Anger in Hoping

Revelation 7:9-17

I don’t think that I am an angry person. By this, I don’t mean that I don’t get angry; I do. Much to the frustration of my wife, I tend to begin by becoming quiet, withdrawn. Then, when I have worked out what it is that I am feeling, I like to think that I am emotionally intelligent, I may speak about my anger and what is making me angry.

Very few people have felt the brunt of my anger in full voice. I don’t know whether this means they should feel privileged that I trusted them with my anger, or probably more correctly, I have been feeling absolute exasperation with them because I have not been allowed to be angry, nor heard in my anger.

Yelling, screaming, arguing is, in itself, not anger. It is either a poor expression or recognition of our anger or it is the result of our feeling that we have not been heard concerning the issue that is causing us to feel angry. Yelling, screaming, arguing is a symptom of unresolved anger, not anger in itself.

I feel that I am angry about a lot of things lately.

Just yesterday, I was driving my wife to her shift at the hospital. We were travelling towards the city down High Street and the car in front of me wanted to turn right into Belmont Shopping Centre. They correctly indicated to turn right, moved over into the right turn slip lane, and as I was about to pass down their left, swerved left into the lane I was travelling in, in order to make their right turn. So I blasted them with my horn. That, in itself, is pretty outspoken for me. But as I passed and looked back in the rear vision mirror, the passenger in the vehicle was making the finger gesture at me, mouthing interesting words. To my shame, and here I confess before you and God, I returned the bird with my own expletive, heard only by Sandy. My wife’s response was, ‘You should see someone.’

I seem to be angry about a lot of things lately. Most of them unexpressed and no one to express them to that will make any release to my anger.

I feel angry about global warming, being concerned about the amount of electricity I use, thinking about each time I get into my car, each time I fill it with petrol. And then, in the wee hours of the morning, I hear some hoon, somewhere in Belmont, doing donuts around a roundabout or an intersections – burning both rubber in their tires and excessive fuel.

I feel angry, in the first place, that I am regularly awake in the wee hours of the morning to hear the hoon screaming around some roundabout, or youth having shopping trolley races down the street, or drunks having arguments outside the vicarage on the way home from the pub.

I feel angry about the drought. Worrying about how much water I am using, collecting buckets of water and carrying them out to the garden. Even when it is raining, I worry about not collecting water in the buckets, letting it go down the plughole.

I get angry in the supermarket, when the shop assistant packs my shopping into the grocery bags that I have taken to the supermarket. I take the food out of the trolley and place it on the conveyor belt so that cold things go with cold things, vegetables and fruit are together, soft things together, and bottles together. And yet they still pack stuff so that heavy stuff is on top of my tomatoes, and my mushrooms are not the same shape as they were when I put them in the bag, and the bread is no longer a square loaf.

I got angry when I took my empty shopping cart to the drop off point to find that people had not even bothered to push the carts together, and one of the carts was protruding sideways, out of the (whatever its called) to obstruct the parking bay beside it. I get angry when people cannot be bothered to take their shopping trolley to one of the bays at all and leave it to obstruct a car park, or be raced around the streets in the wee hours of the morning by some wayward youth.

I am angry that our puppy has developed this habit of sneaking off into our bedroom, taking the box of tissues off the bedside table, and gently pulling out tissues one by one. It is not that she is pulling the tissues out – that is kind of clever and even cute – it’s that I have lost trust in her and have to close up the bedroom to protect my things from her inquisitive cleverness. I am angry that it is, somehow, my dog that is determining how I behave in my home.

Not only do I feel angry, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that year by year I stand up here during Stewardship Month encouraging you to think about your giving, knowing that, based on current giving, 65% of that giving goes to employ me.

I feel guilty that I am not doing all the things that clergy have done in the past, knowing that if I do those things I will not have time to do the things that need to be done to enable the church to grow.

And I feel angry that I should be feeling guilty at all – except for the rude gesture in the car yesterday – I should feel guilty about that.

I feel angry about so many things in our society, because they are not what they potentially could be. Like that old movie, Network, I think it was called, people leaning out their windows yelling ‘I have had enough and I won’t take it anymore’, or words to that effect. I am angry, because the world I live in is not like the world as I think it needs to be. I feel like an alien in strange land, not belonging.

I feel angry because I believe it could be, and should be, different to what it is. I feel guilty that I have trivialised the things that I ought to feel angry about and I feel guilty, because I know, in hoping for the world to be as it should and could be, I am a contributing factor to its failure to reach that state of being.

I wonder of John of Patmos felt the same anger as he witnessed his vision, and wrote it down, of something hoped for and was not yet a reality. That the very thing he was hoping for was the cause of his exile. He became an alien because he saw another way. We get a glimpse of that vision in our reading from the book of Revelation today. A picture of what heaven, or more accurately, the kingdom of God, is like.

These are the disciples for Jesus, like the disciples of Palm Sunday, entering behind Jesus into Jerusalem, waving their palm branches declaring, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:38; NRSV) Here are the resurrected ones, robed in white, with palm branches, this time crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10; NRSV) And a glimpse of the kingdom of God in the promise, “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17; NRSV)

My anger, unspoken and unexpressed, and also when I feel that someone has finally heard and responded to it, sometimes drives me to tears. The promise of Jesus and Revelation is there can be another reality other than the one we presently live in. That other reality is the Kingdom of God and the present kingdom, the world, is often out of kilter with God’s kingdom.

As Christians, we should naturally, intuitively, feel angry when our experience in this world does not match the reality of the kingdom of God. We ought to continue to listen to that anger, helpfully express that anger and creatively develop activities, programmes and lifestyle changes that enable God’s kingdom to become realised. Working toward that day when we will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike us, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be our shepherd, and he will guide us to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

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