God's Word for today

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Let's get upset!

"Judgement begins with the house of God" (1 Peter 4: 17)

Something I've been trying to deal with over the past few weeks is this feeling of anger that has been welling up in me from time to time.

I've been particularly angry about the whole "waiting game" that we are having to play concerning our stations for 2010 - it seems that whoever one speaks to is absolutely certain that we are going to SMMS (the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg) next year, but when one presses them on whether their "certainty" means one can put their house on the market, enrol children in school, source alternative employment for one's spouse, etc., there tends to be a great deal of back-pedalling.

"Wait for Conference", we keep getting told. And the more we keep saying that two months is not enough time to put one's affairs in order, the more "the rules" are thrown back in our face.

And so my anger bubbled over the other morning to the point where I needed someone to simply have a good rant at - to clear the air, vent my spleen, so to speak. But the immediate (and very common) reaction was that a Christian shouldn't get angry - that anger is seen as something sinful.

Now granted, anger that drives someone to go and punch their wife can never be seen as righteous. In fact, anyone who told me that they had beaten on their wife out of anger is likely to experience some anger from me in a rather physical and painful way ("five-fold ministry", "laying on of hands" ... you get the idea!). But surely there is a place for righteous anger?

What is "righteous anger"? I'm sure that it can be explained in more flowery theological language than this, but my understanding is that righteous anger is the kind of anger that responds to injustice, which God allows to well up - drives through our spirit, in fact - so that we can get sufficiently riled up to want to bring about change for good.

It would have been righteous anger that caused Jesus to turn over the tables of the moneychangers when He entered the Temple. It would have been a similar type of anger that pitted both Jesus and John the Baptist against the Pharisees - "You brood of vipers" sounds like fighting talk to me". And I have no doubt that the many men and women who have fought against injustices over the centuries, both inside and outside the Church, have been driven by a controlled, Godly, yet searing anger to want to bring about change.

At the moment I am experiencing this type of anger concerning the stationing process within the MCSA. For far too long, too many ministers have been placed in stations that have caused untold hardship to their families. It seems that little consideration has been given to family circumstances. When it comes to things like employment for spouses, schools for children, etc. you are on your own. Even our Laws and Discipline seems to read like a competition entry form, where the adjudicator's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Contrast this with the position in the British Methodist Church, where the process starts with each minister completing a two-page profile form covering aspects such as spiritual gifts, past experience (both in ministry and in secular employment), and family needs (schools, medical facilities, spouse's employment, etc.). One is even asked of one's willingness to be stationed as a Circuit Superintendent if the need should arise.

No doubt the British system has its flaws as well - many blog posts that I have read of British bloggers, both lay and clergy, indicate that the system is by no means perfect. But at least on paper there seems to be some sort of commitment to look out for the minister's own welfare.

It occurred to me this morning that I (and a number of my colleagues that I have spoken to) would be far more effective in ministry, able to devote ourselves fully to our calling and the task at hand, if there wasn't this constant anxiety caused not only by our family situations but the apparent stone wall of silence that we are getting from the "powers that be".

So why the title of this post? It is the title of a song by 80s Christian rock duo, DeGarmo & Key. The song deals with deteriorating conditions in American society, and is a clarion call to Christians to "get upset" enough to rise up and turn things around.

Here are the lyrics to this song:

I was raised in America when streets were safe
And children learned to pray, learned to pray
Things have changed, and it's not the same
The hand of God that we felt has gone away, gone away

Let's get upset and turn this country upside down
Let's get upset. With Jesus' help we'll turn this land around

We used to blush at vulgarity
Now we watch while the TV plays all night, plays all night
Used to stand with our backbones strong
Now the drugs turn our courage into fright. It's not right

Let's get upset and turn this country upside down
Let's get upset. With Jesus' help we'll turn this land around

If we as Christians pray, the Lord will clear the way
We are examples to the rest
And if we place God first
He will heal all our hurts
And we will see our country blessed, blessed

Let's get upset and turn this country upside down
Let's get upset. With Jesus' help we'll turn this land around

Let's get upset. Let's get upset.
With Jesus' help we'll turn this land around
Let's get upset. Let's get upset.

As a Church we got upset enough about apartheid to do everything within our power - both physical and spiritual - to work towards change. But change cannot only be external - it needs to start within. In many ways the current stationing process is more than just a mnor inconvenience - it goes to the core of family life amongst clergy. And we need to start getting upset about it!

Watch this space...

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