Yesterday, I had lunch with a twenty-seven year old who said, “I’ve never seen anything like this invasion of Ukraine. I think the world is in totally new territory here.”
Not to minimize his words, but rather to place things in broader perspective, I replied, “I’m more than twice your age, and I haven’t seen anything like it, either.”
In fact, if my math is correct, nobody under 80 years old has any life-experience with, or memory of, anything on this level … one European superpower attacking another sovereign nation without imminent threat or provocation, all for the sake of aggression, greed, and a spectacular display of naked power.
Honestly, on the visceral level, the situation in Ukraine makes everything I deal with on a daily basis seem trite, petty, first-world, privileged. We get upset about the smallest of things in comparison to what our neighbors, friends, and families are facing in the beautiful, gentle country of Ukraine!
Rodney King, a victim of public racial brutality in 1991, in the days of his recovery, asked a powerful question in a childlike, faltering voice. “Can we all get along?” he asked in humble, hushed, and shaky tones.
For some of us in powerful positions, the answer to Rodney’s probing question is … apparently not.
Aaron Tyler, Professor of Global Affairs at St. Mary’s University, was recently featured on our CUEcast Communiqué series. When asked about coming together, talking, and negotiating through differences and conflicts in families, communities, and even on the world stage, he made sobering statement: “Diplomacy, intervention, conversation, negotiation — these things are quite effective if everyone around the table is willing to talk and work out a solution. However, all the talk in the world will not bring peace when even one person sitting in that circle is still eager to fight. If one is still seeking revenge, wants to exact a payback, wants to get even, still trying to inflict harm, or remains bloodthirsty, talking will be a waste of time and energy. It’s usually only when everyone concerned is weary to the bone of fighting that we consider the possibility of conversation.
I immediately thought of the way most of us Christ-followers pray. It goes something like this: “Well, I’ve tried everything … nothing worked, so I don’t know what else to do but pray.” Actually, had praying been our early priority, we might not have had to go to such heroics and still not get the answer we desired. Perhaps we should BEGIN the process with prayer and continue to pray through the process until there is some type of resolution … either in our circumstances or our finding “heavenly peace, divinest comfort” in whatever is the ultimate outcome!
In the same way, if we’re honest, we often have to admit of our personal relationships, “Well, I’ve tried to manipulate the situation, I’ve tried to connive and force my will upon them, I’ve worked at this thing every way I can, gotten myself tied up in knots and nothing good has happened. Perhaps we should sit down and talk about it.” Ya think?
The fourth stanza of the hymn SAVIOR, LIKE A SHEPHERD LEAD US begins, “Early let us seek thy favor, Early let us do thy will. Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our beings fill.”
Almost all of us have some type of experience with a bully. On the playground, in the fitness center, at school board meetings, in the grocery store, on social media, in turn lanes or on interstate highways. And, heaven forbid, some experience bullying in our own homes. We see it played out daily (make that hourly) in local, state, and national politics. And now, as of February 24, we’re watching it in an IMAX of global theater.
Needless, senseless, careless, thoughtless, compassionless, calculated, evil, chilling … war.
Why? Because somebody in power said “I can, and since I can, I will. And nobody can stop me. After all, it is all about me.”
It’s easy and even natural to feel helpless in times like these. What can we possibly do that will change anything for the good?
Overused as they might be, I point to the words of Leonard Bernstein … this time with a little more development than usual.
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” — Leonard Bernstein
As we musicians, collaborators, teachers, leaders, directors, ministers think about making “music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly,” it is not only about standing in front of group of people already gathered and in full force. In the San Antonio Youth Chorale and at YouthCUE, we have newly discovered that making more intense, beautiful, and devoted music now involves extraordinary measures to involve the students/musicians from the get-go. For volunteer groups in 2022, simply assembling the students in one place, at one time, to accomplish one thing — this in itself is now an enormous challenge which will take our most impassioned strategies and tireless commitments to accomplish. We say we want to have a community, church, or school student choir in a post-pandemic, war threatened world? If so, then we must become superb strategists, shrewd and savvy recruiters, crazy-smart community organizers, effective fundraisers, generous providers, constant communicators, and tireless advocates. It requires leadership on the very highest of levels. Yes, this, and no less, is what it takes to position our artistic pursuits and ministries on the maps of our communities.
Praying for the world.
Praying to know how to strategize, organize, recruit, and work smart.
Praying to gather a sustainable group who are willing to make intense, beautiful, devoted music.
Praying still for the world, and particularly for the people of Ukraine and the Russians who oppose the war.
And yes, praying for the Russians who support the war … even as Jesus has taught us to love and pray for our enemies.
Praying still for a way I can radically impact my community for the better.
Working at this project with a passion that defies human explanation.
Praying for peace, and that God might provide the increase in our work.
“Risk(ing)something big for something good.” — William Sloane Coffin
Sacrificing something significant to help it happen.
Praying without ceasing.
It’s our calling.
It’s our privilege … the privilege to serve.
It’s our joy.
May we be grateful and prayerful as we sing!