Dangerous Psalms

This topic is so dangerous that I MUST start by saying I DO NOT endorse or condone violence. I do not believe that violence solves anything. I certainly do not condone the killing of babies. Don’t kill people!  (See the 10 Commandments.  God’s 6th command – don’t murder anyone.  It’s a command, not an optional extra!)

We looked at Psalm 137 in class today. And the tutor asked us if we would use this Psalm in worship. He then asked us if the whole range of human emotion was acceptable in worship.

When I look at the news and I hear of another village in Nigeria being burned and their daughters being taken captive, I understand why, sitting by the rivers of Babylon, the exiles have lost the will to play their harps and sing.  The exiles lost ther homes and family, so I understand why they might want revenge. Might want even babies to die. As I watch the news from America and see the anger that has exploded on the streets of Ferguson, I understand why the Psalms speak of harm coming to the wicked and those who are unjust.  The exiles would have experienced a lot of injustice in their situation.  The anger is real.

It would be great if people didn’t get angry. If we could all treat each other with justice, kindness and mercy the way God intended. Sadly, that doesn’t always happen. People are unjust and unkind to other people. As a result, sometimes people get angry. Sometimes they get angry enough to want others to suffer the way they are suffering. Sometimes angry enough to wish someone else harm.

As a minister, I could pretend that people get angry every day apart from Sunday, and on Sunday, everyone is perfect again. I could sanitise every Sunday service, so only the nice things are talked about, only the easy scriptures looked at.  However, how would that help anyone? Is the whole range of emotion acceptable in worship? Should we talk about unChristlike emotions like anger on a Sunday?

YES!  We can’t afford not to.

Injustice leads to anger. If the church is to fight for justice, then we need to see the anger. When we see the anger, we could help people move past the hurt and into healing. Maybe instead of seeking justice in their own hands, more would turn to God and seek God’s ways of justice?

Because if we see the violence, we can speak to it. Tell it of another way.

If we see the anger, we can speak to it, and find the cause and deal with that.

If we see the injustice, we can seek God’s justice in that situation.

I could not tell the grieving parents of Chibok that they have no right to be angry and should just get on with their lives. In our churches we have been conditioned to help people find hope. But sometimes to find hope, you need to deal with the pain, the hurt, and the anger. Otherwise it is just pretend hope. Fleeting. Not real. Just a facsimile.

We can’t remain in the anger. There are plenty of scriptures in the Bible that warn us about anger. But we can’t ignore it either. It’s a human emotion, part of the human experience. The danger isn’t in acknowledging that anger exists.  The real danger lies in pretending that it doesn’t.  The Psalms encourage us to realise the full depth of human feeling, and by these emotions being part of scripture, we are encouraged to take these feelings to God for healing.  And in heaing, find real hope.

Hope that grabs you by the hand and leads you to places of forgiveness that you never thought you could go.

Hope that places its big comforting hands around your face, lovingly looks you in the eyes, until you weep for that sense of love and that sense of peace, because you had long ago forgotten what love and peace looked and felt like.

Hope that sees you crying in anger by the rivers of Babylon, gets your harp down from the tree and starts to play, softly at first, until you recognise the tune, find yourself singing through the tears despite yourself and realise that you aren’t alone in this, someone is with you in the thick of it and together you will get through it.


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