Pioneer Welcomes New Lead Pastor  —  

On March 22, 2023, Shane Anderson was confirmed as lead pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church, becoming the fifth lead pastor to shepherd the campus church of Andrews University.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023 - 21:00

The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

August 24, 2022

As the drought tightens its grip on the western states here in the U.S., the dramatic plunge of reservoir water levels is stunning. If you haven’t seen the before-and-after NASA satellite photographs of Lake Mead (“the largest reservoir in the United States [that] supplies water to millions of people across seven states, tribal lands, and northern Mexico”), take a moment to check it out for yourself (

Lake Mead water levels now stand “at their lowest since April 1937, when the reservoir was still being filled for the first time.” By mid-July the reservoir “was filled to just 27 percent of capacity” (ibid). Wow!

But along with this very public regional crisis, the plunging water levels have also exposed private pain and heartache. Already at Lake Mead “a fourth set of human remains has been found at the shrinking reservoir . . . as the drought gripping the western US continues to blaze and sends its water levels plunging” ( Who were these victims, what happened, and what about their families?—questions the authorities are yet unable to answer.

But when it comes to water levels, there is one profound reversal of today’s drought headlines worth remembering. Consider the promise embedded in the ancient prophet’s prayer: “You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah of 7:19).


The ancients considered nothing on earth deeper than the sea. And into its dark and murky depths, our divine Savior is depicted, symbolically hurling “all our iniquities” where they disappear never to be seen again. No chance dropping sea levels will ever expose the private sins we have confessed to Him. No chance some sea-diving bounty hunter will come across their remains.


No, no—“all our iniquities” are buried at sea, sunk to the bottom by Almighty God, where not even He would dredge them up again to condemn us. No wonder Micah exclaims: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18).


And if not even God Himself would dredge them up, why should we punish ourselves by recalling the very sins we have asked Him to bury? Do we really believe reviewing past sins God has buried somehow proves our penitence or double-checks His pardon?


And while we’re at it, why should we allow others to torment us with those transgressions not even Jesus would recall? If a “friend” or a spouse or even an adversary hurls our past against us, may the Spirit of God bring quickly to mind the assurance our failures have already been hurled into the depths of God’s eternal sea, never to be heard from again. So “get behind me, Satan.” 


Then I say we let these drought-stricken headlines be our quiet reminder that God’s great reservoir of grace will never, ever be diminished—not by even a single drop, not even by a single sin.

August 17, 2022

A few days ago, Brittany Moore and her year-and-a-half-old toddler, Ethan, were in the backyard blowing bubbles into the Georgia summer air. As one of those rainbow-hued wet bubbles drifted upward into the sky, little Ethan ran after it. But over their backyard fence and into the woods it sailed.

Halted by the fence, Ethan stood there pointing. “Feet,” he called to his mother. “Feet.”

Feet? Puzzled, Brittany joined Ethan. “What did you say, Ethan?” “Feet,” he repeated. All she could see were the overgrown trees beyond their yard. So she “crouched down to her son’s level and looked where he was pointing” (

There between the slats, she saw a pair of human feet. She panicked. “‘I didn’t know if I needed to go into fight or flight’” (ibid.). Clearly, there was a body on the other side of their fence. Dead? Alive? She dialed 9-1-1.

“When first responders arrived, they realized it was 82-year-old Nina Lipscomb, who had been missing since Monday night [this was on Friday], according to her family” (ibid). For four days and nights, authorities had been searching for this missing senior citizen with early-stage Alzheimers, even using thermal technology in the search. All to no avail.

Instead, a little boy chasing a fly-away bubble found the confused but still very much alive Nina Lipscomb. Nina met Ethan soon after she was released from the hospital. “‘I truly think this was something outside of what any human could do,’ said [Ethan’s mother]. ‘It took a child who was being worked by God’” (ibid). 

Nina’s family agrees, “the toddler likely saved her life.”

Just a pair of feet—but what a story it tells. Makes you wonder. How many pairs of feet will soon be stepping onto our campus and walking into our church? And what will be the stories they will tell?

New students, returning students—first comers and veterans—are we ready once again to open the doors to our hearts and our church to these many pairs of feet?

One of the most effective ways Pioneer has discovered to get to know new students is our annual New Student Welcome Dinner we host out under the trees beside our church. On their first Sabbath away from home (August 27), what better occasion to invite them to our friendly tables, set with a home-cooked lasagna/pasta dinner, replete with salad and garlic bread (my mouth waters, just thinking about it!)—dessert and drinks provided by the church.

