Written Saturday July 25, 2015
Anger doesn’t need to be bottled up, avoided, denied. According to my mother, and the apostle Paul, being angry with good reason is in order: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil….Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:26-29).
The sun has not yet gone down on this day, and my soul cries out with a cleansing anger, born of grief! An intense grief that will not give up on hope.
I grieve because bishops from a conference that long nurtured my parental family and holds profound treasure of traditional wisdom have failed to live up to their high calling in Jesus Christ.
I grieve because leaders of my denomination, in working tirelessly to fairly apply procedures, manage polarities, and hold things together, failed to transcend our differences with an inspired, unifying vision.
I grieve that resolutions and guidelines that were meant to guide and empower are experienced as encumbrances that divide and alienate.
I grieve that morally indignant persons on the left and the right dismissively vilify those serving as leaders of communities and institutions for abusing power, without owning the power of their own words and actions to do great harm.
I grieve that our expandingly beautiful diversity leads to competing claims about who really belongs and whose voices should matter most.
Meanwhile, our children, youth, and vulnerable ones look on in dismay. And once again we become a spectacle for the watching world as we thrash around in a narcissistic frenzy of “small differences.”
What a stark contrast these thrashings are with the 7000 strong chorus of praise from the five continents of our global church at Mennonite World Conference. What joy! Can we not, for the sake of Jesus, and in remembrance of his longest recorded prayer (his heartbreaking appeal for unity) can we not finally say that despite our differences, we will stand together in solidarity around Jesus’ vision—with the anointing of the Spirit—to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free?
I can almost hear Jesus saying to us today: Children! Children of Menno who marginalize your prophets and scorn those who are sent to you. “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing? See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’”(Mt 23:37-39).
I’m grateful that tomorrow I can preach—preach about a vision for our beautiful, broken Mennonite family that might even yet be attainable. There is hope, because in Christ all things hold together. In Jesus’ act of suffering love, we see how costly it is to hold together that which so many want to drive apart as irreconcilable opposites. We see how his heart was tugged wider and wider open to embrace even those who hated him.
May God give us patience as we feel stretched nearly to the breaking point. And may God give us the humility needed when we reach that breaking point to come to the foot of the cross, even with our anger, ready to wash each other’s feet rather than to do violence, to vilify, or to walk away from those with whom we disagree.