I’ve been thinking lately about how we are capable of affecting and changing the world we live in.  There are lots of ways society can be affected by human intervention.  There are philanthropists who donate large sums of money in an effort to bring about change.  Think Andrew Carnegie, whose contributions planted public libraries all across our nation.  Because of his beneficence untold numbers of people gained access to books, thoughts and ideas.  There’s no telling how his gifts have lifted our society in terms of literacy and knowledge.  There are those in politics and governance who have tried to use that power and influence to make a better world, think Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  At a time when the country was reeling from the worst economic crisis ever, he led the charge to bring relief and potentially a way to stabilize the situation.  There are have also been those who have affected the world in other ways.  I’m thinking about those who choose violence and war as a way to bring a change.

When it comes to large scale change we find there are people who have been the influencers through big gifts, big ideas, and even big egos.  It begs the question, what can I do to affect change?  Of course there are lots of ways we contribute to change.  Those who choose to recycle, they are doing their part to reduce pollution and wasting of resources.  Those who contribute money or time to agencies focused on caring for the vulnerable of society, they are doing their small part to bring a change.  There are even those who dedicate their lives to worthwhile projects, saving animals from abuse and even possible extinction.  There are so many ways we each can and do play a part in changing our world.

What I’m left with asking myself is, what am I doing?  What can I do?  What act am I capable of that will make the largest impact on changing the world for the better?

I came across this bit of scripture from 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18…”16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians is considered to be the first epistle Paul wrote.  He wrote it to the church in Thessalonica, what is modern day Greece.  He was familiar to the church as he had preached there before.  Its mostly personal in nature, but the general tenor of the letter is one of encouragement.  Paul knows of the persecutions they face, yet he wants to encourage them to go on working quietly while waiting on the return of Christ.  When Christ returns, all thing will be new and different.I’m sure, just as I’m horrified by this war in the Ukraine, you are also.  It is naked aggression that threatens to spill over into a much large conflict.  Its in these times I feel the most helpless to affect any meaningful change to the world we live in.  I’m one person, one voice, no influence to speak of, no political or other power to intervene in this conflict.  I’ve known at other times of persons of good will who have been able to mediate peace in some ways between parties in conflict.  Not often, but it has occurred.  Again, I’m just one person, what is it I can do?

As trite as it might sound, I’m encouraged by Paul’s words to pray.  This is not the first time the world has been in turmoil, it most likely won’t be the last.  Paul admonishes me to do three things; Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks.  These are all things I can do, but the one that really strikes me square between the eyes is to pray without ceasing.  Not a daily prayer, not just before a meal or bedtime, but without ceasing.  In other words, every breath I take I should do so in prayer.  I’m thinking to myself, “yes I can do that, but how will it really change the situation?”

Prayer, first and foremost changes me.  It changes how I think and react to others.  It changes my fear, my suspicion, my anger, my attitude.  Those are big things that can have a huge effect on me and in how I relate to the world.  But what should I pray for?  Of course I would pray for the end of hostilities in the Ukraine.  Of course I would pray for the people and families who have been hurt, displaced or killed in the conflict.  Of course I would pray for those who are defending their homeland and all they hold dear.  Those are great things to pray for, but I might need to dig a little deeper.  I believe I’m being called to pray for the aggressors and for their leaders.  I believe I’m being called to pray for Vladimir Putin.

I can hear it now, “WHAT?  Are you crazy?”  I can see the eye rolls and the snide remarks.  Vladimir was raised a Christian, Russian Orthodox.  He was baptized into the faith and a member of the body of Christ.  No, he’s not acting in Christ-like ways.  No, he’s not pursuing a path of love and peace.  No, he’s not doing the things we normally associate with those who follow Christ.  Here’s the thing, none of us act in those ways all the time either.  We justify actions that are contrary to our faith.  We let our sense of patriotism, or national affiliation, or economic views supersede the call of Christ to love each other.  Vladimir is a child of God who has demonstrably fallen away from or neglected who he knows he was created to be.  Vladimir deserves and needs our prayers.  In Matthew 5: 43-44 we’re told “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I know this is not easy to do.  It goes against our natural inclination.  When facing an enemy or evil doer, prayer isn’t the first thing to come to our minds.  This is our calling my friends, to pray without ceasing, and to pray for those we perceive as enemies.

As I said, Vladimir is a child of God who needs our prayers.  I happen to believe the greatest thing we can do, the thing that will effect the most change in our world, is to earnestly pray.  If we want to draw this conflict between Russia and the Ukraine to a close, we need to pray like we’ve never prayed before.  With every breath and every fiber of our being, we need to pray for Vladimir.

Loving God, One who sees all and loves all, we come to you in deep prayer today.  Our brother Vladimir has wandered away from the ways of Peace your Son Jesus came to show us.  He is letting his baser nature rule over his heart and mind.  We pray for Vladimir right now.  Let your Holy Spirit fall afresh on him.  Drive out from his heart and mind that warring spirit within him.  Help him to see a way to disengage from this war, to call a cessation to hostilities.  Give him a vision of peace and the spirit to repent and make amends for all the destruction he has wrought.  Let him know your love deep in his soul so that he might once again return to be who you called him to be.  We know and believe you can do all things.  Let Vladimir desire the way of peace, love and harmony. Amen.

Your fellow traveler on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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