We need forty host families willing to be Love on the Move and provide this delectable we’re-glad-you’re-here kind of dinner for a table of ten. Along with the food, Karen and I pass around a clipboard for the new students to jot down their names and contact info. That clipboard becomes our prayer list. And our adopt-a-student (or two or three or four) list for the weeks ahead. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a bunch of Love on the Move Pioneer families decided to adopt a bunch of Andrews students and invited them to our homes now and then during the new year ahead? I can guarantee they’ll love you for it. And maybe even love Jesus more because of your loving welcome.

So please take a moment and call Claudia or Lailane at 269.471.3543 and let us know you’d like to serve ten pairs of feet (and ten hungry souls) on August 27. Call us right away, so we can count on you. (If you’re not able to attend the picnic dinner but would like to contribute food, please indicate that when you call.)

On behalf of those pairs of feet who are waiting for somebody to find them . . . and on behalf of the very same Jesus who still says “Do it to them, you’re doing it to Me” (see Matthew 25:40)—thank you very much.



*Thank you, Melchizedek Ponniah.

August 10, 2022

You know it is a slow news cycle when one of the hot stories of summer has to do with how fast our home planet Earth is spinning these days.

Here’s how the website Defector creatively reported the headline: “On June 29, Earth spun through a full rotation in 1.59 milliseconds short of the league-average 24 hours, a breathtaking athletic feat witnessed by an estimated 7.97 billion viewers. This sets a record for the fastest rotation of Earth since they started tracking the stat in 1955 with the advent of the first practical atomic clock” (

Did you catch that? On June 29 Earth spun 1.59 milliseconds quicker than the day before. Hmmm. Do you recall that day feeling a bit shorter? I can’t even remember June 29!

As it turns out, this isn’t the first time Earth has gone into a sprint: “Terrestrial haste is a trend. In 2020, the planet recorded the 28 shortest days on record, and it kept spinning rapidly into 2021 and 2022. Before scientists could even verify that record-setting day time of June 29, our world almost outdid itself: It blazed through July 26, 2022 [a month later], 1.50 milliseconds ahead of schedule” (

What’s up with these spurts of speed? Some scientists are suggesting that the melting polar caps have flattened the planet and are causing the spurts—but others respond such melting would actually slow Earth down, not speed it up. Another hypothesis suggests it has to do with the “Chandler wobble”—the phenomenon of “how the not-quite-perfectly-round Earth wobbles ever so slightly, like a spinning top as it slows down.” Apparently that wobble “mysteriously disappeared between 2017 and 2020, which could have helped the Earth finish the day a bit faster” (ibid).

But nobody knows for sure why Earth is breaking out into these occasional spurts.

So, are we getting older or younger? Is life speeding up or slowing down?

Here’s what I know about God. In those majestic words of the psalmist long ago:

        Lord, you have been our dwelling place
                 throughout all generations.
         Before the mountains were born
                  or you brought forth the whole world,
                  from everlasting to everlasting you are God. . . .
        A thousand years in your sight
                 are like a day that has just gone by,
                 or like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:1-2, 3)

Peter echoes Moses’ psalm with these familiar words: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

One point five nine milliseconds isn’t a whole lot of time, to be sure. But Holy Scripture promises this of God: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So it really doesn’t matter how much time you have left—in milliseconds, in days, in years, in a lifetime. God’s assurance to you and me is that He can take the number of seconds allotted to our lifetimes and make them “beautiful.”

And that’s the life I want as we round summer’s corner and hurry towards the autumn of a new school year. Jesus makes “everything beautiful in its time.” Which makes this the right time for you and me to discover “the beautiful life” of Christ and to make it our own, while we still have the time.

June 22, 2022

You are invited to an historic Supper in honor of our Lord Jesus. For the first time since 2019, we will gather as a worshiping congregation with real emblems of His broken body and shed blood (good-bye packaged communion wafers and juice), with real white towels and basins of water (good-bye foot washings at home).

Of course, what we commemorate is not the first “live” communion celebration since the pandemic broke out, but rather the two-millennia-ago triumph of Heaven at the cross over the forces of evil that have held the human race hostage for so long.

