Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.


Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.


Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)


About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.



The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.




Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Third in series of posts on forgiveness - now I'm talking about anger

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Forgiveness: 3rd Post on dealing with anger

Maybe we have stated the problem in the wrong way - the problem we think we are getting at when we talk about the struggle to forgive. Isn't the real issue what to do with anger? Anger comes when injustice or unfairness is experienced. Anger is born when our inner world explodes because our outer world is so at odds with our hopes and expectations. And, once that anger comes to life in our hearts and minds, it takes on a life of its own. It becomes a force that must be reckoned with. Anger is a force in our inner world that has its effect, one way or another.

Whether we consider ourselves to have forgiven someone who has wronged us, or whether we consider ourselves to have not forgiven, there remains a reality within us which I will call our anger at what has happened to us. Anger in this sense is like a reverberation or aftershock from a terrible shaking of our being. There is a sense in which anger is a biological and psychic reality that is inevitable after serious trauma. This force may or may not be expressed outwardly. It may or may not be expressed directly. But, it affects and shapes our inner reality and eventually how we express ourselves, how we act.

On one hand, we can have conscious strategies for dealing with our anger (or upset if you want to call it that), but on the other hand, so much of how we 'process' difficult events is unconscious. That is, the reverberations within our selves are channeled, controlled, interpreted, etc. without conscious awareness that such "channeling, controlling, interpreting" is going on. We have what I will call our "direct" strategy for dealing with upset, but we also have our "indirect" strategy or basic ways of finding meaning and hope and peace in life which in time shape how we respond to upset in our lives.

These two levels of response: the first conscious; the second more unconscious; the first direct; the second more indirect; the first a trouble-shooting type of approach; the second more of a way of living/habit type of approach.

The dominant focus of religious people seems to be on "direct, conscious, trouble-shooting" type of approaches to problems. At least, this is the way of most Western religion. You have a conflict, face it; you have a problem, solve it. But, our best resolutions usually come when we aren't working directly on our problem. The answers to our greatest challenges often come when we aren't dealing directly with these challenges, or at least when we are not consciously trying to solve these problems. Scientists and mathematicians and inventors have had this experience, as have writers and other artists. If the mind and heart are committed to working on a problem, then the work goes on even when the problem is "out of sight and out of conscious thought."

What brings new resolutions and revolutions in understanding and creativity is when a person carries a concern hopefully and with commitment and dedication to resolution of the difficulty. There is a "faith" at the heart of this positive movement towards understanding, reconciliation, resolution. There is a way of carrying unresolved issues and experiences of life that brings new life and new understanding. And, there is a way of carrying or perhaps burying unresolved issues and experiences of life that brings death and prevents understanding (breeds misunderstanding).

If you are backpacking, there is a way of "shouldering" the pack that makes walking easier. It is worthwhile to stop and adjust the way you are carrying the pack, getting it to fit as naturally as you can to your back. In the same way, it is worthwhile to stop and adjust mentally and spiritually the way you are carrying burdens of anger and hurt, so that you can carry them in a natural way, fitting to your psychical make-up. When you are hiking with a pack,and everything is going just right, and you are enjoying the view and when the exertion itself seems natural, then you don't even feel the weight of the pack. The burden of the pack is resolved by being swallowed up by other experiences and desires and goals.

This is an analogy for how we deal with anger indirectly, how we deal well with upset in our lives indirectly. If the pack is our anger and upset, then we carry it best when we don't allow its weight to distract us from our deepest concerns, dreams, hopes and goals. When its weight is keeping us from going forward, we need to stop and adjust the way we are carrying our trouble. When we do this, our anger doesn't consume our attention. That thing we are upset about, or that person we are mad at, is only one concern of our lives - not the concern. As we take a break from thinking about what we are mad about in order to focus on other duties and desires, that is when we tend to find the answer to our conflict, a way out of our conflicts.

The great teaching of Jesus is this: "Seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you as well." He also helpfully says: "He who sets his hand to the plow but looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God." That saying seems harsh as it is spoken to the son who wants to care for his aging father, but the only way to resolve many difficulties is to renounce their hold on your life. By stepping outside of a conflict, and seeing what life has to offer, you begin to live free from being controlled by the conflict or the anger, and in the end probably find a way to resolve it when you get caught up in other concerns and forget about being mad.

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