I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord … “I am an American Fighting Man …” But what do you do in the in-between spaces??? …
As the once good airman stood with these new Russian friends, this Russian family, he remembered …“Echo, Victor, India, Lima, Delta, Alfa, Yankee … Standby.” “Echo, Victor, India, Lima, Delta, Alfa, Yankee … Standby.” “Echo, Victor, India, Lima …” and on and on and on …
The airman delivered the words in the well-practiced voice of the professional, sung them out with clarity and precision. For his message, delivered with surety and measured tone, was meant to convey a word of immeasurable proportion. It was a fine art, no doubt, the art of the master, delivered with no less care than a Rembrandt. It was brought to existence by the precise movement of those who had perfected this dance, this song of the New Age. Yet his art was not the beauty of prose, but the prelude to an act of horror, an act of nightmarish consequence.
He was enmeshed in an activity in which he had partaken hundreds of times, as he and six other men and women had hurdled through the sky high above the Pacific Ocean on an airborne command post that provided the control for hundreds of nuclear weapons pointed at Russia.
And had the airman ever read those words for real, great locks would have been blown, giant blast shields would have swung aside, and immense vehicles ferrying the destructive power of a thousand generations would have slid from their protected silos buried deep within the ground.
Had the airman read those words for real, those vehicles and their horrific cargo would have ended their journey in fire and explosion and nightmare, and most of the folks in the room where he now stood would have died in a most horrible way.
As the now middle-aged airman stood here among these beautiful Russian brothers and sisters and remembered, as he stood awashed by the wonder of their music delivered in the voice of God, he knew, he knew with absolute certainly, that had he ever been asked to read those words for real, he would have done his job.
He would have done his job.
Later that day, there at that Annual Conference of the Russian United Methodist Church,someone who knew his story took him down front and introduced him to Demitri Lee, the District Superintendent of the Moscow District.
They said, “Tell him your story, tell him your story.” As the middle-aged airman began to speak to Demitri, tears began to run down Demitri’s face and Demitri’s shoulders begin to shake, and then he reached over and grabbed the once-young airman in the tightest bear hug. In a broken voice, Demitri began choking out an explanation, “We never knew the truth, we were taught we were to hate you. We never knew the truth.” “But my brother,” the airman replied with equal emotion, “That’s my line.”
And Demitri Lee wept. Demitri Lee, the retired two star Soviet general, one of the ones that the airman spent most of his adult life learning to kill, one of the princes of that nation which had been called “the evil empire,” wept. And the airman who would once have willingly rained nuclear annihilation upon his enemy’s world, now wept with him. And there they stood, baptized in the tears of the One who would weep for us all.
Soon, the singing began again. It was a song the airman had heard many times, a song he had sung a hundred times before. The words were the cry of the hopeful, the voice of faith offered by a beautiful people who had for so long been denied faith.
“Vot ya zdes’ Gospod’. Eto ya Gospod’. Uslihal ya golos tvoi v nochi. Ya poidu Gospod’, ukazhi mne put’. Budu serdzem s etimi lud’ mi.” “Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? He … I heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.” And in this place of the enemy, in this place of song, there were no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor Russian, nor American. There were no longer those who struggle against one another. There was no longer any need for arms and missiles and bombs and war. There were just those clinging together who found that because of this Jesus who would not stay tucked safely away in creeds and formulas, they could do no other.
I believe in God … the creator and sustainer of the cosmos, the narrator of all that is, the almighty to whom all flags bow.
I believe in Jesus. Lord. The one who said, “Love your enemy.” The one who said, “Gouge out your eye.” The one who said, “Be ye perfect.” I believe in this Jesus, the one who refuses to dismiss us over to our own devilish acts of hate. I believe in this one who calls me “brother.” The one who calls my friend Demitri “brother.” Jesus Christ, God’s son, who through his life, death, and resurrection, makes brothers and sisters of us all.
I believe that I didn’t kill my friend Demitri. Thank God.