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August 5, 2005

Hiroshima Day Sermon for the Feast of the Transfiguration

(Luke 9:28-36; Jonah 3:1-12)

"Sermon for Hiroshima Day Mass for the Feast of the Transfiguration" Santa Maria de la Paz Church, Santa Fe, NM, August 5, 2005

Tomorrow, we commemorate two events, one a great holy event, the other an evil, demonic event. On the one hand, we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, when he was revealed as the face of the God of peace, as he exploded with the spiritual power of inner nonviolence and unconditional love into the light of the world, the fullness of love and peace for the whole human race. So beautiful!

On the other hand, we remember that 60 years ago, our country dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and vaporized 140,000 people in a flash and did it again three days later in Nagasaki. Dorothy Day, founde r of the Catholic Worker, called our bombing of Hiroshima, "the anti-transfiguration," and said in effect that we have rejected Jesus' loving nonviolence, and created our own demonic light, the blast of the bomb, the dark cloud, and instead of bringing light and peace to the human race, we are bringing death and destruction to all.

So tonight, I'd like to reflect with you on three things: the culture of the anti-transfiguration; our call to be fulfill Jesus' mission of transfiguration nonviolence; and our plan to repent of the sin of war like the people of Nineveh in sackcloth and ashes.

First, we have to recognize and name, that we live in the culture of the anti-transfiguration.

Instead of pursuing global peace and justice, our country is pursuing the anti-transfiguration, the Bomb, like never before, and we see it's fall out everywhere--in the 35 wars happening today, the terrible global poverty which kills 40,000 every day, the death penalty, the war on Iraq, the destruction of the environment, and so forth, but mainly, in our arsenal of 20,000 nuclear weapons, our willingness to vaporize the whole human race, and to do so in the name of God, as if God blesses war, as if God wants us to destroy creation, as if violence were the will of God, as if these weapons of mass destruction really protect us or offer us any true security instead of being what they are--idols of death, false gods, the demonic.

And this anti-transfiguration culture is trying to instruct us, the church, on sin and morality, telling us what is right and wrong, distracting us from the criminal, immoral, and sinful murder of 130,000 Iraqis in the last two years or the development of these weapons at Los Alamos. Unfortunately, many people in the church are being misled by the culture of the Bomb. So like Dorothy Day, we have to be clear about our predicament.

Second, I would say, because of this, because of our story, we are called to go forth into this culture to fulfill Jesus' mission of Transfiguration nonviolence.

The way I read the story, Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus who turns into bright white light, the biblical sign of martyrdom, and they start encouraging Jesus to complete his mission, which Luke calls the new Exodus, that Jesus should go to Jerusalem, turn over the tables of injustice in an act of peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience, and accept the consequences, and get arrested and be executed, and go to the cross in a spirit of perfect nonviolent, forgiving, suffering love, and redeem the whole human race.

I think that as his followers, our job is to carry on that mission of transfiguration nonviolence, to follow Jesus down the mountain, confront systemic injustice, and go with him to the cross with perfect nonviolent, forgiving, suffering love.

According to Matthew's version, after the voice speaks from the cloud, Jesus touches the disciples and says "Rise and do not be afraid." I think that's what he is doing to us on this feast. Jesus is touching us and saying to each one of us, "Rise and do not be afraid. Follow me down the mountain to the cross. Carry on my mission of transfiguration nonviolence."

So from now on, we are on a mission of transfiguration nonviolence, to practice unconditional, all-inclusive, all-encompassing, universal love toward everyone everywhere, to walk the way of the cross, and to be the light of the world in this time of darkness.

How do we do this? The voice from the cloud says first we have to listen to Jesus which means we have to take time every day for contemplative prayer with the God of peace, to allow God to disarm our hearts of the violence within us, to be with Jesus, to hear what Jesus is saying to us, and then go and do it.

And when we listen to Jesus, we hear a few simple commandments: Love one another; love your neighbor; forgive one another; be as compassionate as God; seek first God's reign and God's justice; do unto others as you would have them do unto you; put down the sword and Love your enemies." That is the mission for the rest of our lives.

So finally, as people of transfiguration nonviolence, we go forth from this church to Los Alamos to repent of the sin of war and nuclear weapons.

Last fall, those of us in Pax Christi turned to this famous story from the book of Jonah, the only place in the Bible where an entire town converted, and we decided to try to do what they did. So tomorrow morning we're going to the place where they built the actual bomb which vaporized the people of Hiroshima, and like the people of Nineveh, we're going to put on sackcloth and ashes and in our hearts repent of the sin of war and nuclear weapons, really renounce our violence and our intent to use these horrific weapons, and beg God for the gift of peace, for a new world without war or nuclear weapons or poverty.

Through our witness, we are saying that these weapons are criminal, illegal, idolatrous, unjust, unnecessary, immoral, sinful, demonic and impractical; that they don't protect us; they don't make us safer; that the billions spent on them rob the world's poor of food, water, medicine, homes and education; that these weapons put us all in danger, that they are the ultimate form of terrorism, and that they are blasphemous before God, an affront to the Creator. The ashes we will sit in will remind us of the ashes of Hiroshima, where all that was left of over 140,000 people was a few ashes. And the story of Nineveh reminds us also of what our country is doing today, because as you know, the ancient city of Nineveh is today known as Mosul, in Iraq, a place which we have leveled, and where we have used depleted uranium.

But as we repent of this social sin and our own personal violence, we reclaim the story of the transfiguration, we turn back to the transfigured Christ, listen to his commandments of nonviolence, take them to heart and carry on his work of peace for the rest of our lives and in the process, we will be transfigured and taste the new life of resurrection where we are all headed, and we will become, like him, the light of the world. So I'd like to conclude with 3 little prayers and ask you to answer each by saying Amen:

God of Transfiguration, transfigure us that we will always listen to Jesus, that we will always follow the nonviolent Jesus even on the way of the cross, that we will always confront injustice as he did, oppose evil as he did, and be faithful to your gift of love and peace as he is. Amen.

God of peace, disarm our hearts and send us forth into this anti-transfiguration culture, to Los Alamos, to repent of the sin of war and nuclear weapons and to call New Mexico and our country and our church to be converted to the wisdom of nonviolence, to be transfigured from a land of nuclear violence into a new holy land of Gospel nonviolence. Amen.

God of light, lead us back from the brink of nuclear destruction, guide us through the dark night of this culture of war into the new light of your peace. Give us your gift of peace that we might live in peace with you and one another and all people everywhere, that we too might be transfigured, that we might all shine with the light of Christ, that there will be no more wars, no more nuclear weapons, no more poverty, no more tears, no more violence, no more death. Amen.

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