Earlier this week President Biden addressed the State of the Nation. But, for me, and I suspect others, the greater concern was for the state of our world. Apart from inflation, waning but ongoing challenges from the pandemic, Ukraine holds our attention and the media’s focus. Our President’s opening remarks condemned Putin’s war and addressed support for the nation of Ukraine. And, for the most part, Congress seemed united, some wearing yellow and blue in solidarity with Ukraine. Most know enough Bible stories to back David versus Goliath.
So why care about Ukraine? Is it because they look more like us than others bullied by a Goliath? Perhaps, and worth more than a passing thought. But it feels like something more. Like suddenly their borders are our borders. Their fragile democracy, ours. And, as I watch the bravery of ordinary people, I wonder what’s in me, in us to resist the Goliaths that plot to demolish or redraw boundaries I value?
And that leads me to ask what do I value enough to die for? How would I arm myself? In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David rejects King Saul’s impressive armor. It doesn’t fit. He’s a lad, a shepherd boy, not a soldier. So he drops the heavy metal and goes for his familiar defense, a slingshot, five smooth stones and trust in God. (I Samuel 17:40, NLT)
So I wonder, “What are my five smooth stones?” What are yours? Where do I place my ultimate trust? We’ve entered the season of Lent and as Garrison Keillor reminded me today, “It’s a good time to consider the State of Our Souls.” My greed and excessive need for creature comforts make me vulnerable to using more than my share of the earth’s resources and harming many of the world’s precious people. My fear of the other keeps me from weeping when they weep, sharing what I have in excess to meet their basis needs. Lord have mercy, there’s a Goliath in me.
Two days ago, one of my dearest friends reminded me of a hard truth. He said,” Maybe soft lives make for hard hearts.” For years he’s supported a pastor in Poland. The pastor and many in his church have taken in families from Ukraine. Some drove hours to welcome them at the border, take them to a safe place. In the midst of suffering, love shows up. God’s love.
Yes, I know these have been challenging years for many of us, but to watch the horror of Ukraine unfold is to gain perspective on what HARD really looks like, as well as true patriotism. And I’ve seen it before in our country, after fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and especially after 911. Love let loose to help put broken people and places back together.
Last night’s newscast turned into church for me. The sanctuary was a train platform in Poland. No pews, just people holding cardboard signs. They came from Denmark and neighboring countries. In their hands they offered hope through words and numbers. “We can take 8 people.” “We have room for 4.” And need ran into generosity of spirit. Hope’s a universal language. It was a holy place for those few moments, a glimpse into the heart of God.
And I prayed that I’d remember, no matter what country or color, they look like us because they are us.
Nobody knows that better than God.
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