Rev. Piazza recently asked his readers if they might be willing to share an insight or an “ah-ha” as a Liberating Word to give him a bit of a break while he focuses on his husband Bill, but still allow us to share a word of hope every day with hundreds of fellow travelers. Thank you to Tim Wolfe, who was one of Rev. Piazza’s students at Chicago Theological Seminary, for today’s entry.
My friend Fran is a Catholic newspaper columnist who naturally gathers an eclectic group of people around her. So I was intrigued when she mentioned on Facebook that she was writing an article about the “Make America Great Again” trope and wanted to hear what her friends thought. As expected, all sorts of ideas poured over the transom, but one comment–the shortest–leapt out at me: “We can’t be great if we’re controlled by fear. My $.02.” Scrolling back through the thread, it became apparent that every symptom describing how our nation has lost its way could be traced back to fear.
Yes, we must be brave, standing firm against fears that encompass us, but I imagine many of us are in the same boat on this stormy sea. Every day, it seems, a new wave of fear tosses us into another tumult. Is there anywhere to hide, a place of shelter that provides the strength we need to summon our courage?
In Psalm 27, the poet describes being besieged by evildoers, enemies, and opposing camps. “Should I fear anyone? Should I be frightened of anything?” the psalmist asks, despite declaring, “The Lord is my light and my salvation … the Lord is a fortress protecting my life.” When surrounded by fearful people and times, such professions of faith can feel overly idealistic. Our questions take a more practical turn, from “Who is God?” to “Where is God?” and “What is God doing about this?”
Those answers come later in the psalm: “God will shelter me in God’s own dwelling during troubling times; God will hide me in a secret place in God’s own tent; God will set me up high, safe on a rock.” Safety in perilous times and the strength to be courageous come when we enter God’s presence. It is a sheltering place, a secret place, a place that lifts us above the tumult, and a rock on which to stand bravely in the midst of the storm. We will not find shelter from fear on cable news networks, in political rhetoric, or engaging in bitter online debates. Such things thrive on fear. Relief from our anxieties resides–and remains–in God’s sheltering presence.