In a week we will begin our annual Lenten pilgrimage. The theme, the thought, the cry that will set the tone for our journey is taken from Psalm 51.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. (Psalms 51:10-12)
Scrolling through the newspaper this morning I found, as I expected, that the top article was about Russia, and its supposed pullback in Ukraine. Western officials remain cautiously optimistic at this point, although they have not seen any signs of the pullback beginning. Putin’s behavior remains suspect.
I am to teach the 8th grade confirmation class about God’s grace this evening. On the one hand, grace is so central to our faith as Lutherans, it should be an easy task. On the other, I know that grace is about the hardest thing to grasp for people of every age, let alone middle school students. The notion that anything in life that is free, unmerited, without cost, can be of any value at all is at odds with everything we know.
Each week as we gather prayer requests for our life together, there are a lot of concerns raised. One I am seeing with more frequency is prayer to heal the divisions between people in families, in our communities, our nation and all around the world. We are divided over a public health emergency that one would think would bring us together. The news today is full of developments in the increasing tensions in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. Will war erupt at any moment?