Saturday, December 24, 2022

LIGHT THAT WARMS—Isaiah 9:1-7

 


  

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

In the darkest days of the year, the world around us is ablaze with decorated trees, strings of lights, and Santa and reindeer and mangers with lightbulbs inside.  I look out my dining room window and see the beautiful decorations on my neighbors’ houses shining in the night, glistening beneath the newly fallen snow.

Our celebration of Christmas is well lit, but those lights will fade as the season passes into the wimter of 2023.

 Isaiah talks of a light that never fades.  He names the light “Everlasting Father,” and says “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.”  The prophet has in mind no passing season but an enduring change to the creation and within us.

Isaiah wrote to a people with no electric lights. The lives of Isaiah’s readers were ruled by the sun and the moon.  Their nights were lit by candle and torches, but candles and torches eventually burn out. They were powerless in any lasting way against the darkness that enveloped them each evening.

Our challenge is different; we have too much light.  We are able to generate artificial light to drive back the immediate darkness and ease our anxieties a bit.  In Belgium, the entire highway system is lit by bright lamps.  We have cities that glow in the night; you can see them from an airplane.  Our homes and public places are made bright by ubiquitous lights.

We think we can disarm the darkness through our own efforts.  We are mistaken.

The German poet Johann Wolfgang van Goethe is reported to have cried at the point of death:  More light, more light! Open the window that more light may come in.  Is it more light we need, or do we need a different type of light?

All this light we manufacture does not make our world any warmer.  We live with the illusion that we are conquering the darkness; but without warmth, light cannot sustain and nurture and heal us. 

The 20th century Spanish write Miguel de Unamuno reflected: It is not more light we need, but more warmth. Warmth, warmth, more warmth!  We die of cold, not darkness.  It is the not the night that kills, but the frost. All the artificial light in which we enrobe ourselves cannot remove the chill from our world.  The cold still numbs us to God’s love and to the needs and dreams of our neighbor.

Indifference and fear and racism and greed and self-interest and jealousy and materialism all chill us to the bone and paralyze us.  Isaiah writes of a light that comes as warmth, a light that disarms the numbness of our world and the chill within us.  This is a light that not only enlightens but also reanimates the creation.  Christians have named that light Jesus.

This time of year we remind one another that Jesus is the light of the world.  It is easy to forget this in the midst of all the frantically self-manufactured artificial brightness around us.  The light that Jesus brings does more than temporarily hold the darkness at a safe distance; it warms us as well.  It enables us and refreshes us and renews us.  It animates us to a new way of living. 

Hopefully it ennobles us to become light to those around us, the kind of light that warms and thaws the lives of others.  This is not the artificial manufactured brightness of our Christmas decorations. This is a light that comes from above and is visited upon us in that child placed in a manger so long ago.

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it. (John 1:4—5)

 

Jim Kelsey

Executive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State

Thursday, December 22, 2022

THE INVASION: Luke 2:1—20

 

We Recognize this Place

Luke begins his story of Christmas on a bit of a sour note: taxes.  December is the time of year when we try not to think about the tax returns we all will be filing come 2023.

 In his reference to the revenue census, Luke reminds us that the birth of Jesus is not some tender-hearted Hallmark Christmas special with soft music and a quaint small-town setting. 

 Rather, we get taxes and a heavily pregnant woman traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem by foot or by donkey, fulfilling an Empire-mandated journey.  This is no trip to grandma’s house in the family minivan. When Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem, the lodgings are all full and there are no spare beds.  Jesus is born outside and laid in a feed trough.

 This is important to Luke’s telling of the story.  The birth of the Son of God takes place in the real world, among the challenges of daily life. This happens in no fairy tale world; it transpires in the world where we live.  We recognize this place.

 Yet There Are Extraordinary Happenings Here

Nonetheless, angels appear in the story.  And the glory of the Lord shines down from on high.  This is no ordinary night.  The shepherds are given a message from another realm.  They are told that the most ordinary of things—an infant swaddled in cloths lying in a feeding trough—is a sign of something extraordinary. It is a sign that the Messiah, the Lord, has come.  This is no ordinary evening.

