Marking Hiroshima Day – 6 August 2023
I call on you, O God, for you will answer me;
give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show the wonder of your great love…
… and I – in righteousness I shall see your face.
(adapted from Psalm 17 vv6-7,15)
or below for the Rutter version.
For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:
Gracious God, to you we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.
For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light:
For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony
linking sense to sound and sight:
For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
pleasures pure and undefiled:
For each perfect gift and sign
of your love so freely given,
graces human and divine,
flowers of earth and buds of heaven:
Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917)
Prayers of approach & confession
You are our Maker, God.
You have given us a world full of wonder and beauty.
You have asked us to care for your world and to care for each other.
You are our Maker
And we are glad.
You are our friend, Jesus.
You tell us stories of seeds and of cities.
You confront us with joy and with justice.
You call us to life and to death and to new beginnings.
You are our friend
And we are glad.
You are our wisdom, Holy Spirit.
You strengthen us and surprise us, and you dance where you choose to.
You listen to our fears and you fill us with courage.
You are our wisdom
And we are glad.
You love us, God.
You know us.
You know how we hurt ourselves
how we hurt each other
how we hurt your world.
We are sorry, God.
We want to change.
Help us and heal us.
Listen to God’s words.
I love you.
I forgive you.
I ask you to act justly and to love kindly.
I call you to walk with me.
Thank you God. AMEN
(has a bonus verse!)
Break thou the bread of life,
O Lord, to me,
as thou didst break the loaves
beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page
I seek thee Lord;
my spirit longs for thee,
O living Word!
Thou art the Bread of Life,
O Lord, to me,
thy holy word the truth
that safety me;
give me to eat and live
with thee above;
teach me to love thy truth,
for thou art love.
O send thy Spirit, Lord,
now unto me,
that he may touch my eyes,
and make me see;
show me the truth concealed
within thy word,
and in they book revealed
I see the Lord.
v1 Mary Artemisia Lathbury (1841-1913)
vv2-3 Alexander Groves (1842-1909)
Reading: John 14.27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
Reading: Matthew 14.13-21
Feeding the Five Thousand
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
A marketing manager’s moment of brilliance led to the launch of two excellent, if contrasting, films a couple of weeks ago promoted as ‘Barbenheimer’: Barbie and Oppenheimer. I’ve not yet had the chance to see either, but both have a social and cultural message to convey: Barbie on women’s rights and their place in society, and Oppenheimer (about Robert Oppenheimer, ‘the father of the atomic bomb’) on the effects of the Manhattan Project, nuclear bombs and communist thought in 1950s America. Both have proven hits, although Barbie won the box office takings war.
On 6 August 1945 the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. A city of 350,000 people was almost obliterated. Deaths came not just from the initial blast but from the ensuing black smoke and radioactive rain that soaked what survivors there were, and then the longer-term cancerous effects of such exposure. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Oppenheimer quoted these words from the poetry of the Bhagavad-Gita, after watching the first detonation of a nuclear weapon:
If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendour of the Mighty One …
I am become Death,
The Destroyer of Worlds.
The bombs may have brought about the end of World War II but they didn’t end war. Instead we have gone through decades of Cold War, with nuclear arms proliferation, and now UN resolutions to reduce nuclear weapons (or to prevent some countries from creating them, such as North Korea and Iran). Still they exist, enough to blow the world up many times over. In the UK we term it a ‘nuclear deterrent’: defence is a much more palatable vote winner.
Can we ever get over our pride such that we will cut back on the weapons of war?
The fear of losing is so powerful that it is a destroyer of peace. Look at our planet and climate change. World leaders know the destruction humans are causing, and that drastic measures are needed to stop it, but to do so involves stepping back, reducing use of fossil fuels, lessening production, and thus lessening financial growth. It is too big a risk for anyone relying on votes.
Yet movements for peace have come from the atrocities of war. Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Perhaps based on a traditional folk tale, she resolved to make one thousand paper cranes in the hopes that she could be granted her greatest wish (to run again). She died at twelve years old from leukaemia, the ‘atom bomb’ disease. Her classmates completed the task for her. Her story, though, has inspired peacemakers around the world ever since. Thousands of cranes are made and sent to the peace parks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki every year.
The feeding of the 5000 is a miracle that appears in all four gospels. The disciples only had five loaves and two fish (in John’s gospel these are brought by a boy), evidently insufficient to feed the vast crowds that had flocked to hear Jesus. The disciples want to send the people away, to let them fend for themselves; but Jesus – filled with the same compassion that had let him continue to heal despite trying to get away from it all – saw the immediate need and met it. From little came much, and excess to spare.
Sadako Sasaki’s legacy is huge, as peace cranes are made around the world to remind us of the horrors of atomic bombs and the constant need to seek peace. Greta Thunberg’s ‘school strike’ started as a personal protest but evolved to be a protest by schoolchildren across the globe raising awareness of climate change. Jesus took five loaves and two fishes and created abundance.
God can use the little we have to offer and change the world.
