Most people assume that my last name (Taranowski) is Polish. While I am Polish on my mother’s side, my father’s family came from Ukraine. So while the name is Ukrainian, I am a mix of both (not that those two countries are particularly far apart!)
Many are becoming more aware of Ukraine these days because of what would appear to be an imminent Russian invasion. Without any supportable reason whatsoever, Vladimir Putin has taken it upon himself to rectify a nonexistent crisis by threatening to overrun Ukraine. In fact, he has manufactured a crisis for this very purpose.
You’d think we would be beyond this sort of thing by now. Ukraine has never been a superpower. It has always been under the heel of empires like Austro-Hungary or Russia. It has not had a lot of independence. In fact, my grandfather dodged the Austro-Hungarian military draft in Ukraine just prior to World War I and came to this country so that he could serve in our army as a way of helping to free Ukraine in that “war to end all wars.” It didn’t work. After the war, the tsar was gone but the Soviet Union clamped down even harder.
That’s why there was such hope in Ukraine recently when a Russian-installed dictator was ousted and free elections held. Today, however, everything hangs in the balance.
Too many things seem to hang in the balance these days. International stability, our public health, our democracy, our economy, our climate to name a few. It is so very easy to become disheartened, dejected, and depressed. If there is any antidote to those feelings, I believe it is found in our faith and in our church.
We often forget that most of the bible was written in times of crisis by people in crisis. It may have been a personal crisis or political crisis but most often the two things were folded together as one. And interwoven into each story of perilous hardship is the presence of God to deliver or restore.
This is why the bible can be such a good companion right now. It is a reminder that ours is not a fair-weather faith. Our faith is born out of plagues, poverty, invasion, and oppression. It is the story—on a macro-level—of people crying out to God in desperation and finding…companionship, restoration, hope, and a promising future.
To paraphrase Mary in Luke’s gospel, faith doesn’t make things easy; it makes things possible. (Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with God.”)
In difficult times we should be drawn to that which has sustained people for generations: Our God who reaches out to us in our apparent abandonment and says with a smile: “You’ve got it wrong. You’re not alone. I’m right here.”
See you in church,