Dealing with Anger — All of us from time to time will feel angry and we certainly see signs of anger around us in such things as road rage. But of all the human emotions anger is perhaps one of the most difficult to deal with. Responses to anger range from trying to bury it within ourselves to free venting of our anger in a rage. There is an opinion in some church circles that it is wrong to be angry and texts like Colossians 3:8are brought out to support that point of view: “But now you must get rid of all such things…” and the first thing mentioned is anger.
But when we read the Gospels we find that Jesus was on occasion angry. I think, for example, of when he turfed the money changers out of the Temple. Or in Marks Gospel (3;5) when he responded to the way people were using a man with a withered hand for their own ends. And Ephesians tells us (4:26): “Be angry but do not sin.”
How can we be angry without sinning?
Well, it’s not by trying to repress our anger, that is, try and bury it within ourselves and hope it won’t escape. It isn’t by releasing it, giving free expression to the anger within us. There is another way, and this is to redeem it. That is, turn the energy of our anger into a good purpose. People like Wilberforce were angry at the slave trade and they allowed the energy of that anger to overturn the trafficking of human beings. An early desert monk by the name of Evagrius said we should not waste a good anger on being angry with a person. Rather, he said, we should be angry at a wrong and allow that to motivate you to right the wrong.
Often when we feel angry it is a knee jerk reaction to something that we perceive to have threatened us in some way. Something happens and we react. Action leads to reaction. To redeem our anger we need to place a step in between the action and reaction and that step is to question. Something happens and we feel angry. We then ask, Why am I feeling like this and what can I do about it?
That is, I think, how we can be angry and not sin.
There are a number of ‘Specified Ministries’ within the Uniting Church including the ministry of Lay Preacher. Today across the Synod we celebrate and give thanks to God for those who have been called by God to exercise this ministry. Without their commitment to proclaim the Word of God, it has been estimated that half the services of worship conducted in Uniting Church congregations each Sunday in SA would have no preacher!
We are blessed at BCUC with 7 accredited Lay Preachers, 5 retired accredited Lay Preachers and 7 more people not accredited but who preach within our congregation from time to time. Thank you for the faithful exercise of your ministry among us.
Those who have been gifted by God to preach are examples of those who the Spirit is using to equip us as a congregation for Christian living. The purpose of such gifting is that we may be unified in faith and grow to maturity in Christ. Ephesians chapter 4 on which my sermon for today is based, indicates clearly that the ascended Christ gave various gifts to the infant Church for its growth in faith, service and unity. Using the ‘body’ analogy, Christ is the Church’s head, and as each one of us joined together in him plays our part, the body grows and builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:16).
Thank you to all who preach in our various services of worship. Your faithfulness and commitment to proclaim the Word of God inspires us for our daily living and brings us fresh insight from God for our personal lives and our life together as a congregation.
Being the Beloved
Holy Communion is one of the central moments of a church’s worshipping life. Participating in Holy Communion is, according to the National Church Life Survey, one of the most significant elements in a person’s spiritual life.
Why so? I guess there are many reasons, but one, I think, would be that Communion is a microcosm of what the Christian life is about. It reminds us of who we follow and how he lived, and then calls us to the same. It’s about our identity; it’s about our reason for being.
In the Gospels we read the words with which we are no doubt aware: “Taking the five loaves (he) blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people…” (Mark 6:41) If those words sound familiar, it is because they are the same words used at the Last Supper (Mark 14:22) and also when the resurrected shared a meal the two travellers on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:30).
Taken, blessed, broken and given. Why the repetition? Henri Nouwen suggests it is because these words summarise Jesus’ life and the life to which we are called.
Our lives are taken, that is we are chosen by God. We are blessed; to be blessed is to have good things said about you. We know that in life we experience brokenness; but through that brokenness we are enabled to nourish others. And our lives are to be given to and for others; we are a unique and valuable gift to this world.
We truly are the beloved children of God.
