A few weeks ago an invitation went out to our congregation and the community to undertake the challenge of making Peace Cranes for today, August 6th – Remembrance of Hiroshima Day.
The response is evident in bags filled with colorful paper cranes.
Many are ready to string together to form a long chain to give to each to each of the 12 students and 2 staff from Japan's Tohoku Gakuin University when they worship with us next Sunday, and there are enough for each of you to receive a Peace Crane today, and to take as many as you can and give to others. As you do, share Sadako’s Story as told by her brother and later written up by Michael Rose.
On August 6th in 1945 two-year-old Sadako and her family had just come in for lunch when the blast came. She was blown outside the house and found sitting on a box in the yard. Her clothes were burned and torn. She was dazed but not injured.
A heavy, thick rain started to fall and cover them while they waited by the river not knowing where to go or what to do. It was the “black rain” of irradiated debris from the raging firestorms throughout the city, that also polluted the water. Breathing or swallowing it or any food it touched could result in radiation poisoning.
Hungry and almost naked, no one knew what had happened or where to go. After five hours they were picked up by a friend coming down the river in a boat and sailed for about four hours until they came upon a community shelter. Their father eventually found them and the family was reunited, and they put the horrors of that day behind them.
Sadako, labeled by friends as a bit of a “tom boy,” grew into an outstanding runner who excelled at gymnastics, and thought she was fine. But in October of 1954, just short of ten years after the bomb exploded, she noticed she had swollen lymph nodes and was sent to the doctors at the American run Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. They diagnosed her as having leukemia brought on by the radiation.
The disease progressed rapidly and she was confined to the hospital one month later. Her parents never told her she had leukemia and she never let them know she knew the prognosis wasn’t good, and that she didn’t want to die.
Her father told her a Japanese legend that said if you folded one thousand paper cranes you would be granted a wish. She began furiously folding cranes. She made 1,000, knowing she wasn’t going to survive, she started a second batch with her wish being peace. Her classmates, family and friends pitched in. But unfortunately, she was only able to fold 644 more cranes when she died Oct. 25, 1955 - not quite a year after being diagnosed.
Her classmates continued folding to the count of 356, so Sadako was buried surrounded by 1,000 cranes. Then her friends started to collect money to build a statue in her memory. In 1958, the statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was erected in Hiroshima’s Peace Park. A plaque on the statue reads: “This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world.”
A plea that is constantly being thwarted in this Nuclear Age. On July 28 an Air France Flight 293 from Tokyo to Paris came just minutes away from disaster when North Korea launched a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead into the Sea of Japan.
The prospect for peace is even more fragile than a paper Peace Crane and the plaque’s plea for “peace in the world” is constantly being threatened.
As I wrestled with a square piece of paper, trying to make one fold after another and couldn’t master making a Peace Crane, I began to see a greater failure is to work at living in peace with one another, beginning with those closest to us. Last week was a painful example. The Wi-Fi set up to be available to volunteers at the special exhibits in Wittenberg during this summer’s events at the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, didn’t work. You never heard from me even though I was sending email reports to you, and hearing nothing, you had every reason to think you didn’t matter. that I didn’t care enough to keep in touch.
It was a lesson in wrestling – not with trying to fold a piece of paper to take on the shape of a Peace Crane,
but in struggling to find a way to communicate with one another, lest a feeling of being rejected can lead to hurt and hurt can lead to anger, and anger to hate – the extreme opposite of a Peace Crane-like life that lives out the word “blessing.”
“Blessing” the word picked up in today’s Gospel as we witness Jesus blessing a meager lunch of five leaves and two fish that passed from His hands to His disciples’ hands, to share with all – no discrimination based on wealth or education or social standing or family status or orientation, but ALL discovering the joy of sitting and eating and talking with one another, ALL being guests of Jesus.
What we discovered was happening as we sat and folded paper into Peace Cranes with the help of an expert in origami, and as we folded we talked, and as we talked we felt ourselves discovering the Apostle Paul’s charge to the first-century Christians in Ephesus, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3
Folding Peace Cranes together, with each helping the other, became an exercise in becoming acquainted with one another. A Peace Crane project was blessing us with peace.
Last week, when in Wittenberg, our group looked out from our display area at an odd sight in the distance:
tall columns of wood look like a huge box needing some kind of covering. When getting closer, shorter columns of wood staked out floor plans, one to the left, another to the right, and a third in the back. A posted sign explains that the stakes to the right outlined a synagogue, the ones to the back – a Christian church, and the ones to the left – a mosque; each leading onto the large open center where wooden boxes made a circle of seats. The wording reads “Our world – full of distrust and violence between cultures, nations and religions needs places of peace. The House of One is such a place…and people who help to create them.” After the Reformation Exhibit it will be moved to Berlin to serve to convey a sense of the planned structure.
That message intended to be conveyed through the House of One is already visible in Hiroshima’s Peace Park where a cone-like column is topped with the form of Sadako raising a Peace Crane, which when viewed from the front, takes on the shape of a cross, for us Christians – the sign of the One Who is our Peace and calls us to work to live at peace with one another.
So, take a Peace Crane for yourself and take some to give to others and hear the voice of Jesus saying,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
Blessed to be a blessing! Amen.