Life and Ministry

by | Mar 21, 2022

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

A Prayer for Ukraine

God of mercy, justice and peace:
Our spirits are heavy with sorrow, our souls shocked at the sudden and breathtaking violence, the invasion of Ukraine by their neighbor, Russia.

We pray for lives caught in the grip of war, who hear the bombs in the night, the ominous movement of troops on the road into town the whistle of incoming shells, for a cry from a desperate neighbor or a shout of warning for those who huddle in subways and basements or flee for the borders, clutching their children’s hands

We pray for families separated from fathers, brothers and sons who must remain to fight and protect their homeland.

We pray for neighbors in Eastern and Central Europe as their hearts and doors open to these refugees that strained resources will become an abundance of hope that fears and struggles with racism will yield to a generosity of profound welcome that communities of faith within Ukraine will be protected from harm and sustained in their efforts to feed and shelter their neighbors that peacemakers and protesters in Russia will be heard and their lives preserved.

May we undergird our prayers with tangible resources to help.

May we reach deeply, give generously, and welcome extravagantly. May we lift our voices in a strong and unified advocacy.

May we all, even as we breathe in lament, breathe out mercy, hope and peace.

And in this Lenten season, when we walk the way toward death and resurrection, repent our complicity in cultures of violence and renew our efforts toward justice and peace.

–The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Director, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

If you would like to learn more about the PC(USA)’s response to victims of the war in Ukraine, you can go to PDA has also scheduled a webinar this Wednesday, March 23, at 9 am Pacific Time, to be live-streamed on Facebook or YouTube.

And if you and/or your church give to One Great Hour of Sharing (which is usually collected close to Easter), some of those funds will be used for humanitarian aid in and around Ukraine.

The news I watch paints a stark contrast between the valor of the Ukrainian people and the heartless brutality of the Russian invaders. There are stories of people doing whatever they can to protect their families, defend their homeland, welcome refugees, or protest the war. One heartwarming story came from Israel. Sharon Bass helped bring two Ukrainian women to safety in Israel. The women were the granddaughter and grandniece of Maria, a Ukrainian woman whose family took in Sharon’s grandmother, the only member of her family who survived the Holocaust. The spunk and the spirit of the Ukrainian people, and the generosity of the neighboring countries, has been an incredible inspiration.

But for me, one comment keeps haunting me. I can only paraphrase it, because I can’t find record of the exact quote, but a Russian man was talking about the people of Russia, who do know what is going on but feel helpless to do anything about it. He quoted a Russian woman who said, “I’m an old woman; I can’t do anything to stop the war. But if you tell me that you would take my life instead of the soldiers or the people dying in Ukraine, I’d say shoot me now.”

As we continue through the season of Lent, we are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice given for us, the death of Jesus. And in that long last supper with his friends, Jesus asks us to be willing to live and die for each other.

This week, it occurred to me that some of us don’t need to die an untimely, violent death for the sake of others—and yet we can still give our lives for them. I was able to attend the memorial services for Letty Garcia and Conrad von Bibra. They may not look like they have a lot in common, but they do. They were both faithful church leaders, known for their dedication and kindness, and for raising their families to be faithful servants themselves. Not only did they make their indelible mark on their families, they also were pillars of their churches, Eagle Rock Presbyterian and Calvary Presbyterian, respectively. So many ways they served, so many ways they helped others, so many ways they showed love throughout their 80-plus years on this earth. For as much attention is given to the pastor, our churches really rely on those who dedicate their lives to their particular churches. As one denominational leader once said, if you inspire the pastor, they can have an impact for a season, but if you inspire an elder, you can change the church forever.

We are living in a time of heroes, and most of us ordinary mortals feel helpless to do something meaningful to fight a pandemic, or stop mass shootings, or reverse climate change, or end a war. But no matter our circumstance, we can pray. We can be kind. We can be a patient, faithful disciple who seeks to trust and follow the will of our Lord Jesus Christ. And who knows what God will do through us mere mortals. May we each be one small voice in that massive, glorious chorus that is God’s church. And let that please the Lord, and in God’s grand mercy, save the world.

In Christ’s peace,