This past week, the Rev. Michelle L. Torigian offered us a powerful and prophetic lament in the tradition of the psalmist. ( She wrote about anger in her life and our lives. She wrote about anger in the Bible and anger in communities of faith. She did not try to “solve” anger, instead talking about Scripture, offering questions as well as a prayer that we will remember our connected life in faith and as members of the human family of God.

And here we are again. For this week’s readings send us back into that stew to simmer a little longer.*

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

How on earth will I find anger in such a passionate love poem? It’s not there, but what is there is the risk of anger that comes when our deepest capacity for love and commitment is opened to another person. Deep anger often springs from our powerful connection to people, things, core values, ideas, and faith–everything that matters most to us. We invest our best selves and create the potential for anger when misunderstanding, ill-treatment, violation or betrayal unfold in those same powerful connections. Everyone and everything we love the most has the potential to generate deep anger when the wheels fall off the bus. That’s why primary relationship betrayals, church conflicts, breaches of trust in leadership cut us so deeply and can make us so angry. But when we find what or who we love that much, we are rarely thinking about anger. “Arise my love, my fair one, and come away.” But we don’t always know where we are going to end up.

James 1:17-27

James gets right into it in this passage. He has a strong hunch that the very gifts that open us up to the generosity of God and plumb our full capacity for every good thing within us, can be defeated quite easily by our actions. When the things that matter most are opened up, we become more vulnerable, not less. Mistakes can be made in a heartbeat, in a flash of rage, in our “doing” or “not doing.” And like the Song of Solomon, James uses the language of “Beloved” to get our attention here.

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Jesus does not call anyone “Beloved” in this passage, but he does call a few people “hypocrites.” Is that something you believe he said peacefully without any anger or irritation behind it? It’s pretty hard to imagine without something of anger or irritation in it. Jesus is invested in the laws God gave Israel and he is invested in the message of abundant life he came to share.  These are important things that matter everything to him. He is invested in the people who are suffering and need healing and freedom and advocacy. They matter to him. In this story we see that because Jesus cares about all this, he has opened himself to the same possibility that anger may arise in him when those things are trivialized or betrayed. He has the same weak spot we do. And when it’s poked, he gets angry. He works to turn it into a teaching moment that the Pharisees could never create out of their investment in the law.

Where do we go with our anger when it comes out of what or who matters most to us?

In my work with ministry colleagues, I sometimes suggest that when something happens that sparks the anger within that is both scary and sometimes shaming to us, grab a journal and ask yourself “What has hurt me in this event?” In paying attention to the feeling behind that anger, we can sometimes care for ourselves and also better regulate the anger that is trying to tell us that something important is at stake for us. Feeling the pain, the hurt, the shame and inviting Spirit to be with us in that feeling becomes a portal for Grace to work its way into the stew of anger.

*I am mindful as I post this that abusers may use “love” as an excuse for every kind of abuse they visit upon others. That would be the “sin” that can accompany anger and is not what I mean.

Diane Strickland is in her 33rd year as an ordained minister now serving in The United Church of Canada as retired clergy. She is a Certified Community and Workplace Traumatologist, Compassion Fatigue Specialist-Therapist, Critical Incident Responder, author and creator of Trauma Informed Resources.

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