Grace and peace to you
We end each Sunday service with what we call the “Benediction of Disturbance”:
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths and superficial relationships, so that we
may live from deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression
and exploitation of people, so that we may work for
justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who
suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,
so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them
and turn their pain to joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to
believe that we can make a difference in this world,
so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and
In God’s grace we say – Amen – so be it.
This benediction does not beat about the bush. There is nothing superficial about it. It cuts deep. The words hauntingly echo long after they have been spoken. The blessings jar any spiritual serenity we may seek.
Take for example the second blessing: “May God bless us with anger…” I mean who prays to be blessed with anger? We are more likely to confess our anger and pray for God to remove it. Anger is not something we associate with a blessing – let alone a blessing from God. Many of us believe that anger is somehow un-Christian or un-holy, but anger is a feeling and feelings need to be felt to be honoured. If we do not honour our feelings they will demand our attention by other means – often by increasingly destructive means. One thing that is clear is that they will not go “quietly into the night”.
We remember the verse in Scripture that says: “Even if you are angry, do not sin because of it. Never let the sun set on your anger or you will give the devil a foothold.” [Eph. 4:26] We may hear this verse saying that we should not be angry, yet it doesn’t say that. It says we must be careful what we do with our anger and wisely warns us about how long we hold onto it because if we hold onto our anger too long it eventually holds us prisoner.
Yet there is a time and place for anger. I am not talking here about hurtful and destructive expressions of anger. For this we need anger management therapy to get to the root – which is often hurt, fear and shame. I am referring to anger that aims at preventing hurt and destruction. This was the root of Jesus’ anger. He got angry because people were being excluded from the temple and exploited while there. Jesus tossed over some tables to make his point clear.
I think some of us need anger management of a different sort. We need therapy to give ourselves permission to actually be angry. We need help to get over the fear of being angry.
As Richard Rohr writes: “Anger is good and very necessary to protect the appropriate boundaries of self and others… I would much sooner live with a person who is free to get fully angry, and also free to move beyond that same anger, than with a negative person who is hard-wired with resentments and preexisting judgements. Their anger is so well hidden and denied—even from themselves—that it never comes up for the fresh air of love, conversation, and needed forgiveness.”