The guys in the Saturday morning men’s group were in good mood. They had been meeting in person for a while last year but then when COVID spiked again, they had gone back to meeting on Zoom, and today was the first time they were back together at the Main Café in months.

After 15 minutes of light-hearted banter, Dominique said, “Well guys, I guess we’d better get down to what we’re here for.” He volunteered to offer the prayer.

After the chorus of amens in unison, Alice, who had been waiting to take their orders, opened the next phase of the conversation, “You guys must be smoking weed. I used to pray but gave that up a long time ago. I never got any answers.”uk

She took their orders, and as she walked away she looked back over her shoulder. “And what is your Jesus going to do to the Russians? Wash their feet?” 

“You know,” said Asch as Alice headed toward the kitchen, “I believe in prayer, but when it comes to Ukraine, I’m not sure what to pray for.”

Eric responded, “I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve been praying for someone to assassinate Putin.”

“I hear you, Eric, but can you imagine Jesus carrying an assault rifle?”

“No, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I can’t imagine Jesus doing that, but Passover is coming up, as well as Holy Week, and isn’t that the time when our Jewish friends remember God killing all the first-born boys in Egypt, then wiping out Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea?”

Mitty took a deep breath, “Eric, it does seem like we have to choose between a God who defeats the enemy outside of us or saves us from the one tormenting us inside.

Dominique added, “Jesus said go and do likewise. To me that means what we decide about God is what we have to conclude about ourselves and what we need to do, however small.”

As they often did when the men in the Saturday fellowship faced a conundrum, they went quiet.

“So, Pastor,” Eric said, breaking the silence. “You’re going to pray for Ukraine tomorrow, right? What are you going to pray for? For us to forgive the Russians and pray for peace? Or for God to free the Ukrainians by drowning Putin’s army in the Black Sea?”

Another minute of silence followed until Asch spoke up. “I think Alice would contend that Jesus was a loser.”

When he got home, Mitty immediately called his neighbor. 

“Michael,” he asked, “when you’re sitting at the seder in your temple, what are you thinking?”

“What am I thinking?”

“Yeah. You know. About God. I mean, are you thinking about God as a warrior who defeats the evil oppressor?”

“Oh, I see. You mean like El Shaddai who cursed the oppressive enemy with 10 plagues and then wiped out his army?”

“Yeah. Like that,” Mitty replied. “Passover and Holy Week happen at the same time, right? And God in the Passover story defeats evil and in the Holy Week story it seems like evil defeats God … at least this side of heaven.”

Michael gathered his thoughts. “Well, in our temple Rabbi Levine tends to interpret the Passover story in psychological and spiritual terms. You know, God is about setting us free from our own inner bondage. Like alcoholism or prejudice.”

“OK. But in Israel aren’t there a lot of hard-core orthodox folks who interpret Passover as a story about defeating their earthly enemies? Like Hamas and Iran and everyone who wants Allah to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. Like those enemies are the modern day pharaohs?”

Michael sighed, “Sure and we have a few people at temple who want Biden to send troops to Ukraine, Putin and his nuclear weapons be damned. Literally.”

“But seriously, Michael. If evil is real, and if Putin is evil, what do I tell my people on Good Friday after we read the story about a God who dies on a cross?”

“I know, Walt. And the victory is postponed till the final judgment. But when I think about it, Rabbi Levine just can’t bring himself to talk about God as warrior. It’s like we liberals can’t tolerate thinking about a God who would kill all the first-born in Egypt, so we have to interpret that story as an internal liberation.”

Mitty’s imagination pictured Union troops going into battle in the Civil War singing, “Glory, glory Hallelujah. His truth is marching on.”

He tried to imagine himself marching with them.