I have written in this column before that, ordinarily, this is by far my favorite time of year. Outside, fall continues to dazzle like a living tapestry. Pumpkins and apples fill the fruit and vegetable stands, and shorts and t-shirts have long since given way to jeans and sweatshirts.
Inside, we trade iced tea for hot cider, and light blankets are folded up and stored, replaced by down comforters. It’s a season both cold and crisp, and warm and fuzzy, and I love it.
Ordinarily. But this is not an ordinary year. Yes, the leaves continue to dazzle but the temperature still feels more like early September than early November. I find myself wearing shorts and t-shirts on the weekends. I’m still drinking more iced drinks than hot drinks, and in our household our sweaters and heavy blankets remain snuggly tucked away in storage.
But of course this is not an ordinary year in another way too. There’s the tiny little matter of Election Day, and the fate that awaits us all when the results are finally tallied.
I think you would have to go back to the mid-60s to find a time when America was more divided, or more tense, than it is now. Given the vast differences between the two candidates – differences of temperament, experience and perspective – about the only point of common ground between the candidates’ supporters is the anxiety and fear we all feel about the prospect of a win by the nominee of the opposing party.
It’s at times like these (not that we’ve ever been in a time exactly like this!) that I must consciously remember to practice one of the simplest and most pervasive commands we find in scripture: Fear not.
Fear not. There’s a reason that this was the continuing message of the angels, because in a world like ours there always has been and there always will be cause to fear, and like a grizzly bear, fear will dominate us and ultimately consume us if we let it.
Fear not. There’s a reason we have to be repeatedly instructed to resist our fears, not just because fear is powerful but because it’s instinctive when we sense danger. And, yes, it feels to many of us like we are living through a dangerous chapter in our country’s history.
Fear not. It’s a pervasive command, but it’s not easy to obey. The good news is that if you are feeling fearful, you don’t have to resist your fears by yourself.
Every time you walk through the doors of our sanctuary, you are joining a body of believers, a gathering of disciples, who seek to follow the counsel of the angels by choosing faith over fear, a community that finds its identity in an alternative narrative to the one playing out on our TV and computer screens and in the daily paper—a narrative filled with stories of God’s faithfulness over time, in which hope repeatedly triumphs over fear.
Also, singing helps. As does prayer. As we make our way through this Season of Gratitude and Celebration, it also helps to remember that we all have much to be thankful for and many blessings to celebrate, and this will remain just as true after November 8th as before.
So on Sunday, November 13th, we will make official our intention to heed the call of the angels. We will bring our pledges and commitments and offer them in worship. And regardless of what happens next Tuesday, we will remain committed to meeting fear with faith, to waging hope in the face of uncertainty, and to engaging in the ongoing, holy work we are called to do as Christ’s followers, to work for the healing of the world.