By Abby White, Religious Life Intern

In the stillness of this moment, God, we seek your presence and we seek your heart.  Even as our own hearts break for the pain that we see in the world around us, we know that your Holy Spirit is even more deeply grieved by the death and destruction that are rampant everywhere, but particularly in Ukraine right now.  We join millions around the world in yearning for some end to this war, for hearts to be changed, for accountability and healing and restoration.  And we believe that you seek that as well.  So with the expectation that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective, we pray in the name of the one who is righteousness itself, Jesus Christ.  We ask that you would not let us forget about the pain and violence and injustice being faced in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world. Allow us to weep with those who weep, even when far away, as we are united with all those who bear your image. Even more, we ask that you remind us of your sovereignty, that you are in control and that you have already won. Lord, direct our thoughts and words to those things that you desire, and in all things lead us to glorify you, our Creator, our Redeemer, our God.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Peace

It is commonly understood that there are two types of peace – internal and external.  Both involve a lack of conflict.  Internal peace describes an inner calm and external peace is the absence of strife around us.  Internal peace can be achieved through meditation, focused breathing, quiet time, reading.  External peace is usually achieved through mediation, compromise, and generally getting along with people.  When we look at the Bible, we again see peace used in two different ways, but the way peace is described there is not quite the same as the way the world sees it, and how we get peace is also different.

In Romans chapter 12 Paul instructs us, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge.”  We are reminded of two things here.  One is that peace is threatened by the desire for revenge and evil.  Paul bookends his encouragement to live honorably and peacefully with a warning about trading evil for more evil, and a warning about taking revenge on people.  He seems to be reminding us that living in peace with others is never going to be as easy as we’d like it to be, because evil and revenge will often be working against us from both sides, and sometimes from inside of us.  We need to be on our guard against those emotions that would destroy peace.  The other thing that we are reminded of is that living peaceably with others is only possible when everyone involved decides that it is a priority.  When Paul tells us to do everything we can to live in peace with everyone, he is subtly stating that there will be times when our own efforts will not be enough, that we may do everything possible, but others will still deny us peace.  We have seen this clearly in Russia’s war against Ukraine.  In spite of the fact that Ukraine has desired peace from the beginning and has posed no threat to Russia, the opportunity to live peaceably has been removed because of Russia’s aggression.  Ukraine did all they could to live in peace, but it was denied them.  The same will sometimes be true in our own lives, and we are encouraged again to be the honorable ones, the peace-seeking ones, even if others are set against it.  Our job is to try, as Jesus says, to be peace-makers, but we must recognize that there will be people and forces in our world which fight against peace.

The other type of peace we see in the Bible helps us when the first type of peace fails.  In John 14 when Jesus is helping the disciples process what is about to happen, he says, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  This peace is not just inner calm or external harmony – those can be received from the world.  The peace that Jesus gives is a deep reassurance of the power and presence of God, even in the midst of chaos.  In Philippians 4 this is described as the peace that surpasses understanding, and we gain it through prayer and trusting in God’s power to answer.  In the song Oceans, it describes the essence of this peace in the refrain, “So I will call upon Your Name, and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace. For I am Yours and You are mine.”  Even when the waters rise and appear threatening, even when the price of everything seems to be skyrocketing out of control, even as war rages on and millions of people are displaced, peace is available when we trust in the presence and power of Almighty God, and when we keep our eyes fixed on him.  And we can pray for that peace, not only for us, but for the people of Ukraine, for the people of Russia, for everyone who lives in fear and darkness.  As Christ-followers, our objective is to unleash the limitless power and love of God upon the world, with the hope that hearts will be changed, hope will be restored, and peace will rule.  May the God of peace work in and through us and all of his followers until that day comes.  And may it come soon.  Amen.