Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
– Psalm 27:3
This verse from Sunday’s psalter lesson named a truth for the people of Ukraine. Over one million refugees have left Ukraine to seek a safer place than their own homes. Death and destruction is part of the daily news feed. Photos of heartbreak and loss show the devastating impacts of war. We lament over higher gas prices, increased costs for goods and supplies, and the disruption impacting world economies.
People are fighting for their lives.
The verse also speaks truth for me today, early on Saturday morning. As I write, the rain and wind are blowing strong outside, severe weather warnings and watches have been constant notifications on my phone, and snow is forecasted for the afternoon. It’s all so chaotic, with whiplash changes happening so suddenly as a front moves through, pushing out warm air and replacing it with cold.
There is much chaos in our own lives as a people of faith. The challenges we face in figuring out ways of sustaining and reigniting ministries and worship. The anxieties of what the denomination will look like as many struggle with the conversations concerning the General Conference postponement to 2024. To be a faithful disciple in the world today requires us to be confident and humble people.
The psalmist’s words are in one breath so vulnerable, naming the harsh realities of an army and war that are against me, while in the next breath are so strong, pronouncing my heart shall not fear and I will be confident.
I remember as a youngster playing little league baseball, how it was difficult to stand in the batter’s box, knowing that the pitcher was going to throw as hard as he could at the strike zone he was aiming for, trusting the catcher would be ready to catch his pitch. All the other players behind him would be jeering at me – “No batter, no batter, no batter,” and it kept getting louder and louder, as I waited for the pitch. Coach would quietly remind me with his adult voice, “Don’t be afraid, stand in there #7, make it be your pitch,” encouraging me with his steadiness.
Fortunately, whenever my own faith was lacking, another was ready to hold me up with their faith. When we surround ourselves with holy friends, they share their faith when our faith fails. In this Lenten season, as we lean into the challenges of our own contexts, let us not forget we are a connectional people. Let us be a connectional people who answer when we call, who listen when we cry, who seek to understand when we struggle, who pray without fear when we fear, and who stand confidently beside us when our confidence is shaken.
To my friend in Ukraine
The images I have seen,
the horrors you endure,
distant on my screen,
while you – reality for sure.
Anger, angst, and anxiety,
for your unnamed face,
combat, conflict, complexity,
consume your space.
My questions are futile
your journey so treacherous,
my inactions are vile
your life, so precious.
I am failing and falling,
you find ways to survive
I rationalize my stalling,
you seek to thrive.
An army has formed against you,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against you,
I am confident God will be near.
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