1 KINGS 19:4-8. Ps. 34:1-8. EPHESIANS 4:25-5:2. JOHN 6:35, 41-51.

From the book of Kings: “It is enough, now Lord take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 

From the letter to the Ephesians: “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” 

From the gospel of John: “Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever.” 

For religious people today, anger is one of the greatest problems. Anger is a safety valve; anger is an energiser; in anger we can be ourselves and be and do what we want. Yet is seems to be forbidden. Jesus is held up to us from childhood as meek and mild. Our parents don’t like it one bit when we are angry with them, which often happens in teenage years, although thank God it’s acceptable in small children. If we can’t be angry with our parents who can we be angry with? Yet anger is a very necessary part of our make-up. How could Fathers have the energy to fight for their country, for their family, for their children otherwise? As Isaiah (42:13) says of the Lord himself “Like a warrior he stirs up his fury”. Sport is a great outlet for anger – think of the rugby or soccer field, think of the boxing ring. Men and women are programmed to fight to the death – of themselves or of the other – in defence of their families and their country.

For clergy - and how much more for religious communities - anger has to be repressed, so where does it go? Perhaps into control – controlling other people, controlling relationships; because self-control is the most difficult of all. Religious people, church people, have to learn how not to offend “Father” – you can see it in their furrowed brows, in their deferential behaviour.

So religion can be used to authorise oppression, on a personal as well as on a national level. We are trained to do what we’re told by those in authority and Jesus is held up as an example. Repressing anger can lead to depression, even to suicide; as Elijah felt: “take away my life.”

It’ll be no surprise to hear that the letter to Ephesians “Be angry but do not sin” is one of the quotes I use most often.

Jesus was angry, was violent, AND told us to love our enemies: to love those who hate us. He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)  There’s plenty to be angry about – in our community, in our communities, in our own selves.  In the church, in our country, in the world. The only answer is to be found in today’s Gospel – to become one with Jesus, with God himself and that is the whole purpose of our church life, of our life in community, of our life here on earth.  “Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever.”   

        Antony Grant CR