I am still thinking about how time in the Christian sense skews away from regular time. The third Sunday of Lent is not a third Sunday in any meaningful way except to Christians. And even then much of the global church spends today as if it is any other day on the calendar. The tradition that raised me treated Lent in this way. I am, however, learning to see the world in a different way, and the focus on time in a different register helps.
The third Sunday of Lent arrived this year as if the cosmic order understood my emotions and challenged me to see the world in a different light. For those who have not read my previous entry—On the Value of Cussing—I would suggest you click the link and read that first (spoiler alert: I use salty language, which I have learned appears out of character for me). The anger I felt earlier in the week has settled a little closer to numbness, but it is still there. The source of the anger, however, comes from how I respond to being hurt either personally or when someone I care about has been hurt. My tendency to be a peacemaker means I bottle hurts until one appears so outrageous that I spew out venom. The gospel lectionary reading for today comes from John 2:13–25 (Jesus and money-changers) and the central point is Jesus’ anger.
John’s account of this event comes early in the gospel story (Jesus is a regular in Jerusalem in John’s telling) and sets the stage for the growing conflict between the followers of Jesus who see the Temple as an archaic remnant of the faith because of Jesus’ resurrection. The critical reading of the text will be left to another time. The story framed my anger this week in a way that I had not expected, with help from Mary Oliver.
Our church—First Baptist Church of Christ, Macon—does an annual Lenten devotion reading. This year we are using a devotional packet from salt that incorporates poems from Mary Oliver’s Devotion to think about the Lenten journey. Today’s gospel reading of Jesus’ anger in John is paired with “Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does it End?” and “Tecumseh.” Oliver’s remarkable ability to notice her surroundings and connect them in intimate ways to life and spirit find beautiful expression in the former poem. The series’ writer wants the reader to focus there by suggesting that we follow a new temple and that it might be the larger created order. But the latter poem ends with “this much I’m sure of: if we meet him [Tecumseh], we’ll know it, / he will still be / so angry.” I rested there today. The poem tells how the northwest territory, which Tecumseh’s alliances tried to hold against American expansion, fell to forces bent on subduing the land. The destructive nature of that expansion continues to play out. Tecumseh’s spirit, however, rests over the land holding his anger tight at the destruction. In both the gospel story and the poem, anger grows from a place of hurt over the forces that deprive people of God’s intended order. Their anger comes out when others have been harmed.
My anger is not lessened here but reshaped. There is a flaw in our systems that measure people by data points instead of their potential to enhance life for others. I will not stay focused on the personal affront but work tirelessly to change the systems that fail us as humans. Little will change but that doesn’t mean we don’t try.