 The angels sing:

Glory to God in the highest

heaven,

 and on earth peace among

those whom he favors.

In the birth of this child, heaven and earth embrace one another. 

 Celtic spirituality developed the concept of “thin places.”  A thin place is a physical location where the separation between the divine and the earth is considered to be thin. In other words, the Divine is unusually accessible.  That feed trough was the thinnest of all places.  It is so thin, one could call it an invasion.

 The Invasion

An elderly Dutch woman remembers the dark days before the Christmas of 1944, recalling how each night they sat secretly around the wireless, eagerly hoping to hear some coded message that meant the invasion has begun.  They would scan the skies looking for Allied planes and walk the dykes looking for ships on the horizon, and praying, always praying.  They were starving; the Jews were all gone. They wondered could they endure another year of Nazi occupation. 

 They knew they were powerless to save themselves.  Help must come from somewhere else.

 This is the message the angels bring. The invasion has begun; help is coming from somewhere else. They sing:

Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you, you will find the baby wrapped is swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

This is something more durable than a visitation.  This is an invasion.  Few people took note night; Only Mary and Joseph and some shepherds marked the event.  Nevertheless, the invasion had begun.

 World Rejecting

This is not a story about fleeing or escaping this world.  Rather, the Creator of the heavens and the earth enters our world and our lives.

 The German sociologist Max Weber observed that Christianity is not a world fleeing faith.  It is a world rejecting faith.  It is a faith that plants itself amid life in this world and says: “I reject what you have done to one another. I reject what you have done to my creation.  I reject the shallow and passing things you have grown to crave.”

God in Christ simply refuses to leave us and our world the way we are.  This child will grow up to comfort and renew and forgive and love.  He will also grow up to challenge and confront and correct. The one thing he will not do is leave us and our world as it is.

 Mary had already warned us as she contemplated what God would do through this child:

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty. (1:51-53

 God simply will not leave us alone.

 God Was All In

We who celebrate this child’s birth should be sober about what is really happening in the shadows of that night long ago.  This is no dreamy holiday production.  This is an invasion.

In George MacDonald’s allegorical fairy tale, The Golden Key, a young heroine meets the Old Man of the Earth on her quest for the land from which the shadows fall. The Old Man of the Earth guides her on to the next leg of her journey.

Then the Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole that went plumb-down.
"That is the way," he said.
"But there are no stairs."
"You must throw yourself in. There is no other way.”

 God threw Godself into our world that night in that baby; there was no other way.

 Jim Kelsey

Executive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State

Art Credit: Adoration of the Child by Gerard van Honthorst, Uffizi, Florence.

 

Art Credit: Adoration of the Child by Gerard van Honthorst, Uffizi, Florence.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

I Joined a Gym: Living an Intentional Life


 

Last November I went on Medicare. In January I joined the All American Fitness Center.  Yes, there is a connection.

I have accepted that if I am going to continue to feel energetic and fit, I need to work at it.  Also, I hope to get more than my money’s worth out of Medicare and Social Security by outliving the cold calculations of the governmental actuaries.

The All American Fitness Center is not like the gyms on TV.  There are no people in sleek matching workout clothes looking for dates.  They are no spin classes.  They sell no aqua-colored health drinks or fancy French fizzy water. They do have t-shirts for sale.

We are people in baggy sweatpants or plaid walking shorts and stretched-out t-shirts. Some of us have athletic shoes; others do not.  It is a place where no one is going to judge you for your appearance or your physical prowess. We are, however, people with clarity of purpose; each of us is on our own journey of continuing health, a return to health, or recovery from surgery.

The more the people around me talk of their joint replacements, the harder I pedal!

I am learning something about living an intentional life as I roll out of bed before dawn and make my way to the gym through empty streets. I am learning that intending something and living an intentional life are not the same thing.  It would be so easy to roll over and go back to sleep, intending to go exercise tomorrow.

