Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday Anger

It's Palm Sunday. Today marks the beginning of Holy Week. Before the week is over we will have the chance to gather with Jesus for the Last Supper on Thursday, have our feet washed as we remember his commandment to serve one another, and then wait near a cross where he was crucified on Friday. It's an amazing week for the Christian Church. The days that separate today from Easter are game-changing days - days we need to remember and keep holy.

We often think of and remember a gentle Jesus on Palm Sunday. We imagine Jesus coming into Jerusalem bouncing on the back of a borrowed burrow. We think of calm crowds lining the streets and singing "Hosanna" while the religious authorities grow furious. Palm Sunday is the stuff that Children's Bible storybooks are made of as we always ask children to parade for us on Palm Sunday.

But that's not all that happened on Palm Sunday.

None of the lectionary assignments offer the full story of Palm Sunday. We much prefer a gentle Jesus to a Jesus who gets angry. But if we keep reading the story we encounter a Jesus who weeps over the city of Jerusalem and then goes straight to the temple in order to drive out money changers. He even makes a whip in the gospel of John.

What happened to gentle Jesus?

Jesus is furious because the religious authorizes have become so focused on ridiculous rules and saving themselves that they have forgotten the call of God placed upon their lives. They are ignoring the prophets who have instructed them to love God with all they have while loving their neighbor as themselves. They are not doing justice and loving mercy.

We concluded our sermon series on the Seven Deadly Sins today with an examination of the sin called "anger." It's a sin we know well. I get angry when I am driving. I get angry when I feel like my husband is not listening to me. I get angry when untrue statements are made about me. We get angry over all kinds of stuff - much of it not worth our rise in blood pressure.

But Jesus sets a different example for us today. He shows us what it means to have our anger rooted in love and justice. Jesus embodies righteous indignation. This anger is one that can lead to all kinds of change in the world.

When I was preaching this morning I shared different things that make me angry. I arrived downtown just in time to see a young girl who was clearly a victim of sex-trafficking get out of a pick-up truck. I wanted to run the truck down so the man would get arrested. I see victims of sex-trafficking waiting for their pimps to pick them up any time I arrive downtown before 7:00 am - it does not matter what day of the week it is. Sex-trafficking makes me angry.

I also shared how homelessness makes me angry. While I love and adore urban ministry, I serve in a constant tension over what to do with people who sleep on our porches. I hate driving into a city where I pass countless people asleep on park benches. It drives me nuts that corners of our church buildings are regularly used for bathrooms or that the stone is stained by urine. I don't believe that the capital city of the United States of American should have so many homeless people on its streets. A lack of care, programs and affordable housing makes me angry.

And I shared how our United Methodist Church's official teaching on homosexuality makes me angry. I completely disagree with our church's teaching on homosexuality. I believe we are harming people with our teaching instead of doing good. Telling gay and lesbian brothers and sisters that they are incompatible with Christian teaching because of their sexuality makes me angry. Being able to marry a couple who are not members of our church and who have only known each other for a few months while not being able to marry couples who are active members of our church, faithfully following Jesus, and who have been together for decades makes me angry.

What makes you angry?

What would happen if we were to follow Jesus' example and allow our righteous indignation to turn into action this week? What if one of the ways to make this week holy were to allow our anger that is rooted in love and justice be transformed into working for justice for others? What would this change look like?

On Tuesday morning I'll arrive on Capitol Hill at 6:50 to be part of a prayer service before the Supreme Court starts to hear oral arguments on marriage. I'll then process with clergy and followers of Christ to the steps of the Supreme Court. I firmly believe that marriage is a gift that all people should be entitled to receive and enjoy. Perhaps there is no better time for me to be part of this processional and prayers than Holy Week.

But I may need to do more. Before the week is over I may also need to finally schedule that trip to New York City so our church members can see a transformational model of homeless ministry. I may also need to reconnect with Courtney's House to see what more we can do to get victims of sex-trafficking out of the hands of pimps and into a more abundant life.

What makes you angry?

How could your anger be transformed into working for change this Holy Week?

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