If it’s been a while since you had the joy of an on-site Lord’s Supper, if it’s been a while since you’ve enjoyed the gathering of the Family for this power-filled symbol at Christ’s nail-scarred feet, if you wish to experience the supernatural cleansing and personal restoring that accompanies communal communion worship—then come and join your Savior and your Family this Sabbath (9:00 AM/11:45 AM).

“Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho: Skeletons in the Closet, Prostitutes on the Tree”—the conclusion to our pre-summer mini-series—will set the table for an unforgettable promise from the Lord at our Supper. “The Spirit says, ‘Come!’”

June 8, 2022

An old song from my parents’ generation crooned about meeting in St. Louis, today the chrome-arched city along the Mississippi River that is host to the 61st General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Karen and I drove down on Sunday for the opening of this Covid-postponed (twice) gathering of leaders and delegates from the four corners of the earth.

Embedded in the former football stadium of the St Louis Rams, the 1800-plus delegates were spread across the now concrete stadium floor either in person or via global Zoom (provided for those delegates who for pandemic, visa-entry or personal reasons joined the session from their homelands).

The Monday morning opening service included a welcome from the three world church officers, Ted Wilson (president), Erton Köhler (secretary) and Paul Douglas (treasurer), and was followed by a ninety-minute prayer service, interspersed with singing, group praying and the preaching of Mark Finley (evangelist), Barry Black (chaplain of the United States Senate), and me (your pastor). The three of us had been assigned themes by Jerry Page, Director of the G. C. Ministerial Association, and I know I speak for the other two preachers in saying it was a honor to lead the worshiping delegates to prayerfully focus on the daily baptism of the Holy Spirit. And it felt like being home for me with Ken Logan, our Pioneer organist and minister of music, at the convention organ console (a seat he hardly ever vacated through the long business session hours morning and evening).

One of the joys of a General Conference session is the serendipitous meetings with people you haven’t seen for months or years, in our case, fellow pastors and ministers from around the world. What a special joy those reconnecting conversations were for Karen and me.

One quick scan across the assembled delegates, and you are quickly reminded that (as it should be) our church is truly a growing and growingly international body of Seventh-day Adventists. Long gone are the days when the North American delegation dominated either the discussions or the votings. Youthful faces from the two-thirds world are a reminder of the increasing influence young global Adventists will have on the future of the world church.

A highlight for our brief time at the session came in Ted Wilson’s quinquennial President’s Report, a review of major church developments over the previous five (in this case seven) years. As you can see from my third row snapshot, the pulpit stands at the side of the sprawling backdrop that proclaims, “Jesus Is Coming—Get Involved.” 

The president’s multimedia presentation, a peripatetic highlighting of stories from across the world, ended dramatically with an Adventist World Radio (AWR) report of how communist guerrillas, fighting an insurgency war against the Philippine Army, somehow connected with AWR shortwave broadcasts there in their mountain hideouts. Long story short, one by one these rebel fighters came to know Christ and began to study the Bible via their shortwave radios. Once contact was established with Adventist members in the region, these fighters began to surrender to the army, confessing their newfound faith. Through a live Skype connection, two of the transformed former rebels (masked to protect their identity) shared their testimonies (translated by their pastor, who stood before us in the stadium). One of them was a woman (masked face on the right side of the big screen picture I took), who in tears shared her testimony for Christ. Then in a dramatic ending, our eyes dropped from the big screen to a Philippine Army colonel and his wife, who stood with Ted Wilson beside a baptistry on the stadium floor, also led to Christ by the Adventists of that mountain region. The stadium burst into applause as this military husband and wife followed Jesus and joined our faith community.

Only at a General Conference session! I’m sure the week will culminate in a celebrative Sabbath of worship there in the sports stadium. 

Karen and I returned to our quiet little village, grateful for the privilege of serving this global community of faith, and thankful for the testimonies of men, women and children in this parish who (without any accompanying fanfare or big screen drama) continue to take their stands for Christ their Savior. “Jesus Is Coming—Get Involved” is a fitting call to us here at Pioneer as well. For our own mission statement, “Love on the Move,” can come true as we all get involved for Him. 

So let us press on to love lost people to Christ, for are we not all “former rebels” won to Jesus by His unrelenting love? “‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself’” (John 12:32).

June 1, 2022

“This is what the LORD says: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Jeremiah 31:15).

Ancient words eerily capture the numbing headlines of a heartbroken nation—mothers, fathers sobbing on camera and off camera—as America (all over again) raises mournful wails for the gun-downed, lifeless forms of her children—“because they are no more.” 