 I had been intending to build more exercise into my life for years.  Apart from an occasional brisk walk with my dog or pushing the lawn mower or a little digging in the garden, my intentions counted for little.  Intending is not the same thing as doing. The word intentional is an adjective.  It describes something you are doing, not a state of mind.

What have trips to the fitness center taught me? 

First, I need to go there to exercise.  If I try to do it at home, I will not follow through in a focused way.  I need to have a place and a time where I do nothing else but exercise.  This needs to be a place where I am not distracted by all the preoccupations that fill the other places in my life.

Sometimes putting intentions into action involves putting ourselves in new places with new people.  If I intend to have a more diverse group of friends yet continue to go the same places and do the same things, my portfolio of friends will remain unchanged.  If I intend to read more yet do not stop at the library, it is unlikely I will watch less TV and read more. If I intend to improve the quality of education in my community, I need to go to a tutoring center and volunteer.  If I want to know the Bible better, I need to join up with others who are reading and talking about the Bible.

Second, I need to give it time.  One week of exercise did not make a difference in how I felt.  After years of neglect, my body would not be transformed in a week or even a month.  I am now, after eight months, feeling more energetic, resting better, and able to do things with less effort; but I must stay with it.  If I let up, I will lose what I have gained.  Much of life is not about arriving; it is about an ongoing journey in a particular direction.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in his book Beyond Good and Evil wrote: “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”  There was, admittedly, little in heaven or earth that Nietzsche thought to make life worth living.  Yet many Christian writers, which Nietzsche was not, have picked up on the image of a long obedience in the same direction as a paradigm for the Christian life.

My experience at the gym has taught me that living into the life of Jesus is, like staying fit in my 60’s, a long obedience in the same direction.  It is an obedience that is nourished in intentional places and activities, temporarily free from the preoccupations that otherwise fill our days.

As I go through my exercise regimen, I remember the advice of the writer of Hebrews: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us [12:1].” The writer has more in mind than lowered blood pressure and added flexibility.  The writer sees the call of Christ in our lives as a race to be run.  

The Apostle Paul uses this same image repeatedly: 1 Cor. 9:24; Gal. 2:2; and Phil 2:16. Paul saw faith as a life-long intentional enterprise to be deliberately pursued.

Following Christ's call to embody love and embrace those around us in a deliberate and enduring way is like training for a race.  We condition ourselves to be fitted out for such obedience.

The well-lived Christian life is a long obedience in the same direction.

Jim Kelsey

Executive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

GIFTS FROM THE EXILE: WHAT THEY LOST & WHAT THEY GAINED

 



THE LOSS

Things were not going well for the Jewish people.

The Northern Jewish Kingdom, known as Israel, had fallen to the Assyrians in 720 BCE. The inhabitants were dispersed throughout Assyria and beyond.

In 597 BCE the Southern Jewish Kingdom, known as Judah, was invaded by Assyria. The elite of the population was carried off to Babylon. In 586 BCE the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and many of the remaining inhabitants of Judah were deported to Babylon.

The fall of the Southern Kingdom was a tragic blow to Hebrew faith and culture.  They land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants was now fully lost into Gentile hands

 Many in the land had come to believe Jerusalem was inviolable. Now the holy city Jerusalem was ransacked and lay in ruins.

The Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated, stripped of its wealth, and left as a relic. This Temple was the very spot where the Name of God dwelt and the people met God in worship and sacrifice.  It was the only place where this was to happen (Deuteronomy 12).  The structure was singularly irreplaceable.  In the most sacred space in the Temple sat the Ark of the Covenant, containing the original autograph of the Tablets Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai. 

The Jerusalem Temple was the only place on the face of the entire earth where sacrifices could be offered—no exceptions.  Without the capacity to sacrifice, where did that leave the practice of the Hebrew faith?

It is likely the Assyrian invaders carried the Ark and its holy cargo back to Babylon.  It was never recovered, There is no mention of it again until some second century Rabbis speculated about where it might be.

