29 March 2020
Day of Pentecost
Gen 11:1 - 9 Followed by
In the beginning, Genesis says, the Spirit of God moved over the dark waters of chaos and the world was born. Everything including the peoples of the earth were formed in God's love
Humanity was born with gifts and power, the gift of freedom - the power to choose, and the gift of company, of friendship and intimacy -the power of co-operation, but as the Genesis stories tell it, the choices we made were thoughtless and harmful, and the gift became curses.
Adam and Eve turned against each other. Cain killed Abel in jealousy, and families passed their fears and their feuds from generation to generation.
The stories continue, and as generations passed, and human pride and arrogance grew. The people of the earth decided to make a tower - a tower so high, and so strong, that it would reach into heaven itself. When it was finished, the people said, it would show that their knowledge,
their power and their skills, were as great as the power and skills and knowledge of the creator. And its always disastrous when humans think they are God
And we continue the cycles
When Japan went to war in Korea and China in 1930's to get the raw materials they needed for continued growth, everything was mobilised, including the hearts minds and spirits of its people. With the world view that any outsiders were inferior, They were not only an unstoppable force but a great danger to every other race. When we define people as inferior , whether they be terrorists in Iraq or criminals even if they have done dreadful deeds as non human we are in jeopardy of ourselves becoming inhuman in how we treat others.
Japan - assuming its cultural superiority- fell into that trap. Defeat was bitter, and involved the terrible reality of nuclear weapons on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For the first time the destructive power of weapons could continue to affect future generations in ways we have just begun to realise.
Inhuman acts drive others to inhuman acts but it didn't stop there.
The good news Christians carry to the world is that that cycle can be broken by the love of God in those who know God
Acts 2: 1 - 21 Followed by
The Holy spirit of God moves in ways we can never dream of - people can understand and hear God?s message. New things can happen and barriers of race and language are overcome.
[ they make paper cranes - note the Holy Spirit is often spoken of as like a dove in the Bible, In Scotland the wild goose is used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and in New Zealand the Kotuku [white heron] is used as a symbol of the holy spirit sometimes - my stole has a dove and a kotuku on it]
Sadako Sasaki born in 1943. Sadako was two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. As she grew up, Sadako was a strong, courageous and athletic girl. In 1955, at age 11, while practising for a big race, she became dizzy and fell to the ground. Sadako was diagnosed with leukaemia, "the atom bomb" disease.
Sadako's best friend told her of an old Japanese legend which said that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako hoped that the gods would grant her a wish to get well so that she could run again. She started to work on the paper cranes and completed over 1000 before dying on October 25, 1955 at the age of twelve.
The point is that she never gave up. She continued to make paper cranes until she died.
Inspired by her courage and strength, Sadako's friends and classmates put together a book of her letters and published it. They began to dream of building a monument to Sadako and all of the children killed by the atom bomb. Young people all over Japan helped collect money for the project.
In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in Hiroshima Peace Park. The children also made a wish which is inscribed at the bottom of the statue and reads:
"This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the world
The superstition was transformed into people talking to each other and seeking peace
Just maybe God's Spirit is present when peace is being talked about.
Japan had no resources for dealing with defeat within its own spirituality as a nation except denial and suicide - although statistics show the suicide rate of Japanese officers was about the same as for German officers. They horrified themselves by their own behaviour towards one another in the desperate shortages during the first years of American occupation, Yet out of that disaster, the people of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki embraced peace with all the fervour that had previously gone into war., and provided the most effective movement toward world peace and certainly the use of nuclear weapons .
And strangely the words to talk about peace came from the Christian Japanese. Nagai Takashi, a doctor and scientist.
Nagai was a convert to Christianity after boarding with the Moriyama family, from which had come the leaders of the underground Christians during the time it was banned. Their daughter Midori introduced him to the faith and later they married.
Takashi was already suffering from leukaemia after being exposed to Xrays while screening patients for TB when the bomb came.
Every thing was totally mobilised for war when the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945 seeking out the huge Mitishibishi dockyards [which are still there today] and the munitions factories, which were worked by schoolchildren, prisoners of war and Korean forced labour .. The Bomb drifted north and exploded 500 metres above the ground above the prison, and the Cathedral destroying everything.
A copy of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs are in each of the peace museums. They are not very big. About the size of this pulpit and maybe reach to the top of the cross. One bomb!
Hiroshima is open and more flat land, but Nagasaki is like Wellington surrounded by hill ringing round the harbour. Those hills contained the blast to some extent.
Dr Nagai was working in the Nagasaki Medical College Radiation Department near the hypocentre when the blinding flash went off, As he and his colleagues dealt with their own injuries , then those who were injured, they puzzled over the nature of the injuries.. As the days went they realised that people kept on dying even although they may not have any obvious injuries. Those who had come to look for relatives also were dying. They then deduced that it was an atomic bomb that had been dropped and it was the radiation which was proving to be more deadly as the days went by. Those who had died in the first blast were the fortunate ones.
A few days later the emperor, whom none of them had ever heard speak before, announced the defeat. For those who worshipped the emperor, their God died also. Nagai, himself an ex-army doctor, was deeply shocked by the defeat. He wrote later of the events for the demoralised people in Nagasaki.