Nineteen small sod mounds dotting the barren Texas shade—“because they are no more.”

“An enemy has done this,” Jesus was right (Matthew 13:28). He ought to know. For it was because of Him “Herod . . . gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16). And with that, the Christmas story was irreparably and forever pierced, rent by the wailing cries of the Bethlehem massacre's surviving victims. “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Matthew 2:17-18).

“A voice is heard in Uvalde.”

But the story doesn’t end there.

Read further the ancient prophet: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for . . . they will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope . . . ,' declares the LORD. ‘Your children will return to their own land’” (Jeremiah 31:16-17).

Did you think the Lord God of Heaven, who Himself once chided self-important adults for shooing the little ones away, “‘Let the little children come to Me,’” (Matthew 19:14)—did you think that God would allow the brutal AR-15 slaughter of nineteen Texas children be the terminus to their stories? Hardly! For there is a God in heaven, who—despite His enemy’s insanity-driven ravage of Creation—will have the last word for all our children. “[Your children] will return from the land of the enemy!” is the triumphant shout that rings within the covers of Holy Scripture. 

Thus Jesus’ promise: “‘Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish’” (Matthew 18:14). Not forever. And not for long.

So through your tears, America, come to the only One who can save us now. Let the politicians count their votes and excuse their positions. In the end neither they nor their votes will matter. Because Bethlehem’s and Uvalde’s young will be returned by the One whose last word is for our slaughtered children, and for us: “‘Because I live, you shall live also’” (John 14:19).

May 11, 2022

On Tuesday afternoon it was a nightmare come true. The pilot of the Cessna Caravan (a 38-foot single-engine 14-passenger aircraft) suddenly slumped over at the controls. Moments later a passenger clicks on the radio to air traffic control: “‘I’ve got a serious situation here—my pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane’” ( No idea! Imagine yourself gripping that microphone. 

“‘Roger. What’s your position?” the voice of a dispatcher crackles over the speaker. “‘I have no idea,’ the passenger reportedly said. ‘I can see the coast of Florida in front of me. And I have no idea’” (ibid).

“'Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.’” How comforting—they’re trying to find him! Air traffic eventually spots the pilotless plane on radar, 25 miles north of its destination, Palm Beach International Airport.

The dispatcher calmly now, step by step, begins to guide the man at the controls of the Cessna. Keep the wings level. Slowly lower your altitude. Can you see the runway ahead? Steady, steady. Let it descend. Keep it level. Keep coming.

Emergency vehicles line the runway as the Cessna Caravan slowly drops out of the sky and bounces onto the concrete of Mother Earth. Can you imagine the relief of that anonymous passenger!

“‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these [Cessna Caravans] being landed by somebody that has no aeronautical experience,’ said aviation expert John Nance. ‘The person on the airplane . . . listened very carefully and obviously followed instructions with great calm. That’s what made the difference’” (ibid). 

What a recipe for life’s pilotless moments! (1) Listen very carefully. (2) Follow the instructions. (3) Maintain “great calm.”

Because it all comes down to trust, does it not? You can’t even see the Controller—but you hear His voice—and you trust His instructions—guiding instructions quietly laid out in a dusty Book few turn to anymore.

But how else are we going to maintain this “great calm” flying through space in what feels like a pilotless world? Ukraine, Russia, Europe, China, America, inflation, Wall Street, the economy, Covid still, the list goes on and on. Who doesn’t at times feel out of control, personally or collectively—flying a pilotless life with no one at the wheel?

But good news. The Voice we hear belongs to the God who sits behind the controls. “Above the distractions of the earth He sits enthroned; all things are open to His divine survey; and from His great and calm eternity He orders that which His providence sees best” (The Faith I Live By 42).

There it is again, that “great calm”—“great calm” in the Voice speaking into our headphones—“great calm” in the heart obeying His instructions.

“Roger—what’s your position?” “I have no idea.” But the “blessed assurance” is He does. And if we will (1) listen very carefully, (2) follow His instructions, and (3) maintain the “great calm” of trust—the nail-scarred Flight Instructor promises to guide us onto His flight path to eternity. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

April 27, 2022

Have you heard about the brouhaha north of the border recently? Turns out Nissan Canada, the Japanese automaker, decided to tout the sound-masking properties of their new, exquisite luxury model the Infiniti. 

