‘There are decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen.’
I often start my sermons with something humorous.
There’s nothing humorous about war.
War makes everything different.
It changes lives.
Have you noticed?
I had stuff that I was worried about last week but, this week, after Tuesday night, all my worries feel small and insignificant.
War in Europe changes everything.
As we all know, our country, up until recently, has been at war with Afghanistan. A confrontation that lasted for more than two decades. Yet many of us, unless we had a friend or a family member deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq, seemed to have let that military engagement slide from our central focus.
Shame on us for letting that happen in our own comings and goings.
This war feels different.
Ukraine’s proximity to the rest of Europe only 2 1/2 hours flying time away brings it all close to home. Many of us know someone who is involved.
We have a shared history of catastrophic world wars in Europe. Russia dictated by Vladimir Putin, began this conflict, completely unprovoked.
It is a naked grab for dominance. A bold geopolitical act meant to assert control and authority over significant assets and resources based upon a fanciful retelling of history and imagined future threats. And it all comes with a chilling threat.
It is act that is likely to embolden other authoritarian world powers to undertake similar schemes.
This then is where we are then.
People of faith, watching in horror as we feel the political tectonic plates of our world shift and collide.
What are we called to do?
Neither Jesus, nor his disciples, nor any of us who long to follow in his ways, can isolate ourselves or stay too long away from the pains and needs of our world.
Like Jesus and the prophet Amos we must speak out for truth and act in ways that lead to justice.
Jesus came into our world, to be in relationship with every human being and so too must we.
We look at the news feeling sadder and more afraid. We have to fight the temptation to turn away and go back to the rest of our lives .
But I think, like Jesus, we must immerse ourselves in the pain and needs of the world.
We must be like the women, the faithful women including his mother Mary, who stood at the foot of the cross, and bore witness to Christ’s pain.
Women who would not leave or look away. We too must be witnesses to this suffering in Ukraine. For Jesus is surely being crucified once again in the violence amidst the screams and bloodshed.
And when the time comes, we must be the ones ready to anoint the battered bodies.
What do I mean?
Pray my friends!
Pray in a way you never have before. Wonderful image of Ukrainian woman outside a cathedral with her arms raised in prayer.
That’s the way to pray, Pray with the passion and responsibility of being the people who are called and empowered to heal.
Keep reading watching the news, do not look away. Talk about the suffering we are seeing.
Talk about it, bear witness to it.
Suffering caused by unbridled aggression and unfettered greed for control.
Name the evil that is taking place.
For it surely is evil.
Ukrainians are fighting for their country.
Fighting for Democracy.
We remember the selfless act of the Ukrainian Soldier who killed himself in order to blow a bridge up so that the Russian Army could not advance. .
We’ve seen the pictures of civilians creating a physical barrier in the face of approaching tanks.
Thankfully Russia is being cut off from the international Community diplomatically and financially.
The Russian people also protest against this unjust madness.
Ukrainian civilians have been targeted.
Homes and lives are being indiscriminately destroyed
There was a heartbreaking Video on Twitter of a Dad saying goodbye to his 6 year old daughter who was fleeing with her mother on public transport whilst he remained to fight
Imagine it is you, your life, your children, your grandchildren.
We must as a nation, embrace the sanctions and the ramifications those sanctions will have for us.
Embrace the sanctions and the discomforts they will bring.
Although we were the first country to send defensive weapons and we are speaking loudly about disabling Russian access to the SWIFT payment system.
It is imperative we cut our dependency on Russian oil and gas during what could be a long running conflict. To also stop Russian laundered money swilling around the City of London.
If Putin wins this conflict then other Baltic states could be at risk from a similar situation. If NATO becomes involved then who knows just where that will take us .
The price we would pay if we don’t stand up to Putin now by imposing severe sanctions, which WILL effect us economically, will be much greater than the financial pain we have to endure.
We should also lead Europe in embracing the Ukrainian refugees that are fleeing Poland are acting in generous ways as are other European countries. We must also take a lead and ensure our response is not poor.
Donations can be made to British Red Cross. Ukraine has faced almost eight years of conflict. With recent events, we must act now to help people caught up in this crisis. Red Cross teams are providing essential aid both inside Ukraine and in bordering countries.
We’ve also been collecting items for Support Ukraine, Rotherham. From Monday 28th February the church has been open for people to donate nappies, baby wipes, and plasters. More items can be found on our Facebook page.
Evil wins when we look away and pretend that the pain does not exist and that the wound does not weep.
Love wins when we follow Jesus into the needs and pain of the world and use all we have to say, ‘NO.’
God will use us and Love will win, when we honor and embrace the pain as if it were our own.
Hold on tight to your loved ones.
With blessings and prayers.
A prayer for the people of Ukraine.
God of peace and justice, we pray for the people of Ukraine today.
We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons. We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow, that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or peace, for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.
Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at-risk and in fear, that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.