The fire on the altar in the Temple must burn continuously it must never go out (Leviticus 6:13).  That fire had gone out.

The point is, things necessary for the efficacy of the Hebrew faith as they knew it were now gone.

William Butler Yates caught the mood of these exiled Hebrews: “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  We hear the exiles’ pain in the words of Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon—
    there we sat down, and there we wept
    when we remembered Zion.
On the willows
[a] there
    we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
    asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song
    in a foreign land?

LOSS IS NOT THE LAST WORD

Loss is a part of all our lives, but God does not permit loss to be the last word.  There is always a way beyond the loss.

 After 70 years of exile in Babylon, Isaiah brings a word of deliverance to the Hebrews living there.

Do not remember the former things
    or consider the things of old.
 I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

The people are going home.  Yet the Prophet has a discordant note in the announcement.  He tells the people not to remember the former things, not to consider the things of old.  God is about to do a new thing. Isaiah is warning them they are not just going to return to “the good old days.” Much of what they lost they will never get back.

WHAT THEY DID AND DID NOT GET BACK

They rebuilt the Temple, over time.  But prophesy became rare in that place and miracles faded.  The Ark of the Covenant with those precious tablets was never recovered.

Except for a brief period between 167 and 160 BCE during the Maccabean revolt when the great powers of the word were preoccupied with other things, the ancient Hebrews never lived as free and sovereign people in the land again.  In 70 CE, the Temple built by Herod was destroyed by the Romans, never to be rebuilt.  Even today in the modern State of Israel, sacrifices are not offered in Jerusalem.  There is not Temple there.

What did the Hebrews take home from Babylon?  They left with a faith that could survive anywhere in any age.

The reading of the scriptures took the place of burnt offerings in the Temple.  This became a type of sacrifice.  This could be done anywhere in the world.

The synagogue system came out of the exile.  Through the synagogue, Hebrews could hold communal worship anyplace you had 10 or more adult males.  Can’t get that together?  Fewer than 10 adults could hold a reduced sort of service. This meant the worship of God was no longer tied to a purpose built building in a particular city.  One could worship anyplace one found oneself.

In Babylon, God was preparing the Hebrew people for their dispersion throughout the world. They now had a faith that could survive, and even flourish, wherever they found themselves.

The exile brought loss, but it also gave birth to a form of faith observance that was positioned for whatever history might bring their way.

IN OUR DAY

At our ABCNYS 2022 Biennial, we are going to think about how the experience of the pandemic has equipped us, even in the midst of loss, for God’s future.  We are not going to relive the losses.  We are going to seek out the gifts God has nurtured within us for a future of faithful service.  To join in this journey, go to https://www.abc-nys.org/abcnys-biennial.html

 

Jim Kelsey

Executive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State

Friday, May 27, 2022

Mass Shootings: Knowing and Then Doing the Right Thing

 



I used to drop my two young sons off at our neighborhood elementary school each morning.  They would run down the hill to the playground to join their friends.  I sat in my car and watched them until the bell rang announcing the beginning of the school day and both my sons passed over the threshold into the school building.

I assumed they were safe once they were inside.  It was a different time.

After that, we moved as missionaries to Europe and our sons attended European schools.

As I try to contemplate the killings in Uvalde TX that left 19 children and two teachers dead along with the perpetrator, my mind is overwhelmed, and my heart is does numb at the horror of the carnage.  I think about my two little boys entering Woodland Elementary School in Mansfield OH. 

I think about the trust I placed in that school, the city that ran it, the elected State and national officials whose job it was to do all that was humanly possible to protect my sons so they could grow into the fine adults they have become.  I trusted my community and my nation to cherish and protect my little boys.

Then I think about the 19 dead children and two dead teachers in Uvalde TX, and I cannot understand why we allow this to continue to keep happening.

I use the word “allow” intentionally.  We are prone to become dispirited and think this cannot change.  We wring our hands and ask ourselves what could possibly be done to stop this.

There are proven demonstrated ways to reduce mass killings.  Simple logic suggests some actions.

