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Feb 25, 2022

Two days ago, we talked about the possibility of war, the fear that maybe the long peace the West had enjoyed for nearly a century could be broken. Well, now that fear has been realized. As an American official told ABC News, “You are likely in the last few hours of peace on the European continent for a long time to come.” 

After weeks of saber rattling out of Moscow, along with vain promises that they had no designs on Ukraine, the Russian army has invaded its neighbor. In retrospect, this isn’t much of a surprise. After all, you don’t roll 200,000 men up to the border just for kicks. 

And, of course, there have been theatrically executed meetings at the Kremlin where Vladimir Putin walked his advisers through a script of dubious historical grievances, justifying his nation’s recognition of the independence of territory inside Ukraine that Russia already controlled. 

At the same time, especially this time in history where we actually see the effects of war up close and personal, and in real time, what we’re seeing is really hard to believe. Up to the very end, pundits and politicians claimed that there was no way the Russians would take such a risk, with the Russians themselves calling warning of an invasion just American propaganda. It just didn’t seem possible. 

There’s an old military saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and Putin had to know that invading his neighbor would make his nation a pariah in the world community. So, surely, he wouldn’t do it, would he? 

He would and he did. After an alleged call by the newly “independent” regions for aid against the “terrorist” actions of the Ukrainians, Putin ordered Russian forces into Ukraine. He claimed that this was to prevent a humanitarian crisis from the supposedly Nazi-inspired government in Kyiv, even though that government had a Jewish president. 

While pre-war estimates guessed that he’d go with a smaller attack, aimed to seize just part of Ukraine and to place a pro-Moscow puppet in charge, the Russian attack hit all across the nation. 

As of this writing, Russian forces are said to be in control of the Kyiv airport, to have seized the infamous Chernobyl nuclear plant, and to be making progress out of Crimea in the South and toward Kharkiv in the East. 

Our news feeds are showing this in real time. There’s the low-flying Russian plane, flinging missiles into resident neighborhoods with a child crying in the background. The fathers saying goodbye to their children as they head back to the front. The massed helicopter attack, looking like something out of the 1980s movie Red Dawn. 

This is as chaotic as it gets, and we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Maybe, somehow, Western sanctions will force the Russians to back down. Maybe the Ukrainians will show such a hardened resistance that they will outlast their foe. Maybe the Russian people will finally sicken of Putin’s despotism and demand a new regime. Maybe it will all spiral out of control to the point that Europe and America will have to get involved. We do know that before it’s all said and done, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people will be dead for the sake of Putin’s vanity. 

Where can hope be found in such dark days? It’s in the same place it’s been since the beginning. 

When Christ was on Earth, He offered hope to people whose situation was more defined by fear than the affluence we’re all used to. He also knew that their world was about to be further rocked by turmoil, the likes of which they’d never seen. And He knew He would not be with them, at least not in person.  

In fact, He issued a somewhat vague warning about how bad it could get. Wondering what His words meant, His disciples asked for direction, clarification, and hope. In Matthew 24, you can read his reply:  

“See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”  

This is one of those places where Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. He issues no false promises of world peace. He assures them that there would be wars, troubles, and calamities, and when they come, they’ll just be the beginning. Despite the chaos, Jesus said that it’s possible for us not to lose our way. Or, as He put it in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  

As we face these days ahead, I’ve been reminded of something about prayer. We often wonder at times like this, “Other than pray, what can I do?”  

Let’s never forget that praying is doing something. In fact, it’s doing the most important thing.  

The Anglican Church in Dublin, Ireland, has crafted a prayer quite fitting for this moment: 

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: 

We commend to your merciful care the people and government of Ukraine 

that, being guided by your providence, they may dwell secure in your peace. 

Grant to their leaders and all in authority, 

wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. 

Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, 

and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve their people; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit 

may so move every human heart in the nations of the world, 

that working and witnessing together, 

we may live in justice and peace 

and change the hearts of those who would make for conflict and war; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.