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Devotion: Inside Out

This devotion was given by NLC soprano, Katherine Castille, prior to our tour concert in Ames, IA on February 20, 2016. Katherine takes a look at an emotion we all feel but are often too hesitant to talk about, especially when it has to do with God.
 
This is a bulletin from St Philip the Deacon's Ash Wednesday Lenten service. It says that for the 5 weeks of Lent, they'll explore the bible's emotions. Guess what the emotions are... sadness, fear, joy, disgust, and anger. Guys ... We're back to Inside Out. We've talked about joy and sadness and fear. That they each have a purpose, and that they are parts of our whole humanness.

 
What about anger? We don't talk about that very much. It's an intense, often destructive emotion, especially when we don't deal with it. Like sadness, anger tends to carry negative connotations. We try to avoid feeling it or talking about it. But we've all been there. Maybe we don't talk about it because we're afraid to admit to ourselves, each other, and God when we're angry. And what about being angry at God? Do we even have the right to be angry with God, our creator? Do we think we can hide it from Him?
 
Ok - everybody close your eyes ... Raise your hand if you've ever been mad at God.
That's almost everyone. 
Ok, hands down. Now ... Who has ever had the presence of mind to pray to God in their anger? 
Only a handful. 
Ok - open your eyes...
 
There are A LOT of biblical examples of angry prayers:
From Psalm 94 - How long, Lord, will the wicked, be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, Lord; They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. They say, “The Lord does not see ...
 
From Psalm 109 - God Whom I praise, do not be silent. For the mouths of the wicked and the deceitful have been opened against me; they speak to me with a lying tongue. They encircle me with words of hate; Instead of loving me, they detest me. They impose evil upon me in place of good, hate in place of love.

From Psalm 44 - our ancestors told us how You did mighty deeds in their days. But now, You desert and shame us. You put us to flight from our enemies. Those who hate us tear us to pieces at will. You hand us over like sheep to be devoured. Wake up! Why do You sleep, Lord?! Arise! Do not abandon us forever! Get up! Help us! 

Wow ... I've never prayed to God like that.
 
But if God wants honest prayers, I can honestly say that what's happening in the world does make me angry - angry at God. I am angry about what's happening in the Holy Land between Israelis and Palestinians. I'm angry that more than 3 hundred thousand people have been killed in the Syrian civil war. Millions have become refugees to escape war, and too many have been denied entry to a safer home. Or here in the United States, Flint, Michigan: 10,000 children have been exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead, seemingly due to gross negligence of governmental officials. Speaking of water, nearly 800 million people in the world don't have access to clean water or enough food to eat. Some 100 million people are homeless.
 
... And as if that's not enough, THEN, there are the crimes we commit against each other every day. Fear-mongering and discrimination of all kinds. Flipping off the driver who cuts us off in traffic. Deceitfulness and carelessness and apathy.
 
Out of the depths have I called to thee, o Lord. Hear my supplication! We live in a broken world where cruelty, covetousness, dishonesty, loneliness, and pain are ever-present. Where ARE you, God? 
 
But the God who created this world, who created us, also made us capable of such goodness ... Kindness, gentleness, honesty, generosity, creativity, gratitude, humor, love and hope. That's what this Psalms and Spirituals program is all about. There are things to be angry about, and there is also hope.
 
Every day, we get to make choices about how we live. Those decisions we heard about last night in Dave's devotion. In Diane Fleming's devotion before one of the Christmas concerts, she reminded us that practicing hope in the face of hopelessness is the fundamental work God has given us to do ... 
 
What if, when we make a decision toward beauty, we would find ourselves in a more beautiful universe? What if the choice is toward forgiveness and we find ourselves in a more forgiving universe? If we ask God for justice in the world, he gives us opportunities to be just. If we ask Him for more patience, opportunities to be patient. More love? We must be more loving. So then, honest prayers shape our opportunities, and then, our choices shape the universe.
 
Our journey through this life is marked by sadness and joy, fear and courage, anger and peace. And hope is our companion on the journey ...
 
The lord be with you...
And also with you ...
Hear our plea, o God: make wars throughout the world to cease. Bring justice to all the corners of the world. And transform our anger into peace. O God, You are our refuge, our help in trouble. In your word is our hope. Great is your love for us, and your faithfulness endures forever. Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
Amen.