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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Angry


8/12

The day starts off with mixed feelings. Frustrated because I can’t reach Andre. Want him here. Steve practicing the day’s music. P_____ comes in saying something I can’t understand.  Two older men come in. One a retired minister, Douglas Beatttie, from Vestal, New York, near Binghamton. Turns out his great-grandfather was a deacon at West-Park back in 1889. Can’t stay for services but would love to see the historic record. Also turns out he was the first principal at PS 87, where all my kids went.

Rachelle comes in after a long absence. Wants to get her stuff out. Her SUV cart. (At last!) But the Hammond organ has it blocked in. Can’t move it. Someone has touched my cart...it’s not the same... I’ll ask. Need to get ready for worship now. 

Could be the smallest attendance at a service I’ve ever had. Throws me  off. 

Anger’s the theme for the day. We’re reading 2 Samuel 11: 26-12: 13, Ephesians 4: 1-16 and John 6: 35, 41-51. 

I start by asking is anyone angry this morning? And then What makes you angry? For a lot of people, it has to do with injustice. And people not living up to expectations. Maybe the expectations not being appropriate. 
I go back to our continuing story of David. One of those blood and guts Old Testament stories. The back story of his son Absalom. Name meaning Father of peace. His sister, Tamar, had been raped by his half-brother, Amnon. David’s first son. He was angry that his father had not been able to protect his sister. So he plans his revenge. Sets up a hit on his brother at a family gathering. Then flees. Goes to his maternal grandparents. Then David welcomes him back. And Absalom goes after father. Drives David out. Sleeps with his father’s concubines. Nathan’s prophesy of what David’s  actions had set in motion coming true. 
David had lost the support of his people. Had nothing left but his mercenaries. But David outsmarted Absalom. Drew his forces out into the forest. And Absalom dies, suspended  between heaven and hell. And David weeps for his son, Absalom. O Absalom, my son Absalom, if only I had died instead of you. Over 3000 years this anguished cry rings out, from the human heart of the story. Just as David had wept for Saul, even as Saul had tried to kill him. A great man of Israel has died. It’s got all the impassioned human complexity  of Coppola’s Godfather trilogy or an HBO series like the Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire. Families are like that. 
So what do we learn about anger? Ephesians says,  Be angry but don’t sin. What does that mean? First, that there are things that deserve anger. That anger can be the appropriate emotion. But it can devour you, eat you up, consume you, lead you down deadly paths. 
Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Easier said than done. John R says can’t do it. And I, too, know what it’s like to lie awake, tossing and turning, angry. Not able to let go. That’s why we forgive, not for the other, but for ourselves, to not let our own lives be consumed by the wrong the other has done to us. (Reconciliation, well that’s another reality all together.....)
When I coached soccer, I always taught my players to keep their heads. If you could get your opponent angry, they’d get out of their game. Just where you want them.
And Don’t open a door to the devil.... that’s what it does... opens the door for truly evil things to happen. 
Right in the middle of my sermon, there’s a commotion. Steve goes to check it out. A truck has arrived with all of P____’s earthly goods. No I say to him. Didn’t see that coming. So I’m distracted watching Steven dealing with this in the back of the church, but I return to my reflection. 
What do we do? It begins with  putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Healing can only begin with honesty, with truth. 
Thieves must give up stealing; why?  rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. It’s about sharing. Not just neutrally giving up stealing, but moving  to positive sharing...
 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And so we ask, what do our words say? What do our words give? If we listen to ourselves, do we hear grace
 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. That’s what our anger, our hurting does....grieves the Holy Spirit, because what we do to each other we do to God....
And then... Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Last Wednesday in our study group, we marvelled at how mean church can be. At every level. Why? Maybe at some level we enjoy it, we get off on it. Ever see how excited people get with gossip? And it’s not just church. Steve, remember how mean Occupy meetings could be? The interpersonal attacks, invective? And how much of reality TV is about the entertainment value of conflict? Yes, at some level we enjoy it. There’s almost a visceral eroticism with anger.  
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
I like that phrase, fragrant offering....far better than washed in the blood, far better than the cross, from a Mel Gibson torture porn passion, Jesus as a fragrant offering...like morning, like baking bread, like the inside of a conservatory at a botanical garden filled with orchids, like....fragrant offering...
Imitators of God...live in love....
And again, that’s why we need one another...why spiritual is not enough...I can do that alone...but religion, like I said last week, knitting  the ligaments together...we help each other get by, let go, move beyond...moving from anger to love....
The end of the service feels rushed. I head to the back. Confusion has broken out. They’re unloading all of P____’s things. Bed. Box springs. Furniture. Boxes of clothing. You can’t do that here...I say. But Reverend... The people who spent holiday weekends cleaning out the church are flipping out. They are committed to opening up the church to breathe. To change the energy. To give it breathing space. And they can see their work frustrated again. P_____ is panicking. It’s just a few days....How many?....Until the 31st....That’s three weeks...Please, I’ll move them out...Where will you go?....I have a place...Where?.....I don’t know....
P_______ feels surrounded. You are so many....you are all against me...o my God, o my God...she’s rocking back and forth....in her own place of anguish, cut off from us. 
I, too want and need the space to emptied out, opened, breathing.
You can’t do this, someone says.
She’s being evicted, I say. 
And so are hundreds of others, someone says. Are you going to help them all?
No, but this one is in front of me. This one is one of mine, one of us...And I will not put her out on the street.
Someone walks out, frustrated. Then returns. How about a storage rental  space? So Steven starts making calls. Seems to have found one. I’ll pay for it if I have to.
P ___ feels l’ve  have sold her out. Abandoned her.  Gone over to the other side. I watched them....they killed Rev. Davidson for the manse...and they will kill you...you no longer have the Holy Spirit in you. It won’t protect you. Something terrible will happen to you before the end of the day.  You’ll see, you’ll see...
Turns out the van driver wil ls tore all her things at no charge. But he’ll steal half my things...she says. No he won’t, I say. You have to trust...And so they load up all her things. Everything but the box springs. Driver says he’ll come back for them. Tomorrow. She comes back to me. He needs $20 she says. So I give her the 20. She kisses me on the cheek. And they’re gone. The box springs in the foyer continue to stare at me. 
I want all her things gone. I want all things left over for play performances gone. Rachelle’s stuff gone. Want it gone. 
On the steps with Teddy and Steve. She called me at 6:30 am, says Teddy. Wanted me to move her refrigerator, her, ...sorry, I just couldn’t deal with it. 
It’s OK, I say. I hadn’t wanted her to move at all. To confront the landlord. The sheriff. Now she’s moved out all her stuff. Has no place to go and no capacity to make a plan. After 38 years of supporting herself, paying her bills, raising her kids. Being driven over the edge of what was only a fragile sanity to begin with. This is not how it’s supposed to work. 
Well. you had the right sermon topic today, says Steve. 
I feel defeated.Frustrated. Angry.


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