As I was about to go to bed last night, I saw the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine. While for much of my life, and nearly all of the generation after me, our country has been in a state of war, this feels different. While so many countries fight each other in wars on and off around the world, civil wars break out and end, terrorist insurgencies continue… this seems like it could be the beginning of a larger, more frightening thing. Watching countries we have historic ties to, complicated or not, going to war is disturbing. Knowing that the reasons for this war are purely based on a personal agenda is horrifying. For us as Christians, war should be heartbreaking. War is nothing less than one of God’s creatures seeking to destroy another on a massive scale. It is “easy” to start a war. It is much harder to end one.

Part of the prophet Isaiah’s vision was this: “Many nations will go and say, ‘Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain, to the house of Jacob’s God so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in God’s paths.’ Instruction will come from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem. God will judge between the nations, and settle disputes of mighty nations. They will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war.” (Isaiah 2:3-4)

It is as important to pray in times of peace and war alike for this hope: that one day war will be no more. It is as important to hope for peace no matter who is in harm’s way: friends we know, neighbors we don’t, enemies we loathe. As we prepare to enter into Lent, we must confess those times when we’ve placed trust in our pride as a nation before our trust in God and God’s vision for the world. We must also be faithful in seeking God’s vision for the world, always and everywhere.

My friends, I don’t know what comes next, but we do need to pray. We do not need to pray in a limited way, though. Do not pray for things like a victory for Ukraine, or protection only for its soldiers. This is unfaithful to God’s teachings. Instead, pray for peace to come into the world. Pray for all the leaders of the world, including someone like President Putin who seems to be responsible for starting a massive war, for even someone such as he is a person loved by God and whose heart may be redeemed. Pray for all persons in harm’s way. Pray that no matter whose “side” they are on, all soldiers in war place noncombatants’ lives first, protecting the sanctity of life rather than seeking the mission and agenda they are given at the cost of innocent lives.

While I cannot condone war, we can certainly pray for all peoples, in all places, because all are God’s people.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.