Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, August 8, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 11

Pentecost 11, 2021
1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:1-8
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the term “hangry.”  If not, you can probably tell that it is a portmanteau of the words hungry and angry.  The first known use of the word “hangry” was in 1918, which is interesting in and of itself.  Though it seems some folks are more susceptible to getting hangry than others, it happens to everybody, and it really comes down to glucose levels in our blood.  So, in our first reading today, we see something kind of like despair and hunger combined, but as far as I know there’s not a word for that.  I guess it would be “despungry,” or something.

As we heard, Elijah is out in the wilderness, and he says “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”  There’s a lot to unpack there.  But, he falls asleep.  An angel wakes him up and says, “Get up and eat.”  And he does.  Then he falls back to sleep.  Same thing happens a second time.  And then he finds he has the strength to go 40 days to Horeb, the mount of God.  Sometimes, we find ourselves getting angry at people, or despairing over whether we can even go on with life, when what we really need is to eat something, just like Elijah.

As we begin our 19th month of this novel coronavirus pandemic, people are tired and angry.  “Tangry,” I guess.  The vaccinated are exasperated with the unvaccinated.  The unvaccinated are tired of people telling them what to do.  Everyone is tired of wearing masks and being isolated from friends and family.  And just like with that term “hangry,” our exhaustion and anger is actually hiding something else.  And the thing that is hiding is fear.

Fear is something that is hard for us to admit, especially here in America.  I mean our national anthem says right in it that we are the “home of the brave.”  Admitting we are afraid is just not our thing.  Just look at the reactions when Simone Biles dropped out of the gymnastics competition.  She was afraid she’d get hurt because of the distractions of mental health issues.  She made a brave and wise decision to drop out.  But we have this ingrained sense that Americans don’t give up, or that Americans need to ignore their fear and anxiety.  And so we respond with anger.  People who couldn’t do a single cartwheel end up judging Simone Biles and typing angry obscenities at her.

Psychologists tell us that anger is a secondary emotion.  Fear and anxiety are primal emotions, and we don’t like those.  So we wrap our primal emotions up in logical rationalizations and turn them into anger.  I’m afraid of getting or spreading the virus, so instead, I get angry at the people who won’t wear masks or get vaccinated.  Then I backfill my anger with a little dose of self-satisfied superiority.  In this way, I can turn my fear into self-righteous anger and go on about my day, all smug and angry.  Some people cover their fear by being angry at China or our Governor, and other people hide their fear behind anger at the maskless and unvaccinated.

When you dial out the lens and see what is really going on here, you can see the obvious progression from fear to anger to pride.  I’m not really angry, I’m afraid.  And I don’t want to admit that I’m angry, so I tell myself I’m the good guy in this scenario.  But underneath it all is fear.  It’s like we all need for an angel to wake us up and tell us to have something to eat.  “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”  Hmmm.

And you know where you can find the food for the strength on this journey?  (You expect me to point to the bread and wine on that Altar right now, but no.)  Today, we find what we need in that reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  Think about where you are on the spectrum from fear to anger to pride, and then listen to these words . . .

Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 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, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. . . Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

That’s all really the key, isn’t it?  Put away falsehood and speak the truth, because we are in this together.  It’s okay to be angry, but don’t let the sun go down on your anger.  Choose words that build people up and give them grace.  Be kind, and forgive others as God has forgiven you.  If you and I could hold those thoughts in our minds, if we could follow Paul’s advice, it would give us all strength for the journey.  When you find yourself thinking like Elijah, saying “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors,” that’s when it is time to return to this reading.  Remember that God in Christ has forgiven you.  And then choose words that build people up; be kind and forgiving. 

We don’t know what will happen in the weeks and months ahead.  Just when we thought we’d be returning to normal, it turns out normal is eight months ago, with everything going in the wrong direction.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we can probably see that we are afraid and filled with anxiety.  And that’s okay, in fact that’s normal.  Fear and anxiety keep us safe, at least in small doses.  But no matter where we are headed, as Paul says, we are members of one another.  That has been the overriding theme these past 19 months.  We are literally all in this together.

Remember back in early 2020 when every corporation on the planet was making inspirational commercials saying, “We’re here for you,” or “We’ll get through this together?”  Although those statements were certainly true for us, those corporations were just trying to get us to buy their cars and sign up for their cell phone plans.  They stopped making those commercials after about a month.  And yet, here we all are: still afraid and anxious and not knowing what the future holds.

We’re right back there with Elijah, despairing that we are not so different from our ancestors.  But now let’s all remember to get something to eat, so that we will have strength for our journey.  And here is that nourishment:  Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.  . . . 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. . . be kind to one another . . . forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

That is the food we need for our journey together.  All that advice from St. Paul to the Ephesians.  That’s the food we need.  And, what’s more, Jesus says in today’s gospel reading, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.”  If we stick with Jesus, he will show us the way to the food we need for this journey.  We do not need to be afraid, because Jesus is with us.  He is the bread that has come down from heaven.  And he will show us the way.


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