While listening to the 8am news on BBC on Sunday morning I glanced out of the window and saw a reflection of light from a mirror that formed what looked like a tiny rainbow. It reminded me to pray for the miracle of peace in Ukraine.
A few days earlier I had heard a Thought for the Day on the radio that contained the chilling words, “There is war in Europe.”
If you were preaching on Sunday, I wonder how you handled your sermon?
There are three main options at times like this:
Preach what you were going to preach and try to ignore what is going on in the world. Some people do not read a newspaper, or watch or listen to the news. But many people do. How does the preacher engage with the news they have consumed?
Scrap the scheduled sermon and start from scratch. This can have a measure of immediacy about it but if the preacher is not careful, it can add to people’s sense of anxiety about the situation. It can also allow an agenda other than Scripture to be the primary shaper of what we have to say.
Stay with the assigned biblical passage but preach with sensitivity to the situation.
On Sunday I was a guest preacher at a local church. I had been assigned a passage from Mark 9:14–29. In many ways it was a brilliant passage to work with in the context of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.
The story in Luke of a father who desperately wants to see his broken son fixed. The darkness has robbed the boy of speech, hearing and mobility; his life was reduced and blighted. This man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. With all of his vulnerability he calls on Jesus to help him. The approach to Jesus is tentative, “If you can.”
The response of Jesus encouraging and enabling:
“‘If you can?”, said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’” (Mark 9:23)
Here is a precious warrant for faith in the one who never lets down those who trust him. The vulnerable man speaks words that have shaped the prayers of many when they have found themselves in the shadowland of uncertainty:
“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24)
Christians tend to park the bus of prayer between the two phrases the father uses in prayer.
He is the first person to use the first-person pronoun concerning his faith:
“I do believe.”
This is a watershed moment!
But faith is a complicated thing. This moment in prayer we are full of confidence, then the next one we are struggling and stumbling:
“… help me overcome my unbelief!”
Yet Jesus answers the prayer. Prayer is not a matter of our great faith, but a matter of our faith in a great saviour.
I hope I was able to do justice to this biblical passage and speak with a sense of immediacy concerning the anxiety arising from the unfolding events in Ukraine.