The company hired the mandatorily attractive female model, placed her behind the Infiniti steering wheel, and her window rolled down. Nothing unusual so far. But the car sits on a sound stage, and surrounding the model inside her Infiniti is a youth orchestra playing their instruments. “However, the children seen in the video are in fact not playing, but miming along to a performance by an adult orchestra [off camera] who had purposely been playing the piece [Richard Strauss’ tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra] badly” ( 

The viewer of the television ad naturally assumes the off-tune squeaking and squawking come from those ill-prepared children. Meanwhile, the model, with a look of displeasure over the poorly performed music, rolls her electric window up, banishing the noise, even as her driver’s side seat slowly and quietly reclines into a position of perfect peace. Nissan’s point is obvious—purchase our Inifiniti and you can wipe away the noise of everyday life in your own soundproof luxury.

Unfortunately for Nissan, that wasn’t the message many viewers heard. Instead, a hue and cry went up across our neighbor to the north: “Confused viewers, many of whom find the advert[isement] unnecessarily ‘mean’ . . . jumped immediately to the young musicians’ defense saying, 'I want to hug every one of those kids and encourage them any way possible.’ Another commented, “Ouch! It’s not the kids playing the music that’s intolerable, but the attitude of the adults that feel the need to insult beginner instrumentalists. How disappointing!” (ibid).

But in a masterful rejoinder, the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra won the hearts of the Internet and public opinion by recording their own ad, picturing the Orchestra’s CEO, Ken MacLeod, jumping out of his own luxury car (a BMW) and “opening a door to a concert hall, where the orchestra’s [youth] musicians are playing Strauss’ [same piece as in the commercial].” While the young musicians soar in their performance, MacLeod turns to the viewer: “‘Have you seen the new Nissan-Infiniti ad? Can you imagine? A big company like that couldn't find a youth orchestra to play the music. They should have called us. The New Brunswick Youth Orchestra.’” Pause. “‘In our experience, all kids have talent and can shine on any stage,’” (ibid). Touché! (Click on the link above and you can watch both advertisements and judge for yourself.)

Don’t underestimate our young! While it is a sad mistake to caricature any group of humans (irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, et al), it is particularly ill-conceived to suggest the young are incapable of rising to the occasion and delivering a life (or live) performance worthy of our applause.

The biblical role models are legion—Joseph, Miriam, Moses, David, Namaan’s slave girl, Esther, Daniel, and his young friends, Jesus, to name a few. Add to that list all the young eighth-grader preachers that will stand before their evangelistic audience in a few days to preach in the upcoming The Tent event (beginning Friday evening, May 13). The young have been God’s modus operandi from the beginning: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  

I carry these words taped in my Bible: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” (Education 271).

The Pioneer church exists for these young on all three campuses. They are our mission. And we can do better than Nissan. Our spring worship theme—“Sign Me Up!”—calls us to volunteer our time, and our services, for the sake of training and mobilizing a new generation of disciples for Jesus. Just text “Signup5” to 269-281-2345 and let our Volunteer Engagement Committee you’re available to become Love on the Move for our young.

In a classic PR mea culpa a spokesperson for Nissan “said they had seen the orchestra’s response and thought it was ‘amazing’” (ibid). Those are our kids—amazing to the core—with an infinity in their future—with Jesus.

April 20, 2022

What’s not to like about this “headline” yesterday from the U.S. Department of Education? In an April 19 tweet the department “announced steps to address historical federal student loan program failures, helping at least 3.6 million federal student loan borrowers move closer to forgiveness—including immediate forgiveness for ~40,000 borrowers” ( 

Did you catch that? “Immediate forgiveness for ~40,000 borrowers.”

Anybody with a student loan these days knows the surprise good news embedded in that headline! Kirk and Chelsea, our son and daughter-in-law, are fondly reminded of their happy days at Andrews University (where they met) every time another student loan payment comes due. I can imagine this headline has already triggered a huge sigh of relief across the land.

“Immediate forgiveness for at least 40,000 borrowers”—sounds like a headline from Heaven, doesn’t it?

What sinner wouldn’t love to receive a press release from God announcing “immediate forgiveness” for their sorry record of unimaginable indebtedness to purity and morality and kindness and honesty and other integrity challenged, unloving ways of sinful living?

Just a few days after Easter as we are now, turns out there is a loan-forgiveness you can take to the Bank of Heaven! Remember that stunning Good Friday prayer Jesus breathed aloud for His executioners? “‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'” (Luke 23:34). Let’s be honest—it hardly seems plausible, much less possible to buy the suggestion that those who were nailing Jesus to the cross, who had already scourged Him with that brutal flogging, did not know what they were doing. Of course they knew! Some of them no doubt even relished the chance to torture the Prisoner the way they did. “Father, forgive them?”