In a world that is constantly asking for more – for growth, for moving forwards, for increased yields – can we be brave enough to simply ask for Jesus’ presence in our lives, and for God’s peace to be our full comfort? Can we continue to pray for world peace, when it still seems so far away? Can we offer what little we have and trust that God can multiply it?
Here is a link to the way to make peace cranes: https://www.instructables.com/How-to-make-a-Paper-Crane-1/ or follow the diagram attached at the end of the written worship. Use it as a focus for your prayers, or join with thousands of others by sending it to the peace parks of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Either (which is an easy tune to pick up)
or (which uses the actual STF tune).
Touch the earth lightly,
use the earth gently,
nourish the life of the world in our care:
gift of great wonder,
ours to surrender,
trust for the children tomorrow will bear.
We who endanger,
who create hunger,
agents of death for all creatures that live,
we who would foster
clouds of disaster –
God of our planet, forestall and forgive!
Let there be greening,
birth from the burning,
water that blesses and air that is sweet,
health in God’s garden,
hope in God’s children,
regeneration that peace will complete.
God of all living,
God of all loving,
God of the seedling, the snow and the sun,
teach us, deflect us,
Christ reconnect us,
using us gently, and making us one.
Shirley Erena Murray (b.1931)
Prayers of intercession
All knowing God, you understand the way we struggle with life and death. So we bring our prayers to you, and lay our problems at your feet.
We pray for those who are wrestling with the issues of war and peace. These matters are never clear-cut and violent reactions are never guaranteed to bring peace, yet evil must be defeated – and there is so much evil in the world.
Be with all those who are trying to bring peace into situations of conflict. We pray for politicians and all those with influence and power. Open their minds to constructive ways of peacemaking and conflict resolution.
Bless all innocent victims of war, who have no place to go to escape and no homes when it all ends.
Bless those in the armed forces whose job it is to fight when they are told – and especially bless those who are urged to fight for a cause they don’t understand, by people who have their own evil motives.
We pray for our own country, where social and class divisions cause friction and dispute. We pray for those who have reached such a stage of desperation that they feel that they can do nothing but resort to withdrawing their labour, as they demand fair pay and fair conditions for their work. And we pray for those in ACAS and other organisations that work to build bridges, find compromise and make peace.
We pray that our government may keep the NetZero target as a primary goal, prioritise the safety of the planet above that of corporate greed. We pray that all the political parties will recognise the enormity of the threat to our planet and seek unity in long-term strategies rather than short-term, vote-grabbing claims.
We pray for ourselves, and those we know and love. Let us never put our personal pride before that of others health and well-being, nor allow an unfounded fear of others to dictate our actions. Guide us every day in the path of your making.
As we are grateful for another day here, so may we hold before you those who are suffering from ill-health or grief, that they may be aware of your presence with them and your healing touch upon their lives.
We give thanks for those who have gone before us, those who have shown us the way of Christ and who are now united with you. May all the saints in heaven sing your praise, as they fall before your throne.
We offer our prayers in the sure promise that you hear us, filled with your love and compassion, and praying for peace on earth.
‘O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing!’
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The right hand of God is writing in our land,
writing with power and with love;
our conflict and our fears,
our triumphs and our tears,
are recorded by the right hand of God.
The right hand of God is pointing in our land,
pointing the way we must go;
so clouded is the way,
so easily we stray,
but we’re guided by the right hand of God.
The right hand of God is striking in our land,
striking out at envy, hate and greed;
our selfishness and lust,
our pride and deeds unjust,
are destroyed by the right hand of God.
The right hand of God is lifting in our land,
lifting the fallen one by one;
each one is known by name,
and lifted now from shame,
by the lifting of the right hand of God.
The right hand of God is healing in our land,
healing broken bodies, minds and souls;
so wondrous is its touch,
with love that means so much,
when we’re healed by the right hand of God.
The right hand of God is planting in our land,
planting seeds of freedom, hope and love;
in these many-peopled lands,
let his children all join hands,
and be one with the right hand of God.
Patrick Eugene Prescod (alt.)
Final prayer of blessing
When the world around is shattered and torn,
God holds us through shock and bewilderments.
When another disaster appears to be inexplicable,
God listens to our rage and hears our questions.
When the death toll is horrendous and injuries change lives for ever,
God weeps and wonders with us.
But be assured:
God will be with you in the desolation of your days
and in the darkest of your nights.
God will be with you in hopelessness and despair,
in fear and anger,
when all reason has gone.
God will be with you to love and to cherish you
until you are ready to face life again.
God will be with you.
God waits to guide us into this new unknown.
Bible passages: NRSV
Prayers of intercession and Blessing (both adapted): Andrew Pratt & Marjorie Dobson Poppies & Snowdrops (Inspire, 2006)
Prayers of approach & confession: Ruth Burgess & Kathy Galloway (eds) Praying for the dawn: A resource book for the ministry of healing (Wild Goose Publications, 2000)
Quote from ‘It came upon the midnight clear’, STF 205.
Peace crane photo: https://www.newroombristol.org.uk/event/one-thousand-origami-cranes/