Sunday, August 11, 2013

Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki

This summer, the creative worship committee I chair at our church decided we wanted to observe the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the two cities in Japan. We built the service around a liturgy available online from the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), which the congregation read in halves as the Prayer of Confession, because "Human voices speaking together are a powerful force in this world." I appended this thought for meditation:

Even while recognizing that the decision to drop the bombs was not made lightly, we would do well to meditate on the suffering they wrought on Japanese civilians. The bombings set a precedent that has never—yet—been repeated.

One committee member folded all these cranes--from very little ones to large ones--and another arranged them around the altar. After the Children's Message, the kids could come up and choose a colorful crane to take home with them to remember the lesson. It was on Elizabeth Coerr's children's book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (1977). Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the Enola Gay dropped "Little Boy" on her hometown of Hiroshima. Like so many other local children, she was later diagnosed with leukemia. Sadako died within the year. By then she had managed to fold 644 origami cranes, but not the 1,000 that legend said were necessary for her wish of healing to be granted. Her classmates finished the task and buried them all with her.

We sang a number of beautiful hymns:
  • "This Is My Song" ~ a very familiar tune (Finlandia) that accrued renewed meaning for me in this service: "This is my songoh God of all the nations, / a song of peace for lands afar and mine."
  • "When Our Song Says Peace" ~ a short piece we recently learned at a worship arts convention that encourages social justice: "When our song says peace and the world says war, we will sing despite the world."
  • "Goodness is Stronger Than Evil" ~ an even shorter melody that began as a prayer by Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "Goodness is stronger than evil, Love is stronger than hate; Light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death."
  • "We Cannot Measure How You Heal" ~ I thought this was a brilliant pick by the choir director as a way to close the service: "Lord, let your Spirit meet us here / to mend the body, mind and soul, / to disentangle peace from pain / and make your broken people whole." 
The anthem was a beautiful setting of "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace."

For the prelude Dear Husband played a solo-organ version of Flor Peeters' "Aria" (1945), which was originally the second movement of a sonata for trumpet and piano (1943). It always amazes me the kind of art and music that came out of World War II. For the offertory DH chose jazz pianist Bill Evans' "Peace Piece" (1958), a lilting improvisation.

The sermon was quite interesting, as the pastor chose to meld the theme with the lectionary reading from Isaiah 1. He focused on the apocalyptic nature of an event like those on August 6 and 9, 1945, and on the best way to approach controversial social and political issues: "in house" and listening to both/all perspectives. Verse 18 reads: "Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." It is much better "to argue" (and maybe to get something done) than to go through the rituals of religion only; through this process the church's sin of silence in the face of injustice is forgiven.

An image of the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome graced the front cover of the bulletin. It reminded me of another verse from the First Testament reading: "Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners." ~ Isaiah 1:7

Hiroshima A-Bomb-Dome

There is a simple inscription under the Sadako statue in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and with this I close: "This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in the world."

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