Sermon: Longing for Peace (5/1/16)

Do you long for peace?  May is a great time to ask that question, isn’t it?  Graduations, school endings, preparations for summer vacation, getting back into a routine of yard work, all that extra daylight pointing out all the house-cleaning you didn’t do during winter… And traffic.  Always, traffic.  Yeah, May is a good time to talk about our longing for peace.

But peace in our schedules or on I-75 or 400, that’s only surface peace, isn’t it?  What about the deeper places longing for peace?  Places of grief or internal conflict or indecision or doubt?  Places of relational conflict or stress or distress?  Places in our communities, in our country, throughout the world that seem always to be on the brink of chaos?

We are a peace-seeking people–that’s why we sing every week “Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me…”  But how do we do it?  How does peace begin with each of us?  What might we do to create peace on earth?

Today’s Gospel lesson comes from Jesus’ last words to his disciples before his arrest.  He’s gathered with the disciples for the Passover meal and shares with them his “last thoughts” before leaving them.  It’s pretty long–kind of like the professor who, on the last day of class, tries to cram in the second half of the syllabus she hasn’t gotten to yet.  This long speech of Jesus’ is sometimes called “The Farewell Discourse.”  It’s well-named.

Key themes here at the beginning of the speech are love and peace.  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” Jesus says.  Then he promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will remind them of all he has said, all he’s saying to them in this long after-dinner discourse.  Then Jesus promises them the gift of peace.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

When I first read this passage, I thought it contained two different themes–love and peace.  As I contemplated which to focus on in the sermon, love or peace, I realized that the two walk hand in hand–Peace comes from loving; loving from peace.  If we love Jesus, we’ll keep his commandments.  And what were those commandments?  To love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.  The best way to express love to God is to live love toward others, yes, to act them into well-being.

As I reflected on how I might explain the relationship between peace and love to you all–and being only half-successful in the attempt–this week’s copy of the etidings appeared in my inbox for proofing.

And there it was!  The artwork for the back of this year’s VBS t-shirt, designed by Isaac Martin.  When I saw Isaac’s depiction of Peace and Love sitting together at a campfire, I realized I had been making things way too complicated.  If the close connection between peace and love is simply a given–as it is for Isaac and for most children–what’s the point of parsing it, explaining it, footnoting it?  Just bring them both to the warmth of the campfire and enjoy.

Every Advent on Peace Sunday, we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah as he tries to help the people imagine a more peaceful future.  He says:  The wolf shall live with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

“A child shall lead them.”  There are many things we adults need to share with children.  Guiding children is one of our main jobs as adults, especially as adults who are part of a community of faith.  But sometimes, what we most need is to listen and to allow ourselves to be led by the children in our lives.

So….we have peace cranes!

Do you know the story of peace cranes?  The story of these particular peace cranes is that they were created at a Worship Team crane-making party.  I’m sure there are many stories to tell from the party…but those will have to wait for another time.  🙂

Here’s the story of how the peace crane movement got started.  August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.  About a mile from ground zero, a two year old girl named Sadako Sasaki lived with her family.  The initial blast sent little Sadako flying through a window.  Her mother ran after her daughter, fearing the worst.  As it happened, Sadako wasn’t even injured.

Along with their friends and fellow country people, Sadako and her family began finding their “new normal” after the bombing.  As we know now, the effects of radiation aren’t only lethal initially; they’re also devastating for those who survive the initial blast.

At the end of 1954, when she was 12, Sadako developed swelling on her neck and behind her ears.  Purple lesions began appearing on her legs.  In February 1955, Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia–at the time called “atom-bomb disease”–and admitted to the hospital.

Understandably, Sadako was frightened.  She did not want to die.  Five months into her hospitalization, 1000 peace cranes arrived at the hospital.  Following a legend from Japanese folklore that one’s wish will be granted after folding 1000 peace cranes, a group of high school students had created the cranes for children at the hospital.  From that point, Sadako began folding cranes.  With each crane, she prayed that she would be cured and not die.

Sadly, Sadako’s prayer for healing was not answered in the way she’d hoped.  She died October 25, 1955.  Feeling sad and helpless at the loss of their friend, Sadako’s sixth grade classmates at Bamboo School sought a way to honor her.  They decided to commission a statue.  When word of the plan got out, school children from all over the country collected money.  The result of their effort is a sculpture of Sadako releasing a crane at the Hiroshima Peace Park.  It has become a tradition for children to place peace cranes at Sadako’s statue.

In 2012, the United Nations took the tradition a step further.  The UN’s International Peace Day team (a reminder that International Peace Day is September 21st each year) contacted Sue DiCicco, a former Disney animator and illustrator of children’s books.  Through her organization, Armed with the Arts, Sue seeks to use the arts to “guide the world’s youth towards a conversation about peace, community, harmony, and connectedness.”

When the UN Peace Day team asked Sue to create a project for children for International Peace Day, the Peace Crane Project was born.  On the Armed with the Arts website, Sue says this about the Project.

“Since launching the Peace Crane Project in late 2012, my goal to arm our children with the skills to express themselves creatively, and connect them to one another through the arts has been met with astounding enthusiasm and support around the world. The United Nations Peace Day team has been incredibly generous in their support and encouragement.  Rubia Braun, a friend and fellow creative, has been instrumental as well, producing a series of global videos to capture the essence of the Project.  But, at its core, are….the teachers, parents, and community leaders that have joined in, one by one…and are making the Project their own and through it, are building  a more harmonious world of tomorrow.

“To date, nearly one million children, from 154 countries, have joined in.  Our participants engage and communicate with one another every day of the year, often building on the network I have created, and bringing a new level of compassion, appreciation, and understanding to their communities.”

This next part, I’ve shared with Miss Janet.

“In addition to overseeing the Project this year,” Sue writes, “I’m exploring the possibility of installing a series of large scale exhibits around the world, each featuring one thousand origami cranes in flight.  Every child participating in the Peace Crane Project will be invited to write a poem about peace, fold it into an origami crane, then send it to me for inclusion in this special art installation.  I look forward to developing this celebration of our children, and our universal goal for peace and understanding in our homes, communities, countries, and planet.”   (www.armedwiththearts.org)

As we begin exploring our summer theme of acting the world into wellbeing, the Peace Crane Project is a great place to start.  I’m guessing it might take a while to create 1000 origami cranes.  But it’ll take as long as it takes, right?  And we’re going to invite the whole community to participate in crane creation.  (I’m already thinking of starting a group for women of a certain age:  “Crones for Cranes.”)  Who knows what might happen if we use our time of folding cranes to pray for peace in the world?  (At the rate some of us fold, that’s going to be a LOT of prayer time!)  If we pray for peace….and share those prayers with people around the world…I don’t know.  It might just become a reality.

I want to close by showing a video created by the Peace Crane Project–it’s a global song, that is, a single song sung by people (mostly children) around the globe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt7pjk09S4w

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  ©  2016

About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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