In Christ, we have different gifts, making one body
Over the last few weeks, with anticipation and joy, we have witnessed the rescue of 12 young boys and their soccer coach. Praise and thanks to God for these 13 lives being saved. And prayers for the family of the volunteer who lost his life in saving others. The boys were trapped in a cave for 9 days, in total darkness, no food, no contact with anyone and no idea if they would ever be rescued. Imagine you were one of them. How would you feel? Then came the incredible discovery and rescue. They were rescued by a huge team, each using their different gifts and skills. There were divers, doctors, engineers, pilots, paramedics, police, army, food providers, … the list goes on. Over a thousand involved. All members of the ONE TEAM, with ONE MISSION. Save the boys and their coach. It has never been done before. A miracle and modern day example of Paul’s statement in Romans 12:5-8.
“In Christ we, though many, form one body (team), and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
What are your God given gifts and skills? Yes you have some. Like the cave rescue team.
We all have GOD GIVEN GIFTS – use them with the same enthusiasm.
We are all part of the ONE TEAM, – the body of Christ (Some Team!).
with ONE MISSION. “to make disciples of all nations”. Let’s get on with it.
In 1968 Remington-Rand introduced a new key on its typewriters. It was a punctuation mark called the Interrobang.
It was first proposed in 1962 by Martin Speckter in an article he wrote for “TYPEtalks Magazine” and was the first new punctuation mark proposed since 1671. As you can see it is a cross between a question mark (?) and an exclamation mark (!). The name comes from printers jargon where a question is called an interro and the exclamation mark is called a bang.
The reason why Remington-Rand introduced it was because they said it filled a gap in our English language. There are times, they said, where neither the question mark nor the exclamation mark is quite the appropriate symbol. The interrobang would come at the end of sentence where we might find a series of question and exclamation marks: !?!?!?. They would be sentences which express both astonishment and curiosity, wonder and uncertainty.
In this punctuation mark we have been given a new way of looking at faith and life because there are times when neither the ! or the ? is the appropriate symbol for what is happening. These are the times in life where we both want to affirm and question what is going on. It comes at a point where what we know and do not know meet, where faith and doubt converge.
It comes, for example, in the face of terrible tragedy where we want to ask how this could happen? Why? What’s the point? But at the same we are not left in the world of questions and uncertainty. We still can affirm our faith in life, the goodness of creation and a loving God.
In summary then, the Interrobang means:
“We must never allow what we do know
to blind us to what is yet to be known.
We must never allow what we do not know
to rob us of confidence in what we do know.”
NAIDOC week this year runs from 8th – 15th July. NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920’s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.
The theme for 2018 is Because of Her, We Can! It focuses on the role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played – and continue to play – in active and significant roles at the community, local, state and national levels. Although intended for classroom use, resources found at https://www.naidoc.org.au/resources/teaching-guides provide helpful background to this week of celebration.
Our Uniting Church in Australia is committed to the special relationship of Covenant with God and one another, that first and second peoples are called into together. It is in this God-inspired relationship that healing and sacred kinship may become possible. The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) is an association of Indigenous peoples within the Uniting Church. The Congress requested and was granted by the Assembly, in 1985, authority to make decisions in all matters relating to ministry with Aboriginal and Islander peoples.
I invite you in NAIDOC week – but not just then – to pray for reconciliation between first and second peoples in our country.
Have you ever lain awake at night, longing for the morning? Sometimes the night seems endlessly long, and we can’t wait for it to be over. (Perhaps it’s an older person’s complaint – I don’t remember feeling like this when I was young!)
The psalm set for today, Psalm 130, talks about watching and waiting for God throughout the night, longing for God more than any watchman would long for the morning light.
The psalmist says,
“…your forgiving love is what makes you so wonderful. This is why I wait upon you, expecting your breakthrough, for your word brings me hope.
… O Israel, keep hoping, keep trusting, and keep waiting on the Lord;
for he is tender-hearted, kind, and forgiving.
He has a thousand ways to set you free!” (The Passion Translation)
Sleeplessness can come for many reasons – anxiety, discomfort, an over-stimulated mind, or anticipating an early alarm call. But whatever reason keeps us awake, we can join with the psalmist in hoping, trusting, waiting on the Lord. After all, he has a thousand ways to set us free!
Who is this? Someone, who has much more time on their hands than you or I have, has counted that in the Bible there are 365 injunctions to ‘fear not’. Neat I suppose; one for every day of the year.
