The Wrath of the Lamb
On this pilgrimage I invite you to consider life as a plateau intersected by crevasses. You may guess what the plateau is about and what the crevasses represent. It is a bit like going for a walk in the bush. You are making good progress when suddenly the breath is taken from your lungs: You have accidentally stepped into a hole in the ground. One feels a little aggrieved and might, in surprise, make a little utterance! When I say life is a plateau intersected by crevasses- the plateau is the normal cycle of activities and the crevasses are the crises in life.
So what is a crisis?
A crisis might be an accident affecting oneself or the significant other. It may be the small crisis of a cancelled event or postponed visit of a special relative. The crisis could be something serious like a house fire or the loss of a job. I use “crisis” in a broad sense. A crisis is always a situation which upsets the equilibrium of life and demands a response. The overcoming of crises adds to our experience and experience adds to maturity. Jesus and his humanity met the whole gamut of life crises and copes with crisis and challenging situations with the depths of his divinity. He handled the temptations in the wilderness, crises of identity, as a set of crises most could not withstand. In studying how Jesus coped with crises we learn the way of Christ and hear the gospel.
I believe that anger is a foremost emotion when a crisis occurs. There are different levels to this anger
1) We may think of anger unleashed with the result of violence,’The times when we ourselves or others simply “LOSE IT”!’ A friend of mine, a counsellor, was asked to talk to groups of senior school boys. My friend got them to talk about what happens when they feel aggrieved and become angry with someone. It was distressing to hear the violent remarks of what they would do. The only model they had to deal with crises was to respond with angry violence. The killings at a South Florida school now resonate around the world and the United States is left in the divide between those who believe it is right to use arms for the purpose of righteous vengeance and those who believe in less violent ways to resolve conflict. It is only a short distance between anger, even righteous anger, and unholy violence. We are dealing with strong quantities and the mantra is: “ Do we control anger or does anger control us?”
The use of violence is one level in the response to anger
2) At another level we can think about maintaining our sense of peace in the face of anger and threat . A long time ago a person did a lot of harm to me mainly in bad-mouthing. I used to feel this keenly. Sometime later I had to ask myself, “How come I still suffer because of the other person”. It was a revelation to let go. Instead of receiving a double blow - the original pain, and the pain of ongoing grievance, I wanted to be a winner. I forgave and I let go. It is a method to employ if you get abuse from someone else's driving on the road. The natural reaction is to blast the horn or exercise the digits. One says - let them go, I am not going to lose my sense of peace at the expense of someone's bad driving.
Anger can lead to violence
Anger can be received with the maintenance of composure and peace
3) Thirdly, there is a creative side to anger and this needs to be explored. Most anger arises when an injustice is committed or revealed. It is difficult to use the intellect when the heart, the seat of our emotions, is overwhelmed. One’s anger must be matched by a passion to learn and discern what is behind the event that angers. There is a need to learn from the crisis. I have often thought that even a terrorist offers a world view from which we can learn. And this is true even though a terrorist has lost all respect because of their methods in changing the world. But even righteous vengeance becomes morally empty when it resorts to violence. When we look for a message we find the creative side of anger.
I have presented a model of life as a plateau intersected by the crevasses of life crisis.
The anger that arises in a crisis can be met in a number of ways. It can be met by PRIMITIVE VIOLENCE the non-creative UNHOLY. It can be met by the defence of personal peace. This response means that anger invites the HOLY, - the letting go and the FORGIVENESS. It can be met with creativity …. asking what can be learnt.
Anger need not be evil - its perversions are evil. Our thoughts are led to holy anger. I believe that Lent now confronts us with the Wrath of the Lamb. The Wrath of the Lamb immediately strikes us as a paradox - wrath we know as anger and the lamb is the gentle sacrificing Lamb. The Wrath of the Lamb appears in the book of Revelations when the writer reports his vision when the sixth seal is opened. Everything seems to happen when the sixth seal is opened, there is a great earthquake, the sky vanishes and to quote:
“ Then the Kings of the Earth and the Magnates and the Generals, rich and the powerful and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves, and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks “fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the Wrath of the Lamb” “ for the great day of their wrath has come and who is able to stand”
We are told that the whole fabric of society from the top to bottom is under God's power and judgement . The first instinct of wrongdoing is too hide. Remember what Adam and Eve did…. they hid! We flee from the Wrath of the Lamb. It is up to us to throw ourselves on the love and mercy of God.
The Wrath of the lamb is The Wrath of Love. Even in normal anger - an anger that belongs to God- we are led into wholeness. By anger we are redeemed.
In conclusion during this Lent we can consider the crises of life and the presence of anger. As we appreciate anger we come to see anger as a positive, motivating force that provides a holy space.
Ultimately we have The Wrath of Love.
As Jesus proclaimed: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news”