From Bishop Serge Maschewski of Ukraine

Dear friends,

I send some thoughts on Lent from Ukraine.

The Word for the week Estomihi, 2022: Luke 18:31–43

“And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.’ But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

“As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ And he cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”

Very soon, on this coming Wednesday, the Church enters into Lent. A time of repentance and prayer, of teaching and self-examination.

Our local ELC entered the Lenten season a little earlier this year. Ukraine is on fire. Trouble has come to our land. On February 24, war broke out. Terrible, horrible, despicable. Automatic rifles shooting, bombing with grenades, bombing with missiles, sirens, curfews—all of this has become our reality.

The dead, the wounded, the tens of thousands of refugees—a terrible reality.

And now, we hear the Lord’s words to His disciples with special clarity and in a whole new way: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.” 

The Lord knew what awaited Him in Jerusalem. He knew He would be betrayed to the Gentiles, that He would be mocked, He would be insulted, humiliated, spat upon, crowned with thorns on His forehead, and killed. He knew about the Cross of Calvary. Jesus’ heart was filled with fear. But He still goes to Jerusalem. Going to offer Himself as the Sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the world. Going to bring peace to men.

Now we, in the Holy Spirit, follow with Jesus the way of His suffering and death. The apostles could not imagine what the words meant: “betrayed, abused, insulted, spat upon, beaten and killed” …

Why does this have to happen? What does it mean? Isn’t there a way to avoid it? Why is God willing to suffer such a fiasco?

The disciples did not understand. Their hopes for the future were crumbling. Fear settled in their hearts, just as our hearts are now.

A war has broken out … And we do not understand God’s ways. Why? Why? How did God allow this to happen? We go through fear, panic, frustration. Why did this happen to us? Why? Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson … Why?

It took the apostles some time to grasp the meaning of what Jesus had said and done.

The Spirit of God had to illumine their minds and hearts. And then they began to preach: This was the only possible way for us to be saved.

At some time, it will also become clear to us why God leads us in such a strange way, and we will testify: “God’s way is for good.”

We have no illusions … Our Church has experienced persecution and pursuit from the state before. We know and remember how, on the orders of the German Embassy, the Ukrainian government services destroyed our congregations. We know the hypocrisy, deceitfulness, and meanness of our state officials … But we clearly distinguish the current government from our people, our country. And now the aggression is committed not against the authorities of Ukraine, but against her people. And we, the Church, with our children, with our brothers and sisters, are on guard and ready to defend our homeland to the last drop of blood.

Are we afraid? Yes.

Do we retreat? No!

And we believe that God keeps and protects us.

And it is no coincidence that in our Gospel passage we encounter two such different stories: Christ’s prediction of His suffering and death and the healing of a sick man! The blind man teaches us to see. He hears Jesus of Nazareth passing by. And cries out, shouts even: “Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!”

The disciples silence him; but he cries even louder: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Christ is at the center of his life: “Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!”The Lord asks: “What do you want from me?” He said: “Lord, that I may see.”

Jesus said to him, “See! YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU!”

And he immediately received his sight and followed him, praising God. This is how the blind, sick man meets the God who has mercy and heals. A God who does not pass by but hears the cry for help.

God, Who, in suffering Himself, hastens to show mercy to those who cry out to HIM. Our crucified Lord is no stranger to our pain, our need, our despair, our fear, our weakness.

Our crucified God overcame death and overcame hopelessness. He did all this for us. He walked this road to become the One who can save, the One who can help. In any situation, at any time.

He gives us a blessing and a future. He rewards us with a full life. And we believe that the Lord will help us in our struggle, the Lord will not leave us, but will overcome everything with us. Therefore, fear goes away, and we look boldly into the present and with hope into the future.

And blindness goes away … The ELCU (Evangelical Lutheran Church Ukraine) is active in volunteer and diaconal work, in the defense of our cities, and in the spiritual care of those in need.

We meet God in the Sacrament. And in it, Christ heals us.

We meet God in the prayer of our brothers and sisters. In the help and care of our Church.

I want to give special thanks to the faithful of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, and personally to President Rev. Dr. Mathew Harrison and Pastor James Krikawa (works at the IC – LCMS, International Center in St. Louis). God bless you!

We, by the power of God, will overcome all things, and the Lord will grant us victory!

Isaiah 58:8  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

                       and your healing shall spring up speedily;

                      your righteousness shall go before you;

                       the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Thank you all for your help and prayers!

In Christo, Serge

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