Preaching to the Choir

These are some sermons, but mostly lectionary discussions. It also has prayers for some Sundays.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Part 3 of the sermon on Wrath

Such anger may not be as dramatic as eruptions of visible rage, but it is a soul-destroying state of life. Can such anger be overcome? The great fifth century monastic writer Cassian discusses anger at some length in book eight of The Institutes. He states bluntly that the acquisition of peace of mind “must not be made to depend on another’s will...but it lies rather in our own control.” Remember that Paul said in Galatians that Self Control is a fruit of the Spirit.
In other words the angry person only gets rid of the anger when it dawns on him or her to stop hurting herself and others. Put simply One must understand why one is angry and, more importantly, learn how to let go of it. Cassian frames the matter in theological terms: the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in company with the spirit of anger. We might put it this way: the price of persistent anger is misery; the reward for letting go of anger is peace of mind. Benedict linked anger to self-absorption and pride; and then linked peace of mind to its opposites, love and concern. That strikes me as a wonderful truth even if easy to give and hard to put into play.
Jesus tells us that we must first love God and then our neighbor as our self. It is patently the case that the angry soul neither loves neighbor nor self; so to let go of anger is to learn to love one’s self and, then, others. If the old monks are correct, and I think they are, it is a hard task to do so but, in the end, worth it for self and neighbor and, ultimately, for the love of God. And isn’t that what Jesus taught us as the first commandment is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart mind soul and body. The second being like it to love our neighbor as ourself. Frankly all the law and the prophets and Psychology can be wrapped up in those words.

Today we heard James words to the early Christian Community on dealing with anger. He knew like that 4th Century Desert monks that Anger could be corrosive, destructive, alienating, and harmful to the person, and the community. It is words we need to heed about dealing with anger along with others have to say.
"Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger...." (James 1:19)

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry (Ephesians 4:26 NIV)


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