Tomorrow is the 4th of July. It is when our country proclaimed independence from England. We, the people, the formed government of the United States, will turn 248 years old. We are coming up on a significant demarcation when we will have existed for a quarter of a millennium. Suffice to say, we’ve been around for awhile. Not as long as some, longer than others. We have been through a lot in these past 248 years, and we’re still here.

In our current state of affairs, we are facing division, acrimony, polarization, and fear. One end of the political spectrum is afraid of the other end. This fear gives rise to a general feeling of anxiety on the part of many. The content of our political discourse has pitted us against one another. We take our politics personally, as we should. We are concerned for our republic and all the stress and strain we see pulling at it. The level of anxiety many of us are feeling is in part, based on how our tribe feels and reacts to the daily barrage of news commentary and punditry.

If you’re like me, in a very real sense you are worn down by the whole mess being played out in front of us. How can you vote for that political party? What makes you support that candidate? Can you not see what’s happening because those people are in power? We view the news cycle and ask these questions rhetorically to those we see on television, and to those we interact with in person. Or maybe we don’t ask these or other similar sounding questions out loud, but we certainly ask them in our minds and hearts.

Are we a nation of one mind, one heart, one voice? Certainly not, not now, and not ever. We have pulled together in times of crisis, but in general we have plenty of divergent viewpoints that preclude us being unified in a real sense.

What I want to add to what I’m seeing and hearing is this…Diversity of opinion, thought, attitude, political persuasion, these are actually the hallmarks of what has made us who we are. Its not easy to live in times when you feel as if your way of living, doing, acting, being is in the minority. Its not easy to live with the ups and downs of how politics can play out in our daily lives.

Its not easy to hold on to our thoughts, our understandings, our core beliefs when they seem as if they are under attack. Its not easy when that attack possibly will cause irreparable harm to us and/or those persons who are a part of our tribal identity. The attacks feel personal, and in fact, they are.

Against this backdrop I want to repeat a phrase we hear throughout the biblical witness, “Do not be afraid.” We read this some 70 times at various points in the Bible. Why is it repeated so often? Maybe God reminds us how aware God is of how controlling and paralyzing fear can be for us. Because God knows and understands our propensity to give power to our fears, God reminds us not to be afraid in what we may consider the worst of times?

I want to say, our republic has stood the test of time. It has been through many, many wars, even a devastating civil war. We’re still here. We have weathered plagues, economic crashes, political party divisions, ineffective and/or corrupt political figures. In each instance, there was a whole host of hand-wringing and prognostications of doom, and yet, we’re still here.

I admit to having some trepidation over what our country is going through. I admit, I am fearful of what can happen in the current state of affairs. When I take a long view of our history, some of my fears are tamped down. But when I take an extra long view, I hear God whispering in my ear, “Fear not!” “Do not be afraid.” Every time God shows up in the Bible speaking those words, guess what happens? Things work out, and work out for the better in the long run.

In this season we find ourselves in, we should not give up hope. We should not give up fighting for the things we believe in. We should not allow ourselves to descend into despair. We must heed God’s voice and not allow fear and anxiety to control us. Knowing God loves us and is present with us, we can affirm what Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to God’s purpose.”

I pray that you and I not allow fear to rule our lives. Instead, may God’s presence and love surround us, comfort us and help us to have hope.

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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