As we draw closer to the beginning of the winter Olympics in Russia, the reports of violence, terrorism and questions about our place in it all are increasing in frequency. This period of world athletic competition has often been symbolic of placing aside differences and coming together in peace, so the sharp contrast of the threat of violence within this event is difficult to miss. Were we not already focused so heavily on Russia and the surrounding areas, I might not have seen the article about the remarkable actions of a handful of Orthodox priests this past week.
In Kiev, the capitol city of Ukraine, there have been significant, violent clashes between citizens protesting the actions of their government and the police. The details are complex and connected to both Ukraine’s relationship with Russia and the rest of Europe, but this past week, regardless of the nuances of the situation, it seemed that peaceful disagreement or protest was completely impossible. There were injuries on both sides and reported fatalities as well.
On Wednesday, priests from the Christian monastery located in the area and members of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, took up their cross, their icons and their holy book and processed into a street that divided the protestors and the government’s special forces police. In the midst of violence, they lifted up the cross, images of Jesus Christ and spoke words from their liturgy. “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life.”
When asked to join one side or the other, they declined and simply continued to pray for peace and the cessation of violence between the two sides. Their presence, at least for the time being, stopped all violence in that area.
Sometimes, Jesus calls us to leave work early and follow him on a new adventure. Sometimes, Jesus calls us to leave worship and follow him into the line of fire, taking worship with us….