Anxiety and Hope – Festival of Homiletics 2018: Part 4

Start at part 1 of this series on experiences from the Festival of Homiletics 2018 here!

One of the most difficult things about the theme for this year’s Festival is that politics create in many of us, and I know in myself, a certain level of anxiety. No matter what, because of the ways we might internalize partisan politics, even things that might seem to be obvious to one person may be nuanced, complicated, or outright wrong to another. But anxiety and hope can come together in these moments. And Jesus’s difficult, sometimes uncomfortable and anxiety-producing life, death, and resurrection show us exactly that.

Anxiety and Fear and Discomfort

Anxiety, fear, or discomfort came up in a lot of our lectures and sermons during the Festival. Maybe it’s the anxiety of wondering if we might offend someone by preaching the Gospel. Fear of the unknown, or the fears we see created around others because of their race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, or whatever barrier has deemed them “other”. Discomfort in the calling that Jesus gives to us to love God and to love our neighbor and wondering who exactly Jesus meant when he said “neighbor”.

But in each sermon, lecture, or conversation that mentioned these difficult feelings, something else always came through too. Where there is discomfort, God gives us strength. Where there is fear, God gives us courage. And where there is anxiety, God gives us hope.

Called in our anxieties to share hope

But in our anxieties, we are still called. Called to love our neighbor, to stand with our neighbors, even when it is terrifying. I do not envy any pastor who serves in D.C. or other political capitols, because the needs are so great, and there are so many opportunities to stand in one’s faith in the face of our country’s leaders.

In just a few short days I felt that anxiety myself, that hope myself.

Several parents’ advocacy groups reached out to leaders at the Festival. There was going to be a senate subcommittee hearing on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, since 2008 and 2013 called the Trafficking Victims Protection Reactivation Act. The groups were asking for clergy to come to a senate subcommittee hearing to sit with, stand with, and leave with mothers and children. We hoped that the subcommittee would see these mothers and faith leaders and be inspired to work towards protection for children against trafficking and abuses.

Listening to our country’s leaders discuss the issues at hand, hearing the worries for safety and protections of our nation and the worries of safety and protections for children, I thought about what one of our speakers said in his lecture the day before. Dr. Walter Brueggemann reminded us in his lecture that we should be hoping for miracles in our world today. It was a revelation, that we as people of faith, as believers in Jesus, should actually be praying for miracles.

Praying for Miracles on Capitol Hill

Isn’t that funny, that the idea of praying for miracles would be revolutionary?
But sometimes we get so logical and reasonable that we forget that we as people of faith actually do want, need, and should pray for God’s agency in the world. And that means praying for God to act, for God’s agency, for God’s advocacy in our world and even (maybe especially) on Capitol Hill.

So eventually, having heard enough of the worries, hopes, and talking points, a mother holding her child stood up. And together, we followed her. Quietly and respectfully, the audience chairs emptied. Only having a few moments in the hallway, we prayed together. Pastors, faith leaders, advocates, moms, reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the hallway of the Dirksen building as our country’s leaders and their staff walked by. We prayed for miracles, for God’s wisdom, for God’s will, for Christ’s love and grace. Together we prayed for hope. And what a hope God’s love through Jesus is.

This post is the fourth in a seven-part series on experiences at the Festival of Homiletics 2018. Stay tuned for upcoming parts to this series!

Pastor Megan Filer