I am angry. In fact I am very very angry. And I know that some of you are angry too.
Why is it that we hate each other so much? Why do we drive each other out to die in the desert?
Why do people kill each other. What is going on.
Over this last week, like you, I watched on television a line of Iraqi soldiers – some still teenagers – kneeling on the floor, fathers, brothers, sons – people like you and me, with families and lives, with eyes and a look of fear on their faces – just minutes before they were brutally murdered. How can people – people who are also fathers, brothers, sons, do such an evil thing to their brothers? Yes I am angry.
Then I heard on the radio another story of a child in Syria – this time a 14 year old girl, blown apart and dying on a hospital bed – what is going on that we blow up children? How can we do this to one another – how can we be so evil with one another and imagine that any of it can ever be right or just or necessary.
And then two more teenage girls brutally raped and murdered in India and left to hang – what is so wrong inside this human nature of ours that we can imagine ever doing anything so evil to two young girls. I do not understand, – actually – I don’t even want to understand – I’m just angry.
You would have thought that we would have learned. You would have thought that we would have looked deep into our souls after the Holocaust and said never, never again – never again will we allow this evil – this Devil – to rise inside us so that human beings massacre other human beings, so brutally, so mindlessly, so very evil. But no. It still goes on. Rwanda, Darfur – 200,000 in Iraq, 150,000 dead in Syria – yes I am angry – and not even righteously angry – just angry – what the Hell is going on?
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Well thank you Jesus – I say – because we really don’t need any more swords in this violent world of ours. We need peace.
And none of this is new. Every page of our human history tells of the innocent and yes, the not so innocent, being brutally tortured and murdered in the name of power, race, money, religion, land. In bygone centuries the sadistic execution of our brothers and sisters was called sport in the Gladiator ring, or by the scaffold or the guillotine – and today – little different really – we satisfy our blood-lust deep in our souls with multimillion dollar movies where people are shot, massacred, tortured and killed for our entertainment. What the Hell is going on. We need to be changed from the inside – out big –time.
Way back in time – at the beginnings of our Old Testament – Sarah hates Hagar. Sarah, herself an abused victim of her patriarchal society which gives her no value because she cannot have children. Sarah who accepts the humiliating patriarchal norm of giving her servant as a second wife to her husband. Sarah the abused, turns and abuses Hagar and demands that she now be sent out into the desert with her child. And Hagar – an abused victim also, sold into slavery, abused and oppressed by Sarah, and yet mocking and taunting – her son Ishmael, laughing MeTSaHeQ at Isaac YiTS-HaQ – same word, same name.
And Ishmael abused – brought up as an only beloved son only to find that Abraham will now sacrifice him by casting him out into the desert with not enough food or water because a new – a better son has come along – and Isaac – the new son – who will be abused in the next chapter as Abraham ties him to an altar and intends to kill him as well – and Abraham, weak and old – the one who is really impotent, and barren in morality in this story.
What the Hell is going on?
You see I am angry. I am angry that we in the West can show pictures on our colour flat-screen televisions in our living rooms of Sunni Muslims murdering young men, or we can hear stories of gang-rape and murder of women in India and that we do not all rise up in anger and beat our breasts in penitence. In anger because this is evil – there is no other word – and in penitence because there is blood on our hands too.
At least I can say that I marched in London in the ‘not in my name’ march against the Iraq war and – yes – I am ashamed that the British government defied Europe and the United Nations and sided with the US and went to war. But I am even more ashamed that we who bombed, destabilized, armed, and then of course withdrew – do not think that we have any responsibility or liability for what has happened or for the deaths of the innocent.
And I am angry that we bomb, destabilize, arm and then walk away – When will we ever learn? We’ve even sung the song – for goodness sake – and we still do not learn! And so what the Hell is going on!
Now anger is not a good feeling. It makes one feel bad – it stirs up the stomach ulcers and makes one even more irritable than usual. So as I pondered my own anger and my revulsion and – yes – my own feeling impotence and guilt remembering the faces of those frightened young men crouched on the floor in a line before being shot dead and thrown into a pit. God in God’s great love and mercy and providence sent me psalm 94 to sing on Wednesday at Evening Prayer: and I am so thankful for it. God is a good God and scripture is a great text: Let me read you a couple of verses :
O Lord God of vengeance, O God of vengeance show yourself. Rise up O Judge of the world, give the arrogant their just deserts, How long shall the wicked O Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph’
God who planted the ear, does he not hear – God who formed the eye does he not see.
Now usually, we all squirm in our chairs when we sing about God’s vengeance and our desire that God would mightily slay the wicked – to the beautiful calm and prayerful melodies of gregorian plainchant, with Patrick on the organ and in the holy surroundings of our candlelit cathedral. We are often embarrassed at psalms like this wondering what visitors and tourists might think – but not that night, not on Wednesday, not for me at least. I loved them. They were exactly right!
In fact God who planted the ear, does he not hear – God who formed the eye does he not see .
Are almost the words Hagar used in Genesis chapter 16 when she tried to escape the violence and abuse of Sarah: ‘Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are El-roi’; – you are the God who sees
Yes, I thought, Yes I prayed – I hope that God does see. I hope God sees everything, every word, every blow, every bullet fired, every tear.
As I struggle – and I hope we all struggle with this senseless bloodthirsty violence – so I want to name it – let’s just call it Original Sin – not the fancy theological doctrine formulated by Augustine and discussed by academics around shiny mahogany tables – but the putrid sin which seems to be so deep rooted and inescapable inside our very human nature. The sin we just don’t seem to be able to escape from.
As I struggle with all of this, I long for the other thing we don’t often preach about – I long for Judgement – I want to demand justice for the oppressed, the murdered, the tortured. I long for ‘el Roy’ – a God who can see what is happening and who can and who will name it.
You see I long for God who is more angry than I am, – not less – a God who will weep with me, in fact a God who will weep more than me – and – here is why God is God, and we are just us – I long for a God who can then do something about it, a God who can restore and heal.
And so yes, not surprisingly Jesus is right. I don’t want Jesus just to throw peace over the earth like a blanket – – which is the verb Matthew uses – I want a Jesus who will bring us a sword of judgement – not a real sword, of course, for in the same Gospel Jesus tells us to lay down the sword, and that those who take the sword will die by the sword – but I long for the sword of the Spirit which will cut through lies and secrecy and fear and greed and in judging us will bring us honesty, truth, reconciliation and justice and above all the healing and salvation we so badly need.
And then in this strange bag of readings we have this morning – after Sarah and Hagar, after the sword of Jesus and the division between households, we have St Paul – offering us hope.
Our old self is … crucified with Christ so that we might no longer be enslaved to sin. . – so that, we ..might walk in the newness of life.
The cross and the resurrection of Jesus are – in the end – the only place big enough for me to put my anger – because anger – however righteous, despair however justifiable, tears however hotly shed, grief however painful – are never the way to freedom, peace and life – they will always ultimately bring death not life. The only crucible big enough to hold all this world’s anger, all this world’s horrifying sin, all this world’s judgement is the death of God in agony.
Nothing less – because anything less than the death of God is not enough.
“You can blame it on to Adam
You can blame it on to Eve
You can blame it on the apple,
but that I can’t believe
It was God that made the Devil
And the woman and the man
And there wouldn’t be an apple
If it wasn’t in the plan
It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree”
Thanks be to God.