In our gospel reading this Sunday Jesus laments over Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets
and stones those who are sent to it!
How often have I desired to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Jesus had come to lift up the lowly and bring good news to the poor. He came to heal people’s illness of heart and mind as well as of body and still comes to us today in the very same way. And I can imagine Jesus today lamenting over Jerusalem as well as over Kyiv and the whole country of Ukraine, as Russian forces target hospitals and schools as well as the Chernobyl nuclear power station putting millions of people at risk.

In my morning prayer this week I begin as I always do with a hymn of praise. The hymn I chose for today echoes Jesus’ lament and calls upon God to act:

Father all-loving and ruling in majesty,
judgment is yours, and condemns all our pride;
stir up our rulers and people to penitence,
sorrow for sins that for vengeance have cried.

What causes people to inflict so much pain and suffering on others? The need to control? The desire to be great or make your nation great again? Maybe also fear of being attacked and so you attack first? But at such cost to the lives of so many people.

Jesus shows us that true greatness is not in dominating others, misusing our power or subjugating people. True greatness is recognising our common humanity, learning to love not to hate, to reconcile not to divide, to build up not to destroy.

In my mind’s eye I see Jesus shaking his head in sorrow at the long line of people fleeing from danger in Ukraine, desperately seeking refuge and safety for themselves and their children and so braving a harsh winter and an unknown future in a foreign country. It’s a very different image to that of Abraham, choosing to leave his country to follow the promise of God. And yet in both there is risk.

Abraham has no children yet the promise, the hope, the longing is that he will, and in time he does. Abraham has been called the father of faith because he trusted the promise of God and has remained throughout the ages as an example that continues to inspire faith in the living God. Abraham represents a watershed in the book of Genesis. Before him people avoided taking responsibility. Eve said, “The serpent tempted me.” Adam blamed Eve. Cain denies everything. But Abraham knows that we have duties not only to ourselves but to others.

He prays for the people of Sodom even though he knows what they have done. He refuses to build a tower like Babel to make a name for himself, but rather hears the call of God to be a source of healing and hope to many. He chooses to leave behind an old way of life to become a partner with God to create a just and gracious social order. Let us pray that in that long line of refugees from Ukraine there will be some who in time return as a sign of hope and new life. May this hymn also be our prayer:

Come, Holy Spirit, create in us holiness,
lift up our lives to your standard of right;
stir every will to new ventures of faithfulness,
flood the whole church with your glorious light.