Is it right for you to be angry?

I wrote and performed this piece as part of Trinity Lutheran Seminary‘s Second Annual Summer Seminary Sampler Gospel Slam. Gospel Slam is based on poetry slams. TLS set the model for doing poetry slams in partnership with the Academy of Preachers, an ecumenical organization that lifts up and encourages young preachers. Each performance this year had to based around a Biblical question. My question this month was “Is it right for you to be angry?” from Jonah 4:4.

I’ve never particularly liked our corporate confession and forgiveness. It’s rather sterile, easy, and doesn’t address the fact that, while we are sinners ourselves, we also bear the pain of having been sinned against. It is important to recognize that pain.

The lament, an impassioned cry of grief and anguish, is a notable and powerful form of prayer found in many places in the Hebrew Scriptures. It seemed an appropriate way to address that pain. The idea here, then, was to have a confession and forgiveness interrupted by the thoughts of someone in pain.

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L: Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God,
who forgives all our sin,
whose mercy endures forever.
P: Amen

L: Gracious God,
P: have mercy on us. We confess that we have turned from you and given ourselves into the power of sin. We are truly sorry and humbly repent. In your compassion, forgive us our sins…

No, wait, this is ridiculous.
Gracious God? Whose mercy endures forever? In your compassion?
What are you trying to pull?
Do you hear us? Do you not recognize how stupid we sound?
You must be laughing at us, at me.

Do we please you when we play the prodigal part?
Are we entertaining enough when we act all humble?
It must be like watching a car crash on the highway.
You know it’s awful, but by gosh, you just have to slow down and take a little peek.

I mean, you can’t take all of this seriously.
We sure as heck don’t.
Did I call that guy some unpleasant names when he almost ran me over on College and Main? You bet I did.
Did he deserve it? You bet he did.
Should I have done it? No.
Will I do it again? Absolutely.
It’s probably not the only bad thing I did this past week, and it won’t be the last.
I’ll be here next week with the same old story,
How I’ll never do it again, yadda yadda yadda.
Will you believe me then? You’d be a fool. I don’t even believe me.

But yes, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I called him a bad name. I said the words again. All better?
Are you happy? Am I back in your favor?
That was easy.
I mean, what would have happened if I’d done something really bad, like, oh,
Killed a baby because his dad cheated on his wife.
Or made a whole country sick because I didn’t like the way the census went,
Or murdered a husband and wife when they didn’t pay up,
Or forced a rape victim to marry her attacker, as if I was being some benevolent overseer looking out for her worth and dignity.
Now, gee, who does that sound like. Can you guess?
Sounds like a brat to me.

So excuse me if I don’t buy this whole wretched person thing you’re feeding me.
Am I perfect? Hell no.
But I don’t know, compared to you, well, I look like a saint.

Here I am again anyway, right on time, asking for forgiveness.
But when was the last time you asked for some forgiveness?
Did the Canaanites get a “sorry” after you told your people to butcher them?
Did the innocent Egyptians who died from plagues get any penance from you?
You told Job to shut up and take it when you let him suffer just to win a bet, and while you gave him all his stuff back and a new family (how “gracious” of you), I don’t remember hearing an apology.
And every time you lose your temper, someone else dies, usually some few thousand, without even a hint of remorse from you.
Should I keep going?

So don’t you sit there and tell me I’m a horrible person because I thought bad thoughts or lied about how I really think about some people, or how you’ll only accept me if I “humbly repent.” You first.

You’re Lord of the universe, an expanse so great our math can barely estimate it,
And you’re pissed at me for cussing?
Get some perspective.
If me getting angry at someone and venting to a friend is enough to give you a wedgie and send me to “hell”, then it’s time to grow up, God. I’m 27 and I don’t have those kinds of tantrums anymore–what’s your excuse?

Nothing to say, God? Typical. I must not be worth a reply.
Are you really so disconnected from our lives that you can’t understand why I’m so angry? It is right for me to be angry.
I grew up in a school full of people who everyday told me I wasn’t worth anything.
I’m always the outcast, the stranger, one of the very people who need you the most, rejected by our family and friends who think they should be more important.
We’re lost and confused, drifting from place to place, looking to you for some sort of relief because we’re hurt.
But you don’t seem to care about that. You’d rather stroke your own ego and have us humiliate ourselves in front of you, like we weren’t worth the earth we are made of.
This may be a game to you, but it isn’t to us, and it isn’t to me.
Damnit, God, I NEED YOU!!

