July 24, 2016
Sometimes, it seems like God is angry with us. In the first reading, He declares that He has no compassion for the house of Israel. Think about that – He has decided that He has no compassion to spare for even His chosen people. He even goes as far as to disown them. The psalm also speaks of God’s anger, pleading to Him: “Set aside your anger, and calm the heart of your rage.” Asking, “Will you be angry with us forever?”
In high school, I knew someone who you could always tell when she’d been angry because she would come back to school the next day giving out cookies. She baked cookies as a productive way to get her anger out. Instead of using her anger to destroy, she would use it to create.
I am a firm believer in the unconditional love of God. If God were ever angry, it would be to some purpose. Just like my friend used her anger to some purpose. Just like we can use our anger to some purpose.
The question is, how can we use our anger productively to make cookies . . . or the Kingdom of God?
A couple of months ago I attended a youth conference in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a forum for young adults between the ages of 18 to 35 who are considering ordained ministry. A lot of the people there were queer folk, First Nations Peoples, and People of Colour. A lot of people felt like they had been disowned by their churches. Disowned by God. Especially in their discernment process. One woman I met is seeking to become a priest, but she felt lost because her own church does not consider her of the appropriate sex to lead a congregation. A young man I met completed all his education, and got to watch all his classmates ordained, but was denied ordination himself for the sole reason that he is gay.
They asked and they were turned away. They searched, but they found nothing. They knocked and knocked at the door, only for it to be barred to keep them out.
But I am a firm believer in the unconditional love of God. It wasn’t God who sent my friends away, it was human beings. God never laid a finger on us. God was there in our anger when we felt it. God was there in our pain.
The reading from Colossians says “In Christ, the fullness of divinity lives in bodily form.” God that was Jesus Christ gave His body to us. If we have died with Him, we are raised with Him. He lives in us. He works through us.
We are his lips that pardoned the sinners.
We are his arms that embraced all in his love.
But we are the broken pieces too.
We are his pierced hands, nailed to the cross.
We are his wounded feet and his bleeding side.
We are his broken heart, broken long before it stopped beating.
Broken at the state of our world.
They say that a house divided cannot stand. But our house is already broken. The door is locked and so many may not enter though they keep knocking. We are divided, and we are broken.
But that’s okay. Our brokenness, our anger, it’s all necessary. Just like Christ had to die before he could be resurrected, so too must we break before we are brought to new life. God’s brokenness, God’s anger, can work through us to bring forth the Kingdom of God.
So instead of asking God, “Will you always be angry with us?”
We ought to ask God, “Will you be angry with us?”
I feel that this something I need to clarify. When I ask, “God, will you be angry with us?” I am asking for God to be angry alongside us. Will we feel God’s anger as our own? Will God’s anger work within us and through us?
I was the youth representative of our diocese at General Synod a couple of weeks ago. One of the things that we were talking about was making a change to the marriage canon – that is, the laws of the church – to allow for same sex couples to be married. Many of us felt that this was an important change to be made so that our church could better live the unconditional love of God. For about seven hours we discussed this motion. And it hurt. Pain was felt on all sides.
The motion failed to pass by one vote. And there was anger. And there was pain. Yet God was still with us.
The next day, an error was discovered. One vote has been recorded wrong – meaning that the motion had in fact passed by one vote. This dramatic reversal of the decision was met by shocked silence. And there was anger. And there was pain. Yet God was still with us.
And, in that moment, we were all forced to become more Godly.
In that moment, we all became uncomfortably aware that those who were devastated by this new ruling were feeling the exact same feelings that the rest of us had felt the night before. One night or another, each of us had wept in that room. One night or another, each of us had felt anger. In a time when it seemed like we had nothing in common with one another, we were common in our suffering. And we were forced to be empathetic.
If we have died with Him, we are raised with Him.
Our division may have killed us, but our empathy will resurrect us. God the Father did not leave Jesus without the means to be restored to life. And God will not abandon us either. We have the means to bring new life to our broken church, but not without empathy. Not without intentionality. Not without compassion.
We must also remember that Jesus was dead for only three days. We cannot stay here in the tomb. We must deliberately go forth and roll away the stone.
And make sure that the door remains open.