Meditations on Peace

August 4, 2019 — Rev. Paula Norbert

In Paul’s lovely letter to the Colossians, we hear these inspiring words, “Clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Earlier this summer, we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the DDay invasion on June the 6th, 1944, which is considered the beginning of the end the war in Europe. As the war raged on in the Pacific, the decision was made to drop the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945 with the bombing of Nagasaki three days later. This week, we remember those sad days in world history. As many as 250,000 people were killed, most of them civilians. As I researched the number of those who lost their lives during this tragic war, estimates seem to vary widely, but number from 70-85 million people. It’s almost impossible to imagine, isn’t it? And Paul’s words from his letter seem almost naïve, don’t they? Throughout history, conflicts have arisen between tribes and nations, within families and communities, and still, we dream of peace; we work for peace; we hope for peace. Rev Henri Nouwen in his book entitled A Cry for Mercy offered this prayer for peace. Let us pray, O Lord, awaken the consciousness of all peoples and their leaders, Raise up men and women full of love and generosity Who can speak and act for peace, and show us new ways in which hatred can be left behind, Wounds can be healed and unity can be restored. Amen.

On November 10, 1946, Rev. Dr. A. Powell Davies of the All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC, gave a famous sermon called Lest the Living Forget. In it, he denounced an insensitive national newspaper image celebrating the atomic bomb taskforce. The photograph depicted two admirals smiling as a well-dressed woman cut a three-foot-high cake topped with angel-food puffs in the shape of the mushroom clouds that had appeared over Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the atomic bombs exploded.

Rev. Davies’s sermon, preaching conscience and compassion, came to the attention of Dr. Howard Bell, a civilian official with General Douglas MacArthur’s provisional government in Japan. Dr. Bell wrote to Rev. Davies to inform him of the heartbreaking plight of the children in the schools of what remained of Hiroshima, suggesting that American children clean out their desks and send pencil stubs and leftover crayons to the students in Japan.

In response, Rev. Davies delivered a sermon on February 13, 1947, entitled “In Reply to a Letter from Japan,” to which the children of All Souls Church responded by collecting a half ton of pencils, crayons, paper, erasers, paste, and paper clips for the Hiroshima children. The supplies arrived in Japan in December 1947 and were distributed to the Honkawa School, the Fukuromachi School, and the Ninoshimakisen Orphanage.

In appreciation, the school children in Hiroshima created original works of art in crayon, water color, pen, and calligraphic brush, which they sent back to All Souls as gifts. In 1948, the drawings, filled with life and a vision of the future, were sent on a tour of the United States by the federal government. Today, they continue to serve as a powerful message about reconciliation, peace, and hope.

The Rabbi Harold Kushner shared a reflection on the quest for peace in our world… (Excerpt from Peace Prayers)