It was in August when I planned my fall preaching schedule, choosing for this coming Sunday – Thanksgiving Sunday – the scripture passage, Matthew 5:13-16. “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…a city built on a hill cannot be hid.” The United States of America has been called the city on a hill; sometimes we have claimed that for ourselves. We are concluding a three-week worship series entitled, “On Solid Ground.” My sermon title is, “Grateful for the Best of our Heritage.” I still intend to preach on that scripture, using that sermon title, but I’m also going to address this question directly: “How do we live faithfully in anxious and fearful times?”
This past Sunday, our church had our best worship attendance since Easter. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe it was the pancake breakfast! But my hunch is that part of it was that many people are feeling afraid and anxious, and they wanted to remind themselves of their grounding.
On Wednesday night, my friend Maggie Stark told about her day at her workplace: Kendal at Oberlin, a retirement living community. Most of the residents she spoke to that day had voted for Clinton. Most feel devastated about the election results, worried for the future for their children and grandchildren. One couple was considering moving back to Canada. She said it reminded her of the days after September 11.
Not everyone feels devastated, of course, but many feel a sense of uncertainty. Here are other reactions I’ve witnessed in the past (long) six days:
One couple said to me Sunday, “We considered cancelling our family Thanksgiving dinner this year. Our family is all over the political spectrum. One family member is protesting the election results. We voted for Trump, but we’re scared.”
One person of color came into my office and said she no longer feels safe in this community.
One woman was harassed because she has a Clinton bumper sticker on her car.
One man was stopped on the street by a woman who pointed at him and yelled, “You voted for Trump, didn’t you?”
Some people are grieving. Some people are deeply angry. Some people genuinely do not understand the grief and anger.
My pastoral role, my role as a preacher, is to help us find our footing. I believe that there are several specific purposes for us as people of faith in these times, in this deeply divided nation. Churches like ours – united because of our common calling to be disciples – are needed now more than ever. In my sermon this Sunday, I will give some practical advice as to how we can live faithfully in the midst of our fear and anxiety. I will share my vision of what our church is called to do and be in these days.