"A Choir for the Complaining,"        2 Corinthians 6:1-13,     June 21, 2009
 
 
Got a pet peeve, a growing gripe or a common complaint? Here’s an option: Set it to music and round up your neighbors to sing about it.

If you do, you’ll be part of a new fad that’s breaking out around the world: choirs for complainersBirmingham, England, recently intoned “The slugs will eat my lettuce/and dogs won’t clean their poo/I haven’t won the lottery/Life’s going down the loo,” and then launched into a rousing refrain of: “I want my money back!”

In Chicago, another combo of carpers performed their anthem of annoyance: “Chicagoland! Chicagoland! Sounds like we live in an amusement park ... We don’t want the Olympics here! ... Only tourists like deep-dish pizza! ... I hate drunken Cubs fans ... but I hate drunken Cardinals fans more.”


Another number from that choir grumbled about traffic, including buses that “bunch up worse than granny panties,” and drivers who are “only good at honking.”

Complaint choirs have also formed in Australia, Germany, Canada, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Russia and other places. Naturally, the different locales provide different aggravations to grouse about. 
.

The idea is quite simple. You invite people to list the things that irritate them, hire a local musician to convert those complaints into lyrics and set them to music. What you have then is a bellyaching band belting out their beefs together.

Such a choir of complainers in
 
In Russia, the laments are of loneliness and unrequited love. In Germany, the whining is more political, dealing with lying public officials and overly complicated tax codes. And one woman reportedly quit that choir yammering that it wasn’t political enough!

The idea for the choirs originated in 2005 with a couple in Finland, Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, and his wife, Tellervo Kalleinen. They point out that the world’s not perfect, and thus there’s no reason to suppress the complaining. “Even in paradise they complained,” said Kochta-Kalleinen.

A lot of the things people grumble about cannot be alleviated, but singing about them provides a way to let off some steam. It turns their bitterness into ballads, their howls into harmonies, and their squawks into serenades.

Complaint choirs are a feature of our day, but if they had been around in the Old Testament era, the ancient Israelites certainly would’ve had one. Actually, for all intents and purposes, they did.
 
 
In the wilderness after Moses led them out of Egypt, they became a crowd of carpers. “The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,” Exodus tells us. They harped about the food and the conditions, and their complaining is not a pretty thing to witness (see Exodus 16:1-8).

If complaint choirs had been around in the New Testament era, the apostle Paul could have been the conductor for one of them. In our reading for today, he enumerates the difficulties that befell him and his coworkers as they traveled to bring the gospel to the world: “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.”

Paul could have been a conductor of such a choir, but it’s clear from the text that he would notPaul’s not giving this litany of laments to earn sympathy or to vent. have been. For
 
Rather, he’s making the point that the reconciliation which God, he and his coworkers are announcing is so important that it’s worth whatever it costs to deliver it.


 
What’s more, Paul implies, these adversities have not yielded resentment, which is often the case with the things we complain about. Quite the opposite. Through trust in God, the pains and problems have produced a harvest of virtues: “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech ....”
 
In fact, Paul’s listing of troubles is a way of boasting about the power of God. It’s as if Paul is saying, “Look at all these things that could derail us — wouldPaul shows here, be evidence that God’s work is not stymied by troubles. have derailed us had not God been with us.” That’s quite a different testimony from what our usual rehearsal of complaints is intended to tell.
 

Complaints, of course, occur in the church just as they do in other parts of life, and they have a legitimate place. They can be the goads that drive us to fix problem situations, improve unacceptable circumstances and do a better job of sharing the gospel. They can, as
 
What’s more, if we take the time to think about things people complain about, we frequently learn something about what they value. But, within the church, complaints sometimes become excuses.
Every so often, for example, we hear about some congregation that won’t pay their denominational financial support requests because of resentment over something some long-gone area leader said at some meeting years earlier.