I’m clearly not strong enough to do this on my own.
You adopted me, and you’re supposed to take care of me.
I want this to work because even when you’re a real jerk, I LOVE YOU.

There, I said it. Is that what you wanted to hear?
More magic words.
Can we go home now?
Can we stop being angry?
I played your game, even though you don’t follow the rules and I’ll never win.
You win, God. You win, like you always do.

I don’t hate you, God. But if this is what it takes to get your attention, to make you see what you’re doing to me, then I’d do it again, and again, and again.
I know you want things to turn out a certain way, and maybe that “plan” is more important than me. But I won’t let you forget about me. I’m not losing you, too.

I’m sick of the silent treatment. Speak up, God!
I’m sick of my brothers and sisters, who claim to have your ear, telling me I’m not good enough for you. That I haven’t earned your love. Is it true?
You’re either gracious and merciful, or you’re not.
Or maybe you are gracious and merciful to some of your kids, and not others.
But hey, you won’t speak up one way or the other, so who’s to know?

Maybe it’s my fault that we don’t get along, maybe it’s your fault, maybe it’s both of our faults.
But I’m still mad at you.

I’m mad because you make me feel like crap instead of accepting me as I am.
It’s not like I’m not trying–you know better than that.
I try every day to be like my oldest brother, your favorite.
But I’m not him, and it’s not fair that your love for me should be based on how much I’m like him.
Can’t I just be me?

I’m not suggesting any deals, any tit-for-tat. I can’t bargain anyway. I suck at it.
Truthfully, I’m not sure what I’m suggesting.
All I know is that you loved us even when we were dead in sin and made us alive together in Christ, so long ago.
But what about now? Does it still matter? Do I still matter?
I know I’m not a galaxy, or a star, or a planet, or a continent, or a mountain, or a tree.
I’m not very big, or mighty, or powerful, or majestic, or beautiful.
All I am is me.

I’m sorry if that’s not enough. And if that makes you angry, well, then it is right for you to be angry.
But I hope it doesn’t.
I hope that you’ll continue to love me no matter what I do.
I do watch what I say and do, and there are times when I’m ashamed of myself–I’m not naive. I screw up. I have plenty of my own guilt.
But I hope it doesn’t mean that I’m kicked out of the family.
I have my own hurts, too. I need to hear, “I’m sorry,” too.
You seem to care about what I do to others, but what about what they do to me?

I don’t want much. I don’t need much.
Really, just let me know that you love me from time to time.
I know you do, but it’s nice to hear and feel once in awhile.
It gets lonely over here when you don’t come around,
When you don’t talk to us anymore. We miss you, God. I miss you.

I’m sorry for yelling at you. But it needed to be said.
I miss the gracious God, the merciful God, the compassionate God, the God of my ancestors.
If you need time to get over your anger, then I’ll have to wait.
I’ll keep coming by.
I’ll keep doing my best to make you proud, even though I hope you already are.
You used to be, and I’m just naive enough to believe that some things never change.
I don’t really have a right to be angry, I guess.
I trust you–please trust me.

L: God, who is rich in mercy, loved us even when we were dead to sin, and made us alive together with Christ. By grace we have been saved, from ourselves and from each other. In the name of +Jesus Christ, our sins and their’s are forgiven. Almighty God strengthen us with power through the Holy Spirit, that Christ may live in our hearts through faith.
P: Amen.

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Author: Pastor Ken

Ken Ranos serves as the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Three Lakes, WI, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

4 thoughts on “Is it right for you to be angry?”

  1. Very interesting. I would have loved to hear your performance. At times, reading this, I was almost taken aback, we don’t generally talk to God like that, but the feelings are genuine.

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    1. Funny you should say that–one of the Samplarians said she wanted to tackle me during the performance because she was worried Jesus could hear me.

      We’ve lost the ability in our culture to really lament. The Psalm writers especially were not afraid to call God out when they thought God was being unfair, or even cruel. I admit, there were times when I was writing this that I thought, “Is this going too far?” But those thoughts told me that I was going in the right direction if I really wanted to be genuine.

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  2. “We’ve lost the ability in our culture to really lament. ” — How true, and I would include the church here as well. We have to be careful, as we could ride a very thin line between being utter disrespectful to God on the one hand, versus being truly ‘lamentful’. Somehow, I know that God understands this… I have been there with this sort of thing too. Thanks for putting this into writing.

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