Folding Peace

FOLDING PEACE  (Matthew 18v21-35)
A twelve year old