A Prayer for the Ukraine and Us

Written By: Chris Mace
A Prayer for the Ukraine and Us
Cadillac Mountain from the Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine
Eons ago, these mountains shook and fell into the sea leaving behind a stark beauty and a strange reminder that out of ashes can come beauty; such an idea is difficult to comprehend while considering the devastation, pain, suffering, injustices, and questions brought on by humanity’s self afflicted wars.
Despite the huge outpouring of military and humanitarian support from the international community, the Ukrainians are a vulnerable people who need hope. Their images remind us of WW2. Their circumstances tear at our hearts and bring tears to our eyes and prayers to our lips. Fear, wrenching uncertainty, deprivation, separation, dispossession, injury, loss of family and friends and property and finances and basic necessities, homelessness, and refugee status are unimaginable conditions which are all too real for the people of this nation. They hope and pray for safety, for the strength and ability to sustain themselves, for resolution, for reunion, for return to their homeland. Where does one find that hope in the midst of such upheaval and horrific suffering? Is there any comfort? Will there be any justice? Can good come from such evil?
The Ukraine has a broad religious presence with a large Jewish population and strong Jewish tradition, but the majority of Ukrainians identify as Orthodox Christian as well as some Roman Catholic and Protestants groups. Even though their current situation differs, the Ukrainian refuges are a reminder of how confused, sad, hopeless and isolated Israel’s people felt while exiled in Babylonian. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us of the songs of Zion! … How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?”( Psalm 137:1-4)
Remembering God and believing His promises have always been an important, necessary, comforting and stabilizing feature of faith. Knowledge of and trust in the revelations, work, and promises of God bring peace and hope even in the midst of crises and disasters. “Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:1-3, 8-11)
Approximately 380 years ago, George Fredric Handel wrote the musical score for the Messiah, a renowned oratorio. Its Hallelujah Chorus is a frequent Christmas favorite. The story text written by Charles Jennens addresses this universal need for hope. It follows the threads of comforting scripture passages written by Old Testament Prophets and the writers of the New Testament Gospels and epistles about God’s promised Redeemer who will bring justice and salvation to a troubled, suffering Israel and will be the ultimate hope for all nations. Among the familiar recitatives and choruses are: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.…Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together… I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come… Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive…Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.”
The Psalms are filled with vocalized questions and heartfelt responses to human conundrums of oppression and suffering. There are angry, sad, sorrowful laments, but the overarching theme is that God is present and good and worthy of our gratitude, praise and honor. Despite the messes we make for ourselves or for others, He is faithful and steadfast. He loves and redeems His people and in His sovereignty will bring ultimate justice. Like a “refiner’s fire” a day of justice lies ahead. Christ’s life itself exemplifies that God can change the evilness of suffering into something good; from an unjust crucifixion, He lifts us up with gracious mercy and makes us righteous and just when we believe.
Is it possible that any good might come from the material and emotional devastation and from the injustices being inflected in the Ukraine? Certainly we pray for safety, protection, and basic necessities to be met and that the desires of Ukrainian hearts will be fulfilled; we pray for the halting of devastation, atrocities and disorder; we pray for justice. We also pray that the image of God will emerge from the evil rubble of war; that His glory will be manifested in the kindnesses, compassion, understanding, and support given to these vulnerable people; that His love will be demonstrated through the work and outreach of His Church as it lives out the Gospel; that God’s comfort and peace and assurances will be proclaimed and received and felt; that somehow the world’s eyes will be opened to the incorrigible nature of the human heart and will see that the purposes and meaning of life transcend the present and will recognize that only God can change the hearts of men, not armies and weaponry; that respect and understanding and unity are ways to advance humanity’s well being not power struggles and manipulations which devolve into bitter conflicts and selfish divisions; that we would have wise and powerful leaders who seek God’s help to respond to this evil aggression, who will fight for our common good and the protection for human rights and freedom; that we will all develop a greater level of sustainable empathy and be a grateful people who love our neighbors and somehow even our enemies; that we will value truth and justice; and that God will sooth wounds, take away painful scars, and heal the land.
The difficulty lies in the waiting, in being “still” before God, in trusting Him to do good and bring healing and justice into our lives, in knowing that He is Lord God omnipotent who reigneth. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”(Psalm 46:1-3)
“Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and/He shall reign for ever and ever/King of kings, Lord of lords.”( Hallelujah Chorus, The Messiah)

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