My grandfather gave me a single-shot-bolt-action rifle when I was a boy.  It could be lethal, but it would take a long time to kill 21 people in a school in Texas or 10 people in a Tops store in Buffalo. 

Later in life, I visited the Cu Chi Tunnels Memorial Park in Vietnam while on a mission assignment teaching Vietnamese pastors.  They had a shooting range at the tunnels where you could purchase ammunition and fire a weapon used during the war in Vietnam.  I purchased a cache of ammunition, and the attendant loaded it into a Kalashnikov. I pulled the trigger. Before I even realized the gun was firing, I had spent all my ammunition.  It was a costly 2 seconds or so.

Even a weapons novice like me can see this as a cautionary tale.

In the face of these inconceivably horrific shootings, the worst thing we can do is simply accept this as an inevitable part of life in America and go on about our business. 

James writes: Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for them this is sin (4:17).  When the lives of children are at stake, it is important to give things the proper name.

Jim Kelsey

Executive Minister-American Baptist Churches of New York State

Monday, April 11, 2022

HOLY SATURDAY: ENVISONING HOW BEAUTIFUL THE WORLD COULD BE

 


A Dumpster Fire

There is war in Ukraine generating death, destruction, and millions of displaced persons.  In New York State we await refugees fleeing persecution in Afghanistan.  The junta in Burma continues to terrorize, dislocate, and kill ethnic minorities.  Last week we remembered the 28th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  In our own country we seem to makes meager progress in healing the animosities among us.  We continue to struggle with the ongoing effects of slavery and discrimination.  I could go on, but I need not do so.  We know the world sometimes looks like a dumpster fire.

Sometimes it gets to be almost too much; it really does. We have so vandalized God’s creation and so mistreated our fellow human beings, it is easy to lose sight of God what intended it all to be, originally.

Faith in the Midst of a Dumpster Fire

How does one have a vigorous faith in the midst of all these human tragedies?  Part of faith is imagination.  

Victor Frankl in his memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, writes about his time in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.  He recounts one day when he and his fellow prisoners were resting on the dirt floor of their hut, holding bowls of cold thin soup in their hands after a hard day of labor.  One of their fellow captives rushes in and says, “You must come outside and see this sunset!”

The prisoners get up and go out into the muddy prison yard, surrounded by their bleak shacks.  The sky is afire with ever-changing shapes and colors, from blood red to steel blue.  They stand there in stunned silence, their desolate surroundings in starkest contrast to the breathtaking horizon. 

Finally, one of them utters into the silence: “Think how beautiful the world could be.”

To imagine how things could be is an act of faith.  To envision what God wants for us and our world fuels our convictions about the God’s goodness and original loving intent toward us.  

It also brings near the grief of God as God mourns what we have done to one another.

Jeremiah & the Tears of God

The prophet Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet.  Although he announces uncompromising judgment, his writings are riddled with pathos and pain over what is happening.  With great clarity and brutal candor, Jeremiah surveys the mess around him, and then he grieves it.  It is not just Jeremiah’s pain that is given voice in his writings.  The prophet’s grief becomes comingled with the grief of God until the two become inseparable (Abraham Heschel, The Prophets). 

Jesus, in the tradition of Jeremiah, laments over the city of his impending rejection:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones the ones having been sent to you! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matt. 23:37)

As he [Jesus] came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side.  They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:41-45)

These are “contrary to fact wishes.”  Jesus wishes it were not so, but it is so.

We might wish things were not as they are; but they are.  So, do we just give up, give in, or give it all over to futility and go watch the Disney Channel? No.

An Aspirational Vision

In the book of Revelation there is a stunning scene of a healed human family.

You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
    saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
    and they will reign on earth. (5:9-10)
 

 This aspirational unified vision of the human family sees that family as being constituted from all tribes and languages and peoples and nations. Our diversity is not erased; it is still there in identifiable ways. This diversity is simply no longer a problem for us. 