Talking about an “immediate forgiveness” news flash. But actually, the headline gets even more stunning and expansive. Brood over this line from Desire of Ages: “That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. 'Whosoever will' may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life” (745, emphasis supplied). Read it one more time just to make sure you read it right.

“[Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness] took in every sinner that had lived [our ancestors] or should live [us], from the beginning of the world [Adam and Eve] to the end of time [sinners yet to be born].”

Almost unbelievable! “Immediate forgiveness” not just for 40,000—but forgiveness for billions and billions of sinners past, present and future! I’m not making this up. All because of that suffering prayer from the Man on the center cross.

But of course—reality-check-time means that just like the student loan borrowers, everyone of us has the choice to believe the headline or to dismiss it. The Department of Education can announce the student loan forgiveness provision, but every borrower is still free to choose whether to believe and receive the forgiveness or to go on month after month after month trying to pay off a loan that seems forever. 

How sad not believing and receiving turns out to be. Which is why I invite you to breathe the prayer right now that claims this promise of “immediate forgiveness”: “Dear Savior—I bow before the profound recognition that Your prayer on Calvary was breathed for me, too. And so I cry out, ‘Me, too!’ I gratefully receive Your immediate forgiveness of my awful debt from my terrible sins—past, present and future. May the peace of your grace now sweep over my grateful and forgiven heart. May the strength of Your courage enable me to seek forgiveness from those I’ve wronged. And as I have freely received from You, even so let me freely give to those who need my forgiveness, too. I love You back, Jesus. Every day. Forever. Amen."

April 13, 2022

In a world already irreparably fractured, Russia’s attacks on Ukraine over the last one month and three weeks—chronicled across the earth through live video feeds—have diminished any hope of global healing. 

And yet many, who regard the pope as the most widely recognized religious leader in the world, harbor the hope Pope Francis might even yet this Easter spark a miracle of peace for the war in Ukraine, or at least a ceasefire.

After all, in his weekly audience on April 13, the pope admonished: “The peace that Jesus brings 'does not overpower others . . . It is not an armed peace.’ Instead, ‘The weapons of the Gospel are prayer, tenderness, forgiveness, and freely-given love for one’s neighbour, to any neighbour.' This, he said, ‘is how God’s peace is brought into the world’” (

However, this papal homily on peace notwithstanding, the Vatican’s decision to have a woman from Ukraine and a woman from Russia walk side by side through the traditional stations of the cross on Good Friday this week did not sit well with Ukrainian Catholics or their archbishop leader: “‘I consider such an idea inopportune, ambiguous and such that it does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,' said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of Ukraine’s Byzantine-rite Catholic Church” (

But “Reverend Antonio Spadaro, a close aide of Pope Francis, has defended the decision, telling the Italian state broadcaster Rai that the pope is 'a pastor, not a politician’” (ibid).

Leaving that observation aside, one must admit the pope faces both a pastoral and a political challenge. Political because he is considered the head of the Vatican state, and pastoral because ostensibly he is the shepherd of all his flock which includes both Russia and Ukraine. 

So what would the Good Shepherd Himself do, what would He say? “‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’” (Luke 12:14). Jesus usually remained above the fray and resisted being drawn into internecine squabbles. Or, “‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’” (Matthew 10:34)? Here He specifically addresses family fractures that will turn members of the same household against each other. Or, “‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

Perhaps that line more than any other defines His disciples in this broken world. Even in our own church Ukrainians and Russians, Croats and Serbs, Muslims and Jews, Taiwanese and Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, Blacks and Whites indeed do kneel side by side in worshiping the Creator of us all. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” because while war is inevitable, peace is not. Peace is hard-won, hard-lived, hard-fought, hard sought. But peace is the high calling of the Risen Christ for all His followers. 

“Christ is 'the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6), and it is His mission to restore to earth and heaven the peace that sin has broken. . . . The heart that is in harmony with God is a partaker of the peace of heaven and will diffuse its blessed influence on all around. The spirit of peace will rest like dew upon hearts weary and troubled with worldly strife. Christ's followers are sent to the world with the message of peace” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing 27-28).

Then let that peace be what the “children of God” pray for and work for beyond this Easter. Thus truly blessed will we be.