Sunday, March 4, 2018

"Godly Anger" Sermon for SUNDAY, March 4, 2018 - Third Sunday in Lent (Oculi Sunday)


"Godly Anger"

Jesus Cleanses the Temple
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.
~ John 2:13-22

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

Today is Oculi Sunday – the third Sunday in Lent. The name comes from the first word in Latin of the introit of the day (taken from Psalm 25): Oculi mei semper ad Dominum – My eyes are always on God.

Today we have by far the most famous story of Jesus’ anger, yet none of the gospel writers mention the word anger in it, they said that he was “consumed with zeal.”

I read a story of a little kid filled with a kind of zeal. His dad said:

One morning, my wife asked our four-year son, Jud, what he wanted for breakfast. “Soup,” he said.

“Son, we don’t eat soup for breakfast. We eat soup for lunch. So what would you like for breakfast?”

“Lunch,” he replied.

Godly anger is jealous for the Lord, and seeks God’s interests, and attempts to heal, rather than harm and shame.

Interestingly the author of the book (Angry Like Jesus) wrote that “when I began to study Jesus’ anger, I was struck by the observation that every time the Bible says Jesus was angry, he’s the only one who was. Conversely, every time others were angry, Jesus was not...no one but our Lord was “consumed with zeal” when money changers overtook the temple.”

She said, “I wonder if there were bouncers in the temple. I would think, with all that money right there...that someone would be stationed to guard the place. Yet no one tackled Jesus or ganged up on him to kick him off the property. Instead, Jesus ousted them. Jesus boldly dumped their coins onto the floor and then sent the sellers out to end the marketplace” within the outer temple area.

Commentators note that the aggressive actions of Jesus spilling the coins and overturning tables are a prophetic sign of the Temple’s imminent destruction. The expulsion of the sheep and oxen are likewise a sign of the termination of animal sacrifices. It also fulfills Zachariah 14 that prophesied that there would no longer be merchants in the house of God, with the message that no place of worship or ministry should ever prioritize money above God.

Allegorically, the sanctuary is the undisciplined soul, filled, not with animals and merchants, but with earthly and senseless attachments. Christ wants to expel these with the inner conviction of sound doctrine and teaching to make spiritual worship possible.

To sum up the topic of anger and our holiness:

Anger is an automatic response which tells us to take care of ourselves. If we stuffed our anger, and blew up later, who would want to be friends with someone who could blow up at any time? Plus, when anger erupts into rage, we often say things and do things we cannot take back.

From the book, Angry Like Jesus--James 1:19-20 speaks of righteous anger: “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

What about Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount? “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court” (Matthew 5:22).

Matthew 5:22 is not as a blanket statement against all anger, but rather as a clarifying statement to point out the spiritual fact that senseless violence, such as murder, stems from sinful anger in the heart.

“Whoever is angry” with murderous anger shall be “guilty,” whether or not that anger is ever acted out. It is the anger behind the murder that renders guilt.

Thomas Aquinas noted that anger, like desire has to do with human motives. The “desire of anger,” as Thomas put it, should be guided and informed by reason. Thomas believed that reason can harness anger.

"Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. —Ephesians 4:26-27

In describing what purgatory would look like for those who fail in the deadly sin of anger Dante says that they suffer a blinding smoke that stings their eyes because anger blinds one to reason. They also have to sing the Angnus Dei in perfect union, to provide us with a clear message: anger divides and only the Lamb of God can heal the division caused by sinful anger.

The author of the book on the topic said that Jesus’ anger healed her, it “airlifted” her out of a pit at home. In her attempt to be loyal to both her parents who divorced, she buried her honest anger. She had wanted to be angerless and sweet. To be neutral so that everyone would like her.

But she found her healing and now prays an old Franciscan prayer that begins, “May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

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The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission. Sermon contributed by Fr. Paul Andrew on Jan 26, 2018.
Godly anger is jealous for the Lord.

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