Our diversity remains; our divisions are healed

This is what God wants for us, all of us.  Have no doubt about that.  And someday God’s desire will no longer be a “contrary to fact wish.”  As is often said “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”  No dumpster fire of war and refugees and loss and injustice can finally hold back God’s original and enduring intent.

For Now

We, for now, live in the meantime, in what is called “Holy Saturday,” that day between the death of Good Friday and the resurrection of Easter.  What do we do for now?

First, we live as if the hymn of Revelation 5 were already true for us.  A vision of how beautiful the world could be shapes our daily living now. This vision determines  how we treat others and what we consider important in this present day.

Second, we remember that when we grieve our world we share in the grief of the Maker of Heaven and Earth.  In that moment the longings of God’s heart become the longings of our hearts.  This is a good moment.

Jim Kelsey

Executive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State

Thursday, February 24, 2022

War in Ukraine -- 2.24.2022

 


I met them at a board meeting of the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague in March of 2012.

These four young Ukrainian women were about to finish their theological education at the seminary and return to their native country.  They talked about the challenging opportunities for ministry they would find in their homeland. I said I hoped things would change in their country, and I wished for them many opportunities to practice their gifts for ministry.

This morning, indeed, things are changed in their country.  I don’t know whether over the past 10 years they had expanded opportunities for ministry, but I do know this morning their opportunities for ministry multiplied overnight.

For weeks we have heard reports of Russia’s slow march toward the invasion of Ukraine.  We have seen photographs of the amassing of lethal arms and soldiers at the border.  I have often thought of those young women as I watched.  I wonder how their faith is sustaining them and encouraging them under the shadow, and now the reality, of war.  I wonder what opportunities for ministry this current outrage has provided for them.

As we hear about tanks and sanctions, about differing accounts of history, about economic and geopolitical shifts, we can forget about the people on the ground in Ukraine.  These are people who prepare breakfast in the morning and get off to work, enjoy meals with friends, care for aging parents, like to walk in the woods on a sunny day, have dreams for their children, and love their spouses.  Last night many of them bathed their young children and told them a story before putting them to bed.

In other words, they are like us.  Except today there are tanks in the street and missiles flying overhead, and soon many of them shall likely die.

The All Ukrainian Associations of Evangelical Christian-Baptists is a family of about 2,000 Baptist churches in Ukraine and a fellow member of the Baptist World Alliance.  This morning the Association's President Valery Antonyuk began his message to his churches in this way:

Dear brothers and sisters, ministers of the Church!

This morning, February 24, the war in Ukraine began. What we prayed for God not to happen has happened today. And we, as believers, fully understand that we will have to go through and go through this period and this time.

The Bible says, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I will not lack. And even if I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid of evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff will comfort me. ” 

That is why we urge everyone, above all, to continue and intensify our prayers. This is our weapon in times of war, military confrontation. This is the first thing believers do. And we urge everyone, wherever you are, to seek the opportunity in person, in your families, in your churches, in ZOOM, where possible, to unite together and pray to the Lord.

We in America can do this too; we can pray. 

We feel powerless to turn back the events in Ukraine.  It has been like watching a car accident happen in slow motion and all our shouting could not stop the colliding cars.  Yet this one thing we can do. We can pray.  This is what people of faith do in response to things they cannot control, turn back, or reshape; we turn them over to God.

I encourage all our churches this coming Sunday to pray for the Ukrainian people and to pray for people in all places where the will to power, greed, arrogance, and inhumanity destroy human community, kill the innocent, and reward the ruthless.  We must continue to remember the ethnic minorities in Burma who for decades have suffered at the hands of the powerful and the indifferent.

I also encourage you to send a note of support to our Baptist brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Go to https://www.baptyst.com/pro-soyuz/ and go to the bottom of the page; ЗАЛИШИТИ КОМЕНТАР means “leave a comment.” There you can leave a brief comment letting them know NYS Baptists are praying for them.

And if you think about it, pray for those four young women I met in Prague 10 years ago and for all those other faithful leaders who guide their people through difficult times with words of hope and faith.

Blessings,

Jim Kelsey

Executive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State