Be Angry Like Jesus!
Indianapolis First Friends
Pastor Bob Henry
March 4, 2018
John 2:13-22 (NRSV)
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
This coming Thursday is a very important day – it is International Women’s Day. Thus, I would like to have us acknowledge that this morning. I am considering this International Women’s Sunday. If you weren’t aware, International Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1911. It is also know as the United Nations Day for Woman’s Rights and International Peace.
Woman have come a long way since 1911, but let’t be honest – IT NOT FAR ENOUGH! To even think that tonight’s Oscar Ceremony (along with the Golden Globes a few months ago) is being overshadowed by the need for a “Me Too” or previously an “I’m With Her” campaign shows that we still need a lot of work. The way men in the highest offices, in powerful positions, and in the media have been exposed is a wake-up call of grand importance in our day, and it is just one of many ways that we need reverse the abuse and acknowledge and lift up the importance of women in our world.
Sadly, we keep seeing our government cut funding for women’s organizations, human trafficking is still on the rise, and abuse, neglect, and belittlement of women continue to be reported nightly on our news.
I will be honest. As a man, not only am I embarrassed at how men in our world have behaved, but I too have honestly had to take a look in the mirror and make some changes in my own life. Sadly, how I was raised right here in Indiana taught me differently and in all reality it hasn’t changed that much in my 45 years. Even the church taught me differently. The church I grew up in would not allow women in leadership. They taught that men were the head of the household – and that the Bible supported the unhealthy view of marital control by the man.
I remember getting in a huge argument in my Freshman year of college because I said that women should be pastors (and that was in my Freshman initiation) I hadn’t even taken a class. Overtime, Sue and I were drawn away from this damaging thinking and soon found ourselves seeking out the Quaker Faith where women were valued as equal, where they had an important voice, where from the beginning they were respected and listened too and allowed to make an impact in their world.
Today, it makes me angry, yes angry, to think about what history has missed because of the way we have and continue to treat women. There should be no need for a “Me Too” or “I’m With Her” movement. There should be no different pay scales for women, or barriers or hurdles to cross. There should be no “war on women,” no need for a women’s march, but sadly that is simply not the world we live in.
Now, before I get to far on my soapbox, I want to return to our scriptures. Megan read one of the most controversial stories about Jesus. Most people have a hard time with Jesus getting angry and taking it out on the money-changers in the temple – they say, “This doesn’t seem like something the Jesus I follow would do?” In reality, most of the time we have such a weak view of Jesus that we cannot imagine or even understand this outburst by him.
The issue with seeing Jesus angry is that it doesn’t fit our desired views of God. Whenever I come across this conversation in theological circles, the conversation quickly digresses to the topic of wrath. Pastor Dawn Hutchings sheds some light on this as well. She says,
“In Latin, “ira” is often translated as wrath, but the church liked the more generic form of ira and so wrath quickly became known as anger. Now, you can call me cynical if you like, but I can think of all sorts of reasons why a budding institution that was developing an elaborate hierarchy might want to warn its members not to get angry. Anger is, if you will pardon the pun, the mortal enemy of institutions and most particularily hierarchal institutions like the church, so it is easy to see why Jesus was stripped of this common and indeed most useful of human emotions.”
Why can’t Jesus get angry? That’s the question. Why not?
To understand this, we need to see Jesus holistically. His great compassion has to be balanced by his passion for justice. Too often we have him out in the pastures with cute white puffy lambs, when Jesus was actually a pretty serious radical. Throughout history the Institutional Church has wanted to balance his anger with patience. Which all that does is lessen the blow and allow for us to manage Jesus.
Pastor Dawn Hutchings points out the fact that
“Nowadays, the most common word associated with anger is management. We have become obsessed with controlling our anger, and so we send offenders to anger management courses to insure that they learn not to offend us with their anger.”
Why we don’t like Jesus getting angry is simple – we can’t control Jesus and make him out to be what we want. I am so glad that this story is found in the bible – and especially in the gospels. This means we have to wrestle with it and try and relate and understand what is going on.
Now, Jesus was angry for a pretty good reason. He was so exasperated by the merging of the religious officials and the Roman Empire, that he loses it. (In the past election cycle – we saw the same thing in our own country. Something that has been going on for a long time.) Yet, the compassion of Jesus for the poor and his passion for justice has him storm into the Temple to put on a protest for political change. That may be a new way of seeing our text this morning. Some may say, Jesus had become imbalanced – the patience that we so often encounter with Jesus had given way to his anger at the injustice.
