Interlude: Psalm 40 performed by Steve Bell
Have you noticed how much fear is part of this election cycle? My daughter doesn’t understand how anyone would want to vote for Trump, and I try to explain. How folks feel their jobs are threatened, by corporations exporting jobs overseas. How folks are afraid that the terrorism will be imported and threaten the safety of their families and communities. Trump validates, rather than dismisses, their fears with his strong language — he’s not afraid, and he gives them hope that they can win against these threats.
We will all bring our own fears and hopes to the ballot box in the upcoming elections, but what can we do in the days and weeks and months in between? The newspapers, radio programs, Facebook feeds, and viral email messages don’t stop. “Be afraid, be very afraid!” And what about the fears underlying the ads in the media — fear of suffering pain, or poor health, fear of burglary, fear of loneliness, or being excluded? And what about those private fears? … the ones we don’t talk about.… Those fears.
The Bible talks about fear quite a bit. This people or that people, afraid of their enemies. The widow afraid of running out of food. Peter, afraid to be associated with Jesus after the crucifixion, and before that, afraid of drowning when he got out of the boat. But over and over again, we’re told, “Do not be afraid.” In the Old Testament, from God the Father: “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you…” [Isaiah 41.10] In the New Testament, from God the Son: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” [John 14.27] So how can we bring “Do not be afraid” into the here and now, the scary stuff of our times, our lives?
I think meditation gives us a way. Here, and in our meditation practice at home, we can tap into the Holy Spirit, the third dimension of God the Trinity. Our mantra can call to the peace that Jesus left to us. Our breath, in and out, can remind us that God is with us. Our meditation can interrupt the escalation of fear and anger, and demote those feelings to so much traffic passing by on the highway. Our meditation can draw us away from our worries about the future, and bring us to the here and now, the present moment, when we have all that we need — breath in, breath out, and the presence of God.
In a few minutes, we will leave the comfort of this space, and go back out into the world that we’re told is a scary place. But with our meditation practice, we can remind ourselves, “Do not be afraid; God is right here.”
Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on June 4, 2016.