Prayers in a Time of International Crisis
April 10, 2017
From Pastor Steve,
”O Lord, give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy: deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!” (Psalm 82: 3 ff.)
This past week has been a memorable one with respect to international events and tensions. The decision was made to launch fifty nine tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian air base in response to the Syrian government’s use of sarin gas, a chemical nerve agent. It is a hard and difficult to see the faces of men, women, and children wrapped in body bags. As our Secretary of State prepares to visit Russia later in the week, Russia’s support of President Assad’s regime will be discussed as high level leaders from both nations will evaluate and debate numerous “red lines” and the consequences that may come into play if and when these “red lines” are crossed.
There is growing evidence that the communist and politically repressive North Korean government is actively pursuing the development of nuclear-tipped long range missiles with the capability of hitting the west coast of the United States. As a Carrier Strike Force from the Pacific Fleet is deployed to the Korean Peninsula, dialogue and debate continues on the floor of the United Nations about how this and other threatening situations might be contained and resolved.
As we welcomed the opportunity to celebrate Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days in the Christian year, two Coptic Christian congregations were bombed in Egypt killing forty three people and injuring dozens more. In a statement claiming responsibility for the bombings, ISIS warned of more attacks. Egyptian authorities have now declared a three-month state of emergency. But Coptics, who have long been targeted for violence, are not optimistic the situation will change.
Having accepted the gospel challenge to pick up my cross and follow Jesus, I am mindful of the 20th century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr whose politics were rooted in the Christian tradition. Niebuhr believed that human nature is inherently sinful and imperfectible, a theological perspective that came to be known as Christian realism. Niebuhr’s theological approach to life demands that we acknowledge the presence of evil. As ideologies develop across the face of the globe that are troublesome, problematic, and divisive often leading to various forms of persecution and horrific acts of terrorism, the words of Egil Aarvik, former chair of the Nobel Committee, given years ago at Oslo University, invite serious reflection. Aarvik said, “Indifference to evil makes us partners in the crime.”
So, what do we do? As followers of Jesus Christ, we must pay attention, practice awareness, follow current events, make decisions, engage in political discussions, and participate in meaningful theological dialogue with the intent of being informed, knowing where we stand, resisting forces of evil, and doing our part in making this a better world in which to live. And we also pray –
“Eternal God, our only hope, our help in times of trouble: Get nations to work out differences. Do not let threats multiply or power be used without compassion. May your word rule the words of humankind, so that we may agree and settle claims peacefully. Hold back impulsive persons, lest desire for vengeance overcome our common welfare. Bring peace to earth, through Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace and Savior of us all. Amen.” (From the Worshipbook, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, page 179)