We have an August tradition at my church in which people submit questions or topics during the first part of the service: after the gospel, the preacher draws a slip of paper and has one minute to craft a sermon incorporating that topic/question. I had, of course, prepared this week by studying the scriptures, reading commentaries, and jotting down a few notes. This morning, I woke up before the sun with the following running through my head:
“Sin is that which consumes us and draws us away from the love of God: greed, anger, hatred ...
Institutional sin is when those sins are reinforced by governmental policies and societal norms ...
Evil happens when we stand back and do nothing.”
And then I opened up my digital newspaper and read yet another headline of yet another mass shooting by yet another white male. (Kyrie Eleison.)
So when I got to the middle of the service today and unfolded a piece of paper from the sermon box which simply read “ANGER,” the tears I had been fighting welled up in my eyes. Anger is written all over this situation: anger and fear and hatred of and toward “the other” are those things which are fueling this violence. We live in a time in which there is a powerful platform supporting white nationalism. Where shouts of “go back” or “shoot [the immigrants]” are met with laughter and cheering. Where assault weapons are as easy to pick up as a bag of Skittles ... and considered far less dangerous.
And anger is what we are feeling today, after 251 mass shootings this year. Anger and grief penetrating through our desensitized walls and rousing us awake. Anger at these shooters, anger at this rhetoric keeping kids in cages and lives shattered, anger at ourselves for not speaking louder or working harder.
Anger, like greed or hatred, can consume us. It can be the thing that replaces our need for God in our life. But anger transformed is action. Anger transformed is more than #thoughtsandprayers. Anger transformed is taking to the streets, using our voice and vote to denounce institutionalized racism and enact sensible gun laws. Anger transformed can bring about the Reign of Peace God invites us to help create here on earth.
When I was greeting at the door after the service, my young friend shared some drawings she’d made during my sermon. If a 7-year-old can figure it out, there’s still hope for us. How will you use your feet and your voice to bring about the Reign of Peace?