My prayers are directed to two things today.

First, towards the people of Ukraine.

“I don’t understand, I decidedly do not understand, why men can’t live without war.”

“You would think that humanity has forgotten the laws of its divine Savior, who preached love and the forgiveness of transgressions, and that it finds its greatest merit in the art of mutual killing.” Leo Tolstoy

I’ve been anxious and fearful about many things these past few years, but an invasion has not been one of those things. I can’t imagine what the people of Ukraine are feeling right now.

Our own nation has many difficult decisions to make as well. Escalating violence is hardly desirable. Standing by and letting it happen is unacceptable.

You may wonder—why bother sending "thoughts and prayers" in the face of such evil and harm. I'm reminded of the words of Walter Wink:

History belongs to the Intercessors, who believe the future into being. This is not simply a religious statement. It is as true of communists or capitalists or anarchists as it is of Christians. The future belongs to whoever can envision in the manifold of its potentials a new and desirable possibility, which faith then fixes upon as inevitable.

This is the politics of hope. Hope envisages its future and then acts as if that future is now irresistible, thus helping to create the reality for which it longs. The future is not closed.

Intercession is spiritual defiance of what is, in the name of what God has promised. Those who have made peace with injustice and who benefit economically from social inequities are not likely to be such intercessors.

[We are those who pray] because the struggle to be human in the face of suprahuman Powers requires it. Prayer is never a private act. It may be the interior battlefield where the decisive victory is first won, before engagement in the outer world is even attempted. Prayer is the field-hospital in which the diseased spirituality that we have contracted from the Powers can most directly be diagnosed and treated.

We pray because we dare to believe that God desires something better for the world—and that God will empower us with the Divine Spirit of Christ and then invite us to bring that future into being.

Adapted From Every Moment Holy, Volume 1:

O Christ in Whom our lives are Hidden,
fix now our hope in that which alone might sustain it.
O Christ in Whom our treasures are secure,
fix now our hope in you.
In light of all that may be so suddenly lost,
O Lord, in light of all we had gathered but could not keep,
comfort us.

Our nerves are frayed, O God.
Our sense of permanence and peace is shaken,
so be to us a foundation.
Have mercy, Lord Christ

Secondly, towards the trans youth of Texas.

On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state’s child protection agency to investigate the families of transitioning transgender children for child abuse. You can read more about the decision here.

It's difficult enough for LGBTQ youth who most likely live in a home that is not affirming. For the rare trans kid who actually is receiving gender-supporting care from their family, to then criminalize that care is, frankly inexcusable. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth have seriously contemplated suicide. Removing the possibility of gender-affirming care will only cost more lives.

If you care to learn more about the transgender experience, especially how it relates to Scripture and faith, I recommend: Transforming by Austen Hartke and The Bible and the Transgender Experience by Linda Tatro Herzer.

Also, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg has an excellent Twitter thread and a couple blog posts about how Judaism and the Hebrew Bible has long recognized gender-non-conformity

Adapted from Augsburg Pastoral Intern Jenn Luong

God of all creation, your wisdom, your love and your mystery are boundless.
You have many names, which are beyond all gender expression.
We give you thanks for the gift of diverse
gender identity, expression, and sexuality.
We acknowledge the times we deny that gift
by holding too tightly to expectations of conformity and norms.
We have created these divisions and use them against one another.
We know this is not your will or your way.
Help us to act mercifully and show grace to all of your people, as you have
done for us.

O Mysterious Maker of all that is in between, outside, and none at all.
We come before you today with sorrow in our hearts.
We remember those who have lost their lives
because they did not conform to the gender roles society expects.
We lament at the continued suffering, oppression, rejection
and struggle of our siblings of all gender identities.
Grant them strength, support, and love to accept
and be accepted who they are.
We acknowledge the harm prejudice and ignorance
has knowingly and unknowingly caused.
Help soften hearts and give wisdom and understanding
that in the sight of God, all are equally Beloved
simply because of our existence.
Open hearts and minds to embrace and support one another
so that all may let their light shine before others by living out their Truth.
In the name of the One who is beyond all norm.

Amen.