Fear is at the centre of the Gospel story for today. It’s a story we know well. At the close of another day’s teaching Jesus says to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” So they head off across Lake Galilee only to encounter one of the infamous sudden storms that can crop up on that body of water. The disciples, some at least who are seasoned fishermen, fear for their lives. And in the midst of this terror Jesus seems blissfully unconcerned, remaining fast asleep in the boat.
When the disciples finally wake him up they protest his seeming lack of concern; “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” In response Jesus calmed the storm with his words, “Peace! Be still!” This, unsurprisingly, causes the disciples to ask, “Who is this..?”
The Hebrew people, Jesus people, were not a sea faring people. The great waters were seen as the abode of chaos and the cause of fear thus to be avoided. This violent storm is to remind us of the watery chaos from which creation was brought forth. (Genesis 1:2) It was the prerogative of the divine Creator to bring order out of the water’s chaos. The Psalm for today (107:29) says the same: “He made the storm be still.” Thus we find Jesus doing things reserved for God- ordering chaos, conquering the forces of death, assuring the endurance of life. No wonder the disciples asked, “Who is this.” The answer: he is the One who can command the created order.
To jump to the end of the story, the disciples fear is overcome, not by a sudden burst of bravado, but by the presence of Jesus. We will all face fears in our lives; some will threaten to overwhelm us. But we face them, not relying on our own resources, but with the awareness we do not face them alone.
When we become followers of Jesus, either suddenly, or slowly over the years, we experience a profound change. All things are new and exciting and old things are seen from a new perspective. We no longer see people from a human point of view. New spiritual depths are plumbed and new resources for living become available through the Holy Spirit at work in us. If that were not so, many of us would have slipped back into a befuddled apathy towards Jesus years ago.
Believers don’t see themselves as living fully right now in the kingdom of God. We do recognise we have been caught up in a new way of seeing and living, of respecting ourselves as God’s children, of treating each other lovingly, and of reaching out in love to those who are still trapped in the ways of the world around us.
This newness is particularly clear to new Christians who have had no previous church experience. For them the contrasts are dramatic. The whole world looks different. A new abundant life, teeming with possibilities, opens up before them.
For those brought up in the faith since childhood, the contrast between the old creation and the new isn’t as sharp. We can be lulled into taking the miracle of saving grace for granted while newcomers are on cloud nine with Jesus!
It’s helpful for long term Christians, to have close encounters with brand new Christians to make us stop dead in our tracks, look around again at the old world and its negatives and marvel at the privilege that has become ours.
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
Prayer: Our Deepest Longing
When a doctoral student at Princeton asked, “What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?” Albert Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer.”
Prayer is universal because it speaks to some basic human need. As Thomas Merton put it, “Prayer is an expression of who we are… We are living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfilment.”
When I interviewed people about prayer, typically, the results went like this. Is prayer important to you? Oh, yes. How often do you pray? Every day. Approximately how long? Five minutes- well maybe seven. Do you find prayer satisfying? Not really. Do you sense the presence of God when you pray? Occasionally, not often. Many of those I talked to experienced prayer more as a burden than a pleasure. They regarded it as important, even paramount, and felt guilty about their failure, blaming themselves.
Why does prayer rank so high in theoretical importance and so low in terms of actual satisfaction? Everywhere, I encountered the gap between prayer in theory and prayer in practice. In theory prayer is the essential human act, a priceless point of contact with the God of the universe. In practice prayer is often confusing and fraught with frustration. Why?
Advances in science and technology no doubt contribute to our confusion about prayer… In much of the world modern scepticism taints prayer… Prosperity may dilute prayer too… Time pressures crowd out prayer. Where does God fit into a life that already seems behind schedule?
My main qualification for writing about prayer is that I feel unqualified- and genuinely want to learn. God will find a way to fulfil that deepest longing. The psychiatrist Gerald May observed, “After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and most precious treasure.” Surely, if we are made in God’s own image, God will find a way of responding to that deepest longing. Prayer is that way.
If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet, then I must learn about prayer.
(Condensed and adapted from “Prayer” by Philip Yancey, Chapter 1)