“From the Pulpit” – Reflections on the Events in Ukraine, from Pastor Greg of Living Lord Lutheran Church in Vero Beach, FL
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.
I know that our hearts are broken, our spirits are weakened, and our anxiety levels have risen to levels maybe not seen before for many of us, as we witness the horror and devastation taking place in Ukraine over the past few weeks. I, and many others of us, feel so helpless to do anything that feels like it might be meaningful. Lives have been lost, or forever changed for hundreds of thousands of innocent brothers and sisters, through no fault of their own. And even here in the US, a world away, and elsewhere around the world, all of us in one way or another have been affected, if only by prices we currently are paying at the pump. And, while peace talks are encouraging (if there is talking, maybe there won't be fighting?) there appears to be no end in sight to the violence and destruction. And how about those inside Russia who have no idea of the destruction their nation's leaders have caused, because media outlets aren’t showing the real devastation that’s taking place.
So, you ask, what does our church, the ELCA, have to say about all this? Is there something the wider church can do? What positions can or does it take on war, peace, and such? Actually, the church DOES have something to say about all this. First of all, in our confessional documents, in particular, the Augsburg Confession, the original document of our Lutheran faith, published in 1530 by the early reformers, including Luther and others, the church does take a position on what has become known as "just wars" (meaning justified wars.). The reformers wrote the following:
"Concerning public order and secular government it is taught that all political authority, orderly government, laws, and good order in the world are created and instituted by God, and that Christians may without sin exercise political authority; be princes and judges; pass sentences and administer justice according to imperial and other existing lawes; punish evildoers with the sword; wager just wars; serve as soldiers; buy and sell; take required oaths; possess property; be married; etc." There is more to this text, but you get the point. In other words, the church recognized the need to at times defend a nation and a people from "unjust" or unprovoked wars, and that it was OK to serve as a soldier to defend against unprovoked aggression.
Also, our wider church, the ELCA, offers some insight into this topic. On the home page of the site, www.elca.org, type in the words just war in the search box at the top of the page, and see what comes up. One of the documents you may find helpful is the link below, entitled, "Pacifism, Just War, and the Limit of Ethics". You can scroll down to the "just war" part, or read the entire piece. It's pretty compelling. Search other resources on this site as you feel led. There are plenty of resources.
The point is, that the Lutheran church, our church, does believe in just wars, when an innocent people or nation is threatened by an aggressor, and that it is OK to serve in the military, knowing that it may lead to killing and death.
So what can we do? I have two suggestions:
1. Go to www.elca.org, and on the home page, you'll be given an opportunity to donate to the ELCA's efforts to support the Lutheran church's efforts in Ukraine. Just follow the prompts, OR;
2. If you wish to give money to the church to support its humanitarian efforts, but don't want to go through the ELCA website, simply bring a check made out to the ELCA, with a notation "Ukraine", and we'll move it along to the wider church.
You're invited to follow along how and what our church is doing to support these humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, as well as see what our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, who speaks for our church, has to say on an ongoing basis.
I hope that you will keep those affected by this horrible catastrophe in your daily prayers, and that you will support your church's efforts to aid those most in need. Also, please pray as you are able for all who work for peace and an end to this conflict, as well as those staying behind to help out.