 
In our lives in general, complaints have a place, too, but they do little good unless directed to the person or group who has the power to correct the problem or improve the situation. More often, though, we dump our complaints on people who have no connection with the problem and no way to fix it, and those folks seldom want to hear our laments.
 
Ironically, one of the complaints people often register about their workplaces is about the number of complainers who work there. Some people, when they see a griper coming, will suddenly get busy to signal that they are too busy to listen to that person’s dissatisfactions. There are even books and Web sites filled with advice about how to deal with chronic complainers.
 
One of the suggestions is that businesses should hold a BMW meeting once a month. That’s a Bellyache, Moan and WhinePaul, though, is instructive. He sets his complaints in the context of what is accomplishedPaul does not see his faith as any kind of a guarantee that he will have no hardships. He has plenty of them, as he freely acknowledges. . Clearly, session. The idea is to get the complaints out there, but then move on.

 
Of course, whether people want to hear our complaints or not, there are situations and people in life that make us unhappy, and it sometimes seems that there is little we can do to change those circumstances other than to do our own bellyaching, moaning, whining or this new option, set our gripes to music and sing about them.

 
 
But he recognizes that what faith does guarantee is that God is with him. That’s why, rather than complain about his difficulties, he simply states them, but then immediately puts them in the context of how God changes in a positive way the complexion of what has happened.

So a lesson we can learn from Paul is to keep the things we complain about in perspective, and look for how faith can change their color.


 
That said, we should never look at God as a complaint solver. The nature of complaints is that they are almost always about someone else.
 
Even when we are complaining about some irritating thing, such as a new gadget we bought that doesn’t do what the ad said it would, we’re really expressing dissatisfaction with the person who is responsible for making the item or for selling it to us. The one person we do not complain about is ourself.

 

Keeping that in mind, it’s worth noting that there are two incidents in the gospel of Luke where someone asks Jesus to rebuke a third party. In both cases, Jesus addresses his rebuke not to the one complained about, but to the complainer.
                       
 
One of those times is the story of Martha and Mary. There, while Jesus is a guest in their home, Martha’s doing the household tasks unaided by her sister. So Martha complains to Jesus about Mary, but Jesus’ response is essentially that she is bothered about the wrong things (Luke 10:38-42).


 
The other incident is when a man asks Jesus to intervene in an inheritance squabble with his brother. Jesus says to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” and he goes on to warn the whole crowd about greed (Luke 12:13-15).

Commenting on that story, The Interpreter’s BibleElijah. After confronting the king and the prophets of Baal, he finds himself on the run and emotionally drained. He takes refuge in a cave, and when God asks him what he is doing there, he answers with a whiny complaint:  (see 1 Kings 19:15-16).


God hears our complaints, too, but we shouldn’t expect a pat on the shoulder from him or a comforting “There, there, my child.” More likely, we’ll hear a “You go fix things” response or a “Keep your eyes on me” response.

And that’s how it is with most things we complain about. We can bellyache about them or even sing about them, but we are better to fix the ones that we can.

Whether we can fix them or not, however, we should look for how our relationship to God can put them into perspective in the greater scheme of things.

says, “We may complain about one another to one another, if we want to, and with more or less justification; but there’s no possibility of getting through to God with our complaints against others. Before God we are confessors, not complainants. Before God we are not judges, we are being judged.”

In the Bible, we do find examples of people trying to come before God as complainants, but their complaints don’t get any traction with the Creator.

One example is
“I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:14). God hears him but offers not one word of comfort. Instead he gives Elijah more work to do
 
Presented by Elder Mary Ann Phillips
 
Homiletics May/June 2009
 
 
Sources:

Complaint Choirs Worldwide: complaintschoir.org/.

Kryder, Suzanne. “Seven ways to quiet the complainers in your workplace.” dreadedconversations.com/complainers.html.

Mastony, Colleen. “A mad, mad world: Complaint choirs list their gripes, then sing that dismay away.” The Chicago Tribune, November 2, 2007, 1.

The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952), 225.

 
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