This week there were so many heart-breaking images and stories from the front line in Ukraine. And there was remarkable bravery as well. There are many ways to tell that story. Of course, there is President Zelenksy who remains in the capital, urging the world to pay attention to whatever it can for this country. The untrained young people who are staying back or travelling home again to fight for their nation’s future. The grandmothers who have remained in Kyiv to help feed those who are defending the capital. For me this week, it was also the story that appears in The Globe and Mail of the convoy – a line of vans and buses and SUVs- that travelled from Lviv to Kyiv. A group of civilians had jammed their vehicles with supplies and food for those still in the capital, and they made the 500-kilometre journey – towards the Russian tanks and bombs - to deliver them. In a suburb outside Kyiv, they loaded those same vehicles with evacuees – including children who need medical care – and brought them home. It was a journey of courage, made at great risk - leaving safety and going purposefully into danger. . So many of these stories linger, even as we carry on living in Canada, watching the signs of spring slowly win out over the cold of winter. What happens to all that courage in the face of the evil of humanity? What happens if those exemplifying it eventually lose? Is courage a moment of conviction, or something more? Don’t we already know? Our gospel this morning helps reveal the answers. Jesus has been teaching in the small towns and villages on his way to Jerusalem. But word had spread. His presence – and the crowds he was gathering - had become known to Herod, who felt threatened by Jesus. The Pharisees have come to see him, to urge him to flee because Herod wanted him dead. But Jesus shrugs them off: Go and tell that Fox, he says, today and tomorrow I will be casting out demons and performing cures. On the third day, I will be on my way. - toward Jerusalem, where my fate awaits. It reads like a challenge to Herod, and perhaps it is. Indeed, it echoes the now infamous words of President Zelensky, who when offered an escape by the United States, declined with his own challenge: “I need ammunition, not a ride.” Zelensky has remained in Kyiv while the Russians close in. And Jesus continued to Jerusalem while the authorities closed in around him as well. In both cases, the grand city is symbolic. It was a place to take a stand. A place to face corruption and cruelty and not blink. What happens to that bravery? In the case of Jesus, he did not win. He was betrayed by his friends, sacrificed by a week leader wanting to appease a mob, and hung on a cross. Brave as he was, he did not win over Herod. And yet, he won. We are still telling his story all these centuries later. His teachings took on new life. His disciples went forth and spread the gospel. And here we are on this second Sunday of Lent, still marveling at the bravery of Jesus. Our world puts a great deal of stock in winning. And yet, it is not the winning that is remembered. It is the bravery and the burdens and the hurdles along the way. It is how we face the challenge of our times that defines us. Someone who wins by crushing others is no true victor. The one who loses by sacrificing for the vulnerable, for what is true, for justice, and what they believe, they are the heroes of the hour. It is as the Bible says: those who lose their life, will gain it. We are seeing that happen in the world right now. The Ukrainians are outmatched and outgunned. They were expected to fall to Putin’s Regime within a couple days at most – so quickly in fact, that little was done to prepare international aid resources on the ground. And yet they have not fallen. They continue to defend democracy, and their nation, and their freedom. Their actions have inspired historic cooperation around the world. So where does that bravery go? We know, of course. It lives on, in the stories grandmothers tell their grandchildren, in the scripture that is read at church. It weaves its way through society. It reaches into the hearts of future generations. Long after the end has come, courage continues to speak to us. Long after the end, courage continues to set an example for us. That, perhaps, is the best we can do. We can reach back in time and convince Jesus to leave Jerusalem; that would be a fool’s errand anyway. We cannot, on our own, change what is to come for the people of Ukraine. But once in a while, we have a moment where an act of courage can change the world. It happened that day in Jerusalem. It is happening now, in a grand city a continent away, even as spring comes peacefully here in Ottawa. Let us be true witnesses. Let us listen for what courage is saying. Let us follow its example. Amen.
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