We don’t like Jesus getting angry because honestly it makes him too human. Keeping him divine makes Jesus easier. We can explain away the divine as almost magic or what in religious circles we call a miracle. But anger is not explained away that easily – even though we try.
Again, Pastor Dawn Hutchings enlightened me on this, she says,
“Anger is a useful human emotion. Anger lies at the heart of human evolution. Our anger at the way things are can be just the impetus we need to compel us to change the way things are. When anger moves us to reject the status quo, our protests can become the means by which we effect change.”
I don’t know how many times, I have talked with young people (and adults) about anger, and I always ask them, what is the opposite of anger. And the answer is always “Love.” If you are not angry at them, well, you love them. But as a father, I know that is not always true. Sometimes I get angry because I love my boys so much. I want them to learn, to obey, to see things differently. Sometimes we have all the right to get angry about a situation - that doesn’t mean we have to be abusive or hurt someone, but we can be angry.
As I was writing this sermon, I recalled a paper I wrote in my Master’s Program on God’s Wrath and Anger. It was called “Wrath: A Corallary of God’s Love.”
The feminist theologian Beverly Wildung Harrison in her essay, "The Power of Anger in the Work of Love," says,
"Anger is not the opposite of love. It is better understood as a feeling-signal that all is not well in our relation to other persons or groups or to the world around us. Anger is a mode of connectedness to others and it is always a vivid form of caring." She goes on to write, "Where anger rises, there the energy to act is present."
Just because Jesus made a whip and physically cleared out the temple doesn’t mean it was the only time he was angered. From the very beginning he was angered at the plight of the people. In his very first sermon (Luke 4:16-21), Jesus called for change for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed.
And on numerous occasions Jesus was found a bit angry over other injustices – the bible points them out rather specifically. Jesus became angry over things like:
· Lukewarm Living
· Hard Heartedness
· (religious, political, culturally, and I believe marital as well) Superiority
· and Spiritual Pride
And yes, I believe if Jesus was here today he would be angry over some of these same things…like…
· The greed of our politicians that willingly put money in their campaigns before considering the safety of their constituents.
· The superiority of men over women, whites over blacks, the church over the LGBTQ, the government and the First Nations People.
· The hypocrisy of our country being founded by refugees and our spiritual pride that led to the genocide of the First Nations People.
· The hard heartedness to being stewards of creation and being concerned for our environment.
· The lukewarm living that has allowed women to become sexual objects rather than honored and respected individuals in society.
I think Jesus might still have a little anger in him, today. The point I am trying to make here is – if we are to follow the example of Jesus – then just maybe we too should be getting a little angry over what we are seeing in our world and the plight of the people in our country, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces…
Just maybe we need to be like Emma Gonzales, the student from Parkland, FL who stood before the world and said, “I call B.S.”
Last week, we concluded our service with sharing the words, “I need you” with others. Once we recognize that need and connectedness, we begin to see the injustices happening in our world. Loving God and loving our neighbor becomes much more.
And I know for me, at least, if I am not getting a little angry at the plight of the people in my world and work to do something about it, I will get comfortable and lack care for the people surrounding me. Yes, I will become myopic, selfish and I will hurt my neighbor through my hypocricy, my greed, my lukewarm living, my hard heartedness, my superiority, and my spiritual pride.
I believe we need to get angry like Jesus did when we see injustice.
· I am currently angered by the plight of the African Americans in this town whose communities are being gentrified – what the black community calls the New Jim Crow. I have been meeting with several different community leaders to understand this better and figure out what we can do.
· I am currently angered by the plight of our children who continue to face horrific mass shootings with no response. I stand with them and support them as they, our children and young people, take up this mantle for change.
· I am currently angered by the plight of the Dreamers who not only need protected, but need acknowledged. And I am willing to protect and give sanctuary, and fight legislation for those needing help – because that is what I believe as Christians we are called to do.
· And on this International Women’s Sunday, I am angered by the plight of women in this country, and I want to do everything I can to help women feel respected and acknowledged for all they have to offer.
And the list could go on…
As we move into our time of waiting worship. I have a couple of queries to ponder… What injustices in our world anger you? Where do you need to respond as Jesus did out of love and care for your neighbors?