring anger in yourself?

Until this very day any situation of conflict puts me ill at ease. When people get angry, it doesn’t sit well with me.

I get angry though. I get angry when I see how much craziness is going on about bike-lanes in our city. It makes me angry when I see seniors being treated badly. Discrimination makes me mad too. Perhaps it’s due to destructive anger that I’ve witnessed years ago, that my discomfort still sits so shallow that I find it hard to display my own anger. Some would say I’m timid. 

Know one thing, I do get angry. It’s not all the time though. I’m not even angry most of the time, but I am angry some of the time. Working on this theme brings me to the point of reconsidering that my anger may actually be okay.

Susan R. Andrews describes in a sermon, “How angry are you?” 1.) the following: “The early desert fathers and mothers borrowed a metaphor from Plato and used it to describe the Christian life. They suggested that the human personality is like a chariot pulled by two horses, and driven by a charioteer. The two horses are anger and desire, and the charioteer is reason. Now, in this metaphor, the horses — anger and desire — are understood as the two fundamental drives, or sources of energy, that enable us to live.” 

“Desire” motivates us to draw toward ourselves what we need to be able to live — food, love, shelter. Desire is also a kind of moral instinct that makes us want to be the people God created us to be.

“Anger,” on the other hand, is that most primitive drive that empowers us to push ourselves away from danger, discomfort, or pain. Anger is also a kind of moral instinct that identifies obstacles to the good, and provides energy to strive against those obstacles in our desire for a good and whole life of love.

The “chariot” of the Christian life is moving toward a goal, and that goal is the love of God, love of neighbour, and proper love of self. In this metaphor, the charioteer is reason. In ideal circumstances, reason is directing, controlling, driving the good energies of anger and desire.

This balanced understanding of anger as part of the creative tension of the moral life helps us to embrace the many stories of Jesus that seem to include his authentic and powerful anger. Harriet Lerner, in her book titled The Dance of Anger, defines anger in a positive way as a sign that our needs and wants are not being met, or that our rights or the rights of others are being violated.

What to do, now? 

When we read the gospels, we see Jesus applying his anger in such healthy ways. Yes, Jesus sees it as it is and tells it like it is and He uses neither euphemisms nor apologies to blanket his discontent. Jesus displays what many psychotherapists have suggested — that healthy anger, honestly expressed, provides needed energy to confront evil and pain and injustice. It seems clear that when we talk about the passion of Jesus we need to include more than his suffering, his pain, and his death. We need to include, recognise, and affirm his anger. We need to welcome our own anger when it seeks, passionately, to affirm life.

Of course, the chariot of our life can go sideways and miss its intended goal. We are all human, we all falter. None of us is exempt.

Looking at our passage that we read, we see how Jesus, on the one hand says, “these words (of the prophet Isaiah) are fulfilled in your hearing.” This refers to the Messiah not just coming to save the Jews but also the gentiles, the foreigner, the enemy. Then the same concept of fulifilled gets expressed. The crowd is filled with anger and they try three times to throw Jesus off the cliff. 

We all have good intentions as Christians, and in particular here at Dayspring. Perhaps we too need to sit down and talk in civil ways to one another and utilise our desires and our anger towards a good and positive goal. 

When the horse of anger pulls our chariot (Dayspring) in the wrong direction, perhaps God wants us to think twice and to build up God’s new reality in fresh new ways, to the benefit of our children and their children. More than that, we can utilise our desires and anger to the benefit of the people among whom we live. There are those neighbours who need to know Jesus just as much as we do.

Dear friends, let’s befriend our anger, by identifying both the promise as well as the peril of our anger, and put ourselves to good use. Only God can do that through us.

1.) CSS Publishing Co., Inc., God with skin on: Cycle C sermons for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany based on the gospel texts, by Susan R. Andrews


Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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