March 19, 2006
Third Sunday of Lent
"Cross Eyed: Anger"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Pet Peeves, we all have them don't we? Those things that just set us off. Some of my pet peeves are:
People who don't use their turn signals or turn them on when they're turning.
Road maps that aren't folded back up correctly. I don't know why, it just bugs me. I guess it's like the next one, tangled and wadded up extension cords.
Fast food lines that aren't fast.
All the prescription drug ads on TV with their long disclaimers of possible side effects. (They make me want to run and hide, not ask my doctor for help).
How about you? What are some of your pet peeves?
My number one pet peeve is the phone system. I hate it when I dial a number and I get that "Boodeebeep: We're sorry but it is not necessary to dial a 1 when dialing this number. Please hang up and dial again." Or it's evil twin: "Boodeebeep: We're sorry but you must first dial a 1 when dialing this number. Please hang up and dial again." I don't care how many numbers we have to remember or have to dial, just make it consistent. Especially in the Metroplex where there are 12 dozen area codes, 1,000 prefixes and they keep adding new ones every day. Just don't play that annoying beep and tell me I'm an idiot because I don't know your secret rules of which numbers need a 1 and which ones don't.
Whew, now I feel better. Pet peeves drive us nuts. They irritate us. They push our buttons.
Today we look at an event in the life of Jesus that pushed all of His buttons. An event that didn't just irritate Him but made Him angry. John 2:13-22 (NRSV)
 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
 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.
 He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"
 His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me."
 The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?"
 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
 The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?"
 But he was speaking of the temple of his body.
 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.
Jesus with a whip of cords in hand is not the picture we have the Good Shepherd is it? An angry Savior just doesn't seem to fit. But being Cross Eyed, focusing on the His purpose and mission, with the cross looming in the very near future, Jesus saw what was going on in the Temple and was filled with Cross Eyed: Anger.
Why? Well first, They Were Trivializing The Faith.
It wasn't so much the selling of the animals or the exchange of Roman coins for Temple coins. It was the fact that the merchants had taken over the Court of the Gentiles making it virtually impossible for any of the Gentiles to worship because of the din and noise of the marketplace conditions. It was sort of a Jerusalem version of the Ft. Worth Stock Show at its highest combined with an old fashioned carnival with all it's barkers hollering and selling their wares at one time.
The market trade had grown from simply being the animal sacrifices to a bit of a flea market atmosphere, too. You could get almost anything. As a result, people had started using the Temple courtyard and the Court of the Gentiles as a shortcut from one side of Jerusalem to the other.
Now the animal sales and money changers was probably a very good idea at first. But the good idea had gone very wrong. It had gotten completely out of hand. How could anybody pray in that kind of circus situation.
But even worse in the eyes of the Messiah, the Jews had forgotten their calling to reach out to the world with God's message, and they were inadvertently pushing the Gentiles out by setting up their booths in the Gentile worship area. They were broadening the gap between the Jews and the Gentiles by turning the Gentiles into invisible people. If they didn't see them, they didn't have to deal with them. Besides, how could how could a good Jew stay ritually clean and deal with those kind of people.
Israel's earliest calling was to reach out to all the nations of the world. In Genesis 18:18 we read ". . . Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?"
Isaiah 42:6-7 we read: "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness."
That wasn't just about the Messiah. That was a definition of the Mission of the Jews. And if you look at the construction of the Temple, you can see that God designed a microcosmic view of the world. Look at the size of the Gentile area compared to the size of the area for the Jews.
No wonder Jesus got so angry. He also knew they would be doing the same thing to Him, shortly. Squeezing Him out of the picture in a very cruel way. But God always has the last Word and that Word was Resurrection. None of them would remember that until after the event took place.
Jesus was filled with Cross Eyed: Anger because They Were Trivializing The Faith.
A. If Jesus got angry then anger must not be a sin. What? So, many of us were raised that getting angry was wrong. And if it's wrong then it must be a sin, right? Wrong! There is no commandment: "Thou shalt not get angry!" It doesn't exist. Anger is an emotion, not a decision. You don't get up, write your to do list and include: "#4 Today at Noon I'm going to get angry for 15 minutes, then I'll be happy the rest of the day."
Anger is an emotion. Anger happens. Anger is not a sin. Need proof? Well, first, would you agree that Jesus is the Sinless Son of God? Of course you would. That's what Scripture says. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin." If Jesus was without sin, and Jesus got angry, then anger is not a sin.
We don't much care for an angry Jesus. We prefer to think of Jesus as meek and mild. But we need to remember meek doesn't mean weak. It simply means gentle. We need to remember, Jesus had other traits besides meekness, some that were a striking contrast.
C. S. Lewis illustrated the contrasting qualities of Jesus in his character Aslan the Lion. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, two children, Lucy and Edmund come to a grassy area. The field covers an area almost as far as the eye can see in greenery, except for one small white spot. The children can't figure out what the white spot is from a distance, so they hike down to it and discover that it's a lamb. This white woolly creature is not just any lamb but a lamb that can cook breakfast and have a conversation with them. The children want to know how to get to the land of Aslan. While the lamb is giving them directions a marvelous thing happens: "His snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself towering above them and scattering light from his mane." (1)
Lewis graphically illustrates one of the great truths of our faith, Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is also the Lion of Judah. In Christ we find both the meekness of the lamb and the ferocity of the lion. Jesus could be both a strong yet gentle man who welcomed children and the angry man who swung a mean whip to clear the Temple.
B. Anger is Not A Sin, when used properly. Improperly used and it's a sin that damages everyone. Someone compared anger to nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerine is an unstable liquid which, in paste form, makes up dynamite. However, nitroglycerine in very small amounts is what is given to heart patients to keep their hearts beating.
Anger only becomes sin when we let it boil over and explode uncontrollably over all those around us. We get angry when somebody cuts us off in traffic or forgets to put on their turn signal. We get angry when someone takes credit for something we've done at work. We get angry because the drive through took so long or they were out of our favorite whatever. We get angry but don't let it go. Then we come home and the kids get too noisy or our spouse says something we take the wrong way and boom, we explode all over everybody. They have no clue what just happened. All they know is they got caught in the blast of our anger and it hurt. Not only did it hurt at that moment but that shrapnel filled emotional landmine could scar them for life. That kind of anger, in my understanding, is what constitutes a sin.
Will Rogers said: "People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing." (2) The quote I really like though, says: "Remember the end never really justifies the meanness." (3)
Anger is Not A Sin, inappropriate use and control of our anger is. In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul writes: "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil."
I like the way the Message puts it: "Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry - but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life."
A. So, it's not a sin to get angry. It's OK to be angry. What do we do with anger. Well we can turn it inward and not deal with it. But if you do that it turns into ulcers and sometimes leads to depression. A lot of depression is caused by turning anger inward. Or you can deal with it in constructive ways. Simply acknowledging it tends to help diffuse it. Let me give you an example.
B. I was heavily involved in the Metro Board dinner this year. I prepared all the graphics and a short video which included an interview with some of the original people in Metro Board's 40 year history.
Everything was pretty much completed when I arrived at Will Rogers to set up about lunch time for the 6:00 pm meeting that night. I assumed that all I needed was my presentation and my laptop. Wrong. I needed a couple of 75 to 100 foot video extension cables to hook up to the projectors. I called a couple of places and went by a couple of more. After about an hour, I found a company who rented them. Great, I'll go pick them up.
I went to seminary in Dallas at Perkins, part of SMU, so I'm pretty familiar with Dallas streets. Did you know there is a Royal Lane that crosses 635 in Irving? Neither did I. When they said 635 and Royal Lane, I drove straight to Dallas. To make matters worse, the directions were almost perfect except, the building they described wasn't there. After a couple of phone calls about the directions, the secretary finally figured out I was in Dallas.
So, then I drove to Irving. When I got to Irving, I followed the sign and went North because the address was North Royal Lane. The area was very much like they described. After wandering around for another fifteen or twenty minutes, I called again, their address is N. Royal Lane, but their building is South of the Interstate.
I finally found the place and got back and everything worked fine. Now, I could have gotten mad. I could have been sitting in my truck in the midst of all that traffic spitting mad, turning the air blue and beating on the steering wheel. There was a part of me that wanted to.
The absurdity of the situation just flabbergasted me. But instead of yelling and screaming, I started laughing. I haven't had that good of a laugh in a long time. I was angry but the anger was released by laughter.
You see, anger is an emotion and an energy. It can't be destroyed. And it can't be forgotten. It has to be converted. We can find creative ways to deal with our anger by converting it and using it's energy for something else, like laughter.
A. That brings up that last question. WHAT SHOULD MAKE US ANGRY? The anger Jesus displayed was Cross Eyed: Anger. Anger that was focused through the cross. Some call it righteous indignation. It wasn't because of some pet peeve. His anger arose from the disrespect of the people for their God, for their mission, for the way they were treating the people of their mission field and the way they were treating God's Holy Place. Those are some of the things that should make us mad, too.
In the movie The Incredibles, Bob is a Super Hero in hiding, so to speak. He's in sort of a Hero Protection Plan. The use of super powers has been outlawed. He's working as an insurance claims representative. His problem is, he has a heart. Mr. Huph, Bob's boss, berates him for helping too many people with their insurance claims. Bob spots someone getting mugged outside, and he moves stop the crime. Mr. Huph commands him to stay or get fired. Bob comes back inside and watches the mugger get away. Mr. Huph is happy about that, so Bob throws the tiny man through several walls.
While it's never right to throw your boss through the wall, or to let your temper get the better of you, our Cross Eyed: Anger should move us to action every time there's an injustice against God's people.
B. Our Cross Eyed: Anger should rise over every child who dies of starvation. We have enough food in the world to feed the world. We just can't get along long enough to distribute it to the people who need it.
Our Cross Eyed: Anger should rise over every child who dies of any illness. In Africa, $1.00 a day can not only supply a child with aids, the medication they need to fight it but enough food to live on.
Our Cross Eyed: Anger should rise over every child who is ever abused, sexually, physically or emotionally. We need to break that ongoing cycle.
Our Cross Eyed: Anger should rise over the rise and proliferation of pornography. It is degrading God's beautiful gift of sexual relations between a husband and wife. It exploits women. It treats all people as objects instead of as individuals. It's invading our homes and destroying relationships. It's dehumanizing.
Our Cross Eyed: Anger should rise over the exploitation of children and teens through pornography.
Our Cross Eyed: Anger should rise about the church as a whole, losing it's focus on reaching out.
Our Cross Eyed: Anger should rise every time there is injustice do to racial and sexual discrimination.
I could go on and on, you get the idea though. The reason a lot of people don't get angry about those things, is because they don't see them as relevant or pertinent to their lives. They've been pushed aside and become invisible, just like the merchants were doing to the Gentiles. Or they are stymied by the enormity of the situation. How could their little bit help. Well, every little bit adds up to make a bunch. And every little bit helps when you look at the problems of the world and everyday life through our Cross Eyed faith.
Two men stood in front of a taxi cab arguing about who had the right to the cab. While they argued, the wife of one of the men stood and watched. After they had argued for a few of minutes, one man became calm, opened the door for his opponent, and returned to his wife
Curious, his wife asked him why he'd suddenly allowed the other man to take the cab. He explained, "You see dear, he needed the cab more than we did, he was late for his martial arts class. He's the teacher!" (4)
Getting angry isn't a sin but sometimes watching our anger is a good policy. There are plenty of good reasons to get angry but let it be Cross Eyed: Anger. "Be angry but don't sin."
1. C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as found in "What's it going to take?" a sermon by John H. Pavelko, Crossroads Presbyterian Church, Walled Lake MI
2. Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations, WordSearch Bible software version.
3. Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations, WordSearch Bible software version.
4. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), January 1996
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