Yesterday, I went with my husband to visit his parents. They emigrated from Germany over 60 years ago. As young children following World War II, they were both war refugees when Allied Forces came in to take over the country. My mother-in-law is from the land that became the Czech Republic, and my father-in-law from what became part of Poland.
They know first-hand the cost of war.
My father-in-law lost his baby brother to starvation. I’ve never seen the man leave the tiniest crumb of food on his plate–even when I almost killed him early on in my marriage by serving him food that was far too spicy for his German palate. There was sweat pouring down his face, but he ate every bite.
My mother-in-law had to flee with her mother and brother from their town. They did not know if her father was alive or dead. He was, but after the war was over, he walked from village to village all over Southern Germany and parts of Austria until he finally found them.
They, like most of us, are heartbroken for the people of Ukraine, but they feel it in a more visceral way than most any of the rest us possibly could.
Today, on this Sunday before Lent, many churches will read the story of the transfiguration. The story of the time when Jesus’ glory is revealed to Peter and James and John on a mountaintop. It’s important to note that this story comes on the heels of Jesus telling the disciples he’s going to die, and they do not take it well.
This trek up the mountain was the dose of hope Jesus knew the disciples would need for the journey ahead. Seeing shiny Jesus, flanked by Elijah and Moses along with the confirmation that came from the heavens, “This is my son, who I love dearly. Listen to him,” gave the disciples the strength they would need in the days ahead. (Spoiler alert: once they come down that hill things go, well, downhill pretty quickly.)
Friends, we don’t know what we’re in for as we journey through this next chapter in World History. (The truth is we never really know what we’re in for, but right now we’re acutely aware of that truth.) Unlike my in-laws, most of us don’t know what it’s like to live through and in the aftermath of a war, but we know it’s not good. We know we don’t want it for the people in Ukraine, we don’t want it for the people of Russia, and we certainly don’t want it for the world.
As we begin our Lenten journey in the midst of an almost-post-pandemic world witnessing a war being waged in a place we were sure would never let such a thing happen again, may we embrace the dose of hope that is Jesus. The one who shone brightly on that mountaintop. The one who made the journey to the cross and knows just how heavy it is to carry. The one who stunned everyone by being alive when they were absolutely, positively sure he was dead.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
May countries offer those whose lives are upended by war opportunities to forge new lives for themselves and their families (my in-laws have been American citizens for years and raised three sons who all married exceptional women). 😉
May we share the love of Christ in concrete ways : use kind and encouraging words, express gratitude, share resources and donate money. All of these are expressions of loving our neighbor.
May we put down our phones and turn off our televisions from time to time to spend time in community with one another and outside in the midst of God’s good creation.
May we know that the small things we do to make our small corner of the world a little bit better do indeed, make a difference.
May we heed the words of our Almighty God on that day of the transfiguration and listen to Jesus–walking in His way not matter wherever our journey may lead us.
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Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.