The Hardest Thing
On Sunday March 6, 2022, which was the first Sunday in Lent our Priest in Charge, Susan Carter, reminded us of the hardest thing Jesus asked us to do - Love our enemies. Pray for them. And in this week, when Russia invaded the country of Ukraine, this is something we all need to do.
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
The Hardest Thing
Once a month, on the first Saturday, the clergy of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe gather.
The meetings begin with Morning Prayer. We use Rite II. It’s in our Book of Common Prayer – the red one that’s right on the pew next to you. The service is based on centuries of monastic prayer. In turn its roots are drawn from the ancient Jewish tradition of prayer.
The worship is comprised of creeds and psalms and prayers. Morning Prayer, once the principal Sunday worship service throughout the Anglican Communion, helps us drill down into our faith. It can touch the soul deeply.
After yesterday’s sharing of Morning Prayer, the bishop opened up the conversation surrounding the events of the past week-and-a- half.
So many of us are riveted to the news reports of the assault on Ukraine and its people. Trucks, tanks, artillery, and bombs. How can this be happening?
Many acknowledged feeling powerless, yet diligently searching ways to help - both as individuals and with our congregations. We shared ideas. We offered up our own responses to the horror being inflicted unbidden on a people.
As I re-read today’s lessons, there was a stark reminder that there is evil in the world – not some Marvel comic book evil, but a genuine heart of darkness. It is so clear in the gospel reading from Luke.
The devil – full of power and working hard to corrupt Jesus – has domination in mind. As we know, Jesus resisted temptation. He understood that God is supreme, and not the evil of Satan. Jesus knew that the way out of evil is to follow God and not give in.
The words of the psalm echo that. "You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust." Consequently, no evil will come to pass.
Those are comforting words. I suspect that they have been said and shared a great deal in the groups that have gathered to worship in hollowed out buildings and underground subway platforms in Kiev.
The reality of that growing war can make it difficult to accept that evil will be held at bay. Nonetheless, we pray – because we believe.
Evil cannot prevail. Good people and the actions they take will overcome the devil’s hand in this.
There was another piece of Saturday’s conversation that really stretched many of us, though.
It harkens back to another passage in Luke, another statement from Jesus – one we were given only two weeks ago.
Do you recall?
It was the directive to “love your enemies” – and among other things, “pray for those who abuse you.”
I submit that, in the abstract, that is a lot easier to do than in actuality.
What does loving one’s enemies mean as we watch the attacks on Ukraine?
How do we bless whose who hate Ukraine when we talk with friends or family who have connections to that land?
Is it possible to pray for those who abuse people who live there or are struggling to survive or escape?
That is a genuine challenge – to pray for those engaging in such evil actions. And yet, what is what we are asked to do.
Not just pray that they stop the harm they are doing.
Not merely pray that there will be better times ahead for all.
Instead, fully and truly offer up our prayers for the evil doers. To love them, do good for them, bless them, pray for them.
It is something we struggled with yesterday morning – creating space in our hearts to follow Jesus’ mandate.
I know it is the right thing to do. We all have the shelter of the Lord to follow that path.
Yet it is so hard.
So very hard.
Please, God – show us the way.