"Japan had lost the war but injured people are still alive. The war ended but our work as a rescue team was only just starting. The life of people not the rise and fall of the country was the most important issue. The Red Cross does not differentiate between friends and foes. I stagger to my feet saying "I must stand up" Then people also follow me. We do not work due to the pressure from the country under war. We come of our own volition knowing no one can save this person's life but us."
This may seem obvious to us and natural for a Christian but it did not reflect the Japanese way at that time.
In the Nagasaki museum there is a big statement in English and Japanese with photos from the Korean community.
It took my breath away.
"You left us to die, we look like you, we are your brothers and you had brought us here , but you took your own bodies from the rubble and left ours for their eyes to be picked by the crows. Even in death discriminated against us.
I was amazed that this is there and the Korean pain is acknowledged.
Both cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, give the story of the build up of Japanese aggression in China and Korea and the Pacific before moving into the story of the destruction, even although Japanese school history books had a gap between 1941 and 1945. This has raised resentment at what seemed an unprovoked attack by Americans- you realise that is important to tell history properly or there is only more hatred.
All views are given about the dropping of the bombs. In the Nagasaki museum there are taped and videoed interviews with survivors including some Australian prisoners of war who were working in the factories when the prison got demolished. The Peace park in Nagasaki is on the site of the prison and Cathedral. The Australian prisoners of war said the bomb was necessary to stop the war or even worse things would have happened. However there is also a high suspicion that the Manhattan project which produced the atomic bomb wanted somewhere to try it out. It had taken the co operation of the entire Western scientific world and an enormous amount of money to produce. Whatever the arguments it is clear that Nagasaki wants the bomb to be the last Nuclear weapon ever used
But how to deal with the disaster. How did these cities deal with with the terrible destruction and the ongoing radiation effects to this day.
The symbol of the bomb in Hiroshima is the atomic bomb dome but at Nagasaki it is a reconstruction of part of the wall of the cathedral that was all that was left standing in that area.
But much of the destruction was unseen. Dr Ngakai writes.
"The most horrifying aspect of the destruction caused by the bomb was the mental scars. Not only did the atom bomb burn everything up, but it also shattered our hearts and ruined human relationships. The greatest damage inflicted by the atomic bomb was the fact that we had lost our faith in humanity by being confronted with the ugliness of our own soul and also that of our neighbours."
Dr Nagai reflected on the why, how to make sense of it.
"It is not the atomic bomb that gouged this huge hole in the Urakami Basin. We dug it ourselves to the rhythm of military marches
Who turned the beautiful city of Nagasaki into a heap of ashes? We did. We started the foolish war ourselves."
He gave an address in the Urakami cathedral memorial service . This was at a time when some people were saying that the bombing was divine punishment. In a way that was continuous with the church's history of martyrs and persecution of the Christians in Nagasaki he talked about the offering that the many Christians
?"Is there not a deep relationship between the war?s end and the destruction of Urakami? Was not Urakami, the one holy place in Japan, chosen as a lamb for sacrifice on the altar?
I am glad that Urakami was chosen and raised up on God?s altar."
He was saying if the disaster had to happen anywhere it is the Christian community who were best equipped to deal with it, they were a sacrifice and how they responded was important.
They had followed in the footsteps of their saviour, Jesus, the Prince of peace who died for the peace of the world.
And that is where what could have been deep revenge was turned to peace and barreness turned to hope - That is the work of God - the Holy spirit moving among humans and letting them hear the call of peace.
They were told that nothing would grow for 75 years.
"There was not sound in the atomic field, not a tree or a wire to block the wind. "I want to bring life back to this dead place. I want to make it a blooming hill full of children smiling and singing."
The leadership of hope is here, Nagai gave his own money to buy cherry trees to plant in the bombed land.
"When we started to rebuild the town in that spirit , we found one of the bells of Angelus unbroken in the ruins of Urakami Cathedral. "
It had been forbidden to ring the bells during the war.
"Let us ring this bell! And bring courage and hope back to people's hearts"
"On Christmas Eve 1945, Dr Nagai supervised the bell being hauled up and it sounded over the silent wasteland "
It is ringing because this is the time of peace. It is the Bell of Peace.
A popular song at the time was the Bells of Nagasaki - not the Temple bells in this land of many shrines- but the bells of peace from a Christian church.
The Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have as part of their job the work for world peace. They speak in the United Nations and the protests of these cities stopped Nuclear bombs being dropped in the Korean war.
You notice things walking around the peace parks. Like all the beautiful trees are the same age about 57 years old. Trees of all sort bloom
This victims of the bomb had a terrible thirst there are flowing waters everywhere in these cities which pursue peace - Fountains, rivers, pools and waterfalls.
When the boat we were travelling on in the harbour went past the Mitishibishi shipyards and turned back to the city, the music of the "Bells of Nagasaki" was played and I noticed that every person on that boat were singing or mouthing the words
Spirit of Peace, Spirit of Love, Spirit of God moving in those who were once our enemies, reconciling, surprising us, on this day of Pentecost we have joy, for the Spirit is in the world.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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