Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
I was born with Cerebral Palsy, so as kid, I had half a dozen surgeries before the age of twelve to help me make the most of my mobility.
Believe it or not, my memories of being in the hospital are mostly good ones. I got to spend quality time with my parents, and I was aware that I was deeply loved. One conversation in particular stands out. I was seven or eight and about to head into the OR. The nurse came in with my pre-surgery shot, and I was frightened. My dad said to me, “If I could take that shot for you, I would do it in a minute.” He was just a young father—much younger than I am now—trying to comfort his son, but those words meant the world to me and still do. Other people can’t always fix our problems, but when someone is willing to stand with us in our hurts and fears, it’s everything.
This past Sunday I preached that Jesus does just that. In fact, Jesus insists on wading hip deep into the messiness of human life with you. With all the violence and destruction happening in Ukraine right now, this is a word that we very much need to hear. For those of us too young to really remember the horrors of Viet Nam, Ukraine is the bloodiest and most enduring violence that Americans have had beamed into our living rooms. Our God is weeping over what is happening an ocean and more away.
It is a word of grace to know that we are not alone in this pain.
But we need more. As sincere as my dad was, he could not take that shot for me. My earthly father could not take away my pain. We want our Heavenly Father to do more than cry with us! We want God to end the war in Ukraine, solve refugee crisis, and fix a myriad of other problems in our lives. The Good News is that because Jesus is God, he does do more than weep. I believe that God is working through economic sanctions, diplomacy, media pressure, and our own soldiers called up from Fort Stewart to bring an end to the bloodshed. Our God both feels with us and acts on those feelings.
It also strikes me that the crisis in Ukraine is the first thing in a long time about which most Americans agree. With few exceptions, most of us see Vladimir Putin as a greedy thug whose cheese has slipped off his cracker. There is nothing like a crisis abroad to create unity at home, but why is that? Surely, I understand that there are serious problems in our country about which serious people disagree, including abortion, gun violence, and free and fair elections, but I think that we also agree that while we may take different routes, we want to arrive at the same place. We all want safe streets, care and protection for our most vulnerable citizens, and equal opportunity for all. It’s sad that it takes thousands dying for you and me to remember what we agree on.
This is a time for sadness, but it’s also a time to give thanks for a God who loves us—all of us—and is still living and moving in the world.
God Loves you, and so do I!