Last Sunday I was preaching in Hove (actually). This week I was preaching in Riga. Two very different contexts but in both there was a sense that we are living at a difficult time and in both I preached on the same text: Mark 9:14–29. I wrote about that in last week’s blog. The sermon was not the same, because it is almost impossible to do that.
As Fred Craddock used to say, “You can’t step into the same river twice.”
I knew that the atmosphere in Riga was going to be different. Latvia shares a land border with Russia and Belarus, and many of its Russian speaking population come from Ukraine or have Ukrainian relatives. Latvians also have a history of Russian occupation. On my first visit in Latvia in 1993 there were still Russian soldiers on the streets of Riga and some of the former Soviet submarines were still docked in the harbour in Liepaja, Latvia’s second city.
When I arrived in Latvia last week the first people I saw when entering the Latvian Biblical Centre were Helena and her family from Ukraine, surrounded by aid boxes waiting to be sent to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Here is a face of the crisis which just got a bit closer.
The Latvian Biblical Centre is playing host to three Ukrainian families at the moment and is acting as a hub for humanitarian aid. The deep human need reflected in the story in Mark 9 is evident here.
We should open our wallets, hearts and homes to those who have left everything behind. Yet these are all things that people who are not believers can do.
This vital humanitarian aid does bring relief to those who are vulnerable and desperate, but there is more that believers can do. We are facing an impossible situation. In Mark 9 Jesus is asked if he can help. His reply is:
“If you can! Everything is possible for him who believes.”
The man does believe (even though that faith is mixed with a struggle to have faith) and Jesus fixes the man’s son.
I am interested in how the disciples, when puzzled by why they couldn’t fix the boy, ask Jesus why?
“This kind can come out only by prayer.”
I ended my sermon with a great quote from Corrie Ten Boom about prayer:
“The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something and enter God’s realm where everything is possible. He specializes in the impossible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love.”
I have often used that quote about nothing being too great for his power or too small for his love but had not seen it in context. Preaching seeks to move around the furniture of our imaginations. I needed to be reminded that prayer relocates us into a different zone.
I am praying for Father God to help me to find my way around that zone where all things are possible to those who believe. I am praying for a miracle in Ukraine.
“I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”