In pm's words
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August 10, 2015, 9:00 AM

the one where we can be angry...


Sermon from August 9, 2015

Sermon text: Ephesians 4: 25- 5:2

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

What a great second reading for us to receive today with the coming political season beginning to heat up and the most important time of the year just around the corner – the college football season. In this particular part of the Letter to the church in Ephesus we get to see what life as a new creation journeying towards and into the new kingdom proclaimed by Christ is supposed to look like.

What I most enjoy from this text is that it paints a picture that is a little different from some modern interpretations of what this ‘new kingdom’ will look like. If you ask people today what the kingdom of God will look like you’ll get a whole host of answers, but most of them might center on the fact that it’ll be ‘perfect.’ In every way.

Everyone will be nice and friendly. Peace beyond measure. Everyone praising and worshipping God.

Life would be absolutely ‘perfect’ in all the ways we could imagine.

Which, sounds all fine and good – but, there’s only one problem – humans are involved and we have a tendency to mess with things.

So, I enjoy this epistle’s beginning words basically stating that anger still and will exist. Paul is writing here that there will be times that we can and will be angry in some fashion. But, there is a warning here too within this knowledge that anger exists – that our anger does not become an opportunity to sin.

Of course, the call that is written write before this revelation that anger will and does exist is that we are supposed to speak the truth to one another. Speaking truth can be difficult. Especially when it is in speaking and pointing out the difficult truth about our world and ourselves.

Those truths that center on how people are viewed, how others are treated, how we are all participants at times in the ways that take advantage of our earth and our fellow sisters and brothers. Speaking about those truths to one another can ruffle feathers. It can make us upset. Especially when we are the ones with the truth being told to us.

Then again, there is the somewhat ‘easier’ truth to profess – the one that is only difficult because we at times are shy and timid in speaking it. Speaking of the gracious truth of our God who has redeemed us. That truth we can speak to one another that tells us we don’t have to participate in the way the world operates in treating others, ourselves, and our world because we have been redeemed. We are loved. We are forgiven. We get to speak the truth in love of our gracious God.

But, there is this thing about speaking the truth. Because we are only humans and twisted at times by the tempting sin of the world, our opportunities to speak truth to one another are not done in order to build up the Body of Christ, but instead are used as opportunities to manipulate, take revenge on, and tear down one another.

That can make us angry too – really angry. Angry enough to spit!

Yet, we are cautioned in our anger to not let it lead to sin. Which is pretty difficult at times. We like to live in the world of an ‘eye for an eye’ because it’s easy. You hurt me in your truth, I’m going to hurt you too.

The new kingdom that Jesus calls us into and that Paul opens our eyes to is a world that operates much differently from what we see each day. This new kingdom and way of life that we are called into views anger in a much different way.

Not so much as a way to get even with another sister and brother, not even as a ‘deadened’ emotion that shouldn’t exist in this new way of life. But, that sometimes it is good to have anger. Anger towards oppression and injustice. All of it that can and does exist both inside and outside the church. Not being angry in those moments and towards those injustices might even be considered the ‘bad’ response in the new kingdom.

But, even with a little justifiable anger in our lives in this new kingdom this verse does not give us permission to hold and fester onto that anger. It isn’t an excuse to feed and nurture this anger either. So, it seems rather counter-intuitive that the writer also calls for us just a few verses later to ‘put away all anger.’

Dr. Brian Peterson from Southern Seminary thinks that it is a much more appropriate to translate verse 26 not as ‘be angry,’ but instead as ‘when you are angry, do not sin.’ He further points out that when we do speak the truth, not to let whatever anger we experience linger and fester, because we belong to one body.

Now, I’m sure there are many here in their life who have been angry at someone or something. I’m sure there are some who have been angered by others and have held on to that anger, who have found ways to nurture and feed that anger. Living into that anger fueled view of life that causes us to lash out, to go out of our ways to either avoid or disrupt another person’s life in some way.

The scary thing about anger – the true danger of anger, especially that anger which festers and lingers – is that it can become incredibly corrosive and divisive to the community that God is calling forth very quickly.

So, what are we to do with this anger that might come forth? How are we supposed to live into this new world that Christ has called us into that is different from how we’ve always lived?

It all depends on what that anger might lead you towards – if it leads you towards using words and performing actions of evil intent – in all its overt and subtle ways – that’s not good. That’s not what Jesus wants from us.

Instead when we speak the truth in love towards one another – because we are all the community and body of Christ – we do so in ways to build one another up. Whereas we look out in our world and we are witness to injustice and oppression we might speak to the truth that our God of love and graciousness has called us to a different way – a better way.

A way of life that holds life dear – all lives – no matter how young or old, where they were born, who their parents are or their family background. All lives matter. As we look out upon the injustices of the world and the difficult truths we see in ourselves and one another that we put away those words and feelings that break and beat us down, but instead use those words and actions that build us up.

Where we forgive, where we love, where we are kind and tender to one another, where we are in relationship with each other.

Finally, Paul calls us to be ‘imitators’ of God. How in the world are we supposed to do that? And in doing that wouldn’t we be pretty arrogant? Whenever I hear of someone who says they are doing ‘God’s work’ as they are speaking their form of truth I usually get a little hesitant and wary around such individuals.

Again, I heed Dr. Peterson’s wise words that this verse might be better translated ‘keep on being imitators of God…’ instead of be imitators of God. This implies that this is a process. It is something we work in and through with Christ by our side and as our guide. It isn’t something we just ‘get’ and if we can’t do it yet then we better figure it out. But, instead this is grace at work – knowing that what God calls for us difficult, but not impossible. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

It brings to mind a wonderful excerpt from one of Martin Luther’s works that I think fits beautifully here. Dr. Luther writes:

This life, therefore, is not godliness, but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed!1

What absolutely wonderful words. That might be one of my new favorite Luther quotes.

The life we are called to, the kingdom we get to live in is a journey; a process that Jesus is with us on. Jesus is leading us, God is fashioning us, the Holy Spirit is blowing through us. The work of the Triune God is shaping us and the church to be a part of this new kingdom.

We are not finished, we are a work in progress. A work that is continually forgiven, massaged, accepted, guided, and has the truth spoken to us in love through all around us. Amen.

Notes:

1“Defense and Explanation of All the Articles”, transl. Charles M. Jacobs, in Luther’s Works, Volume 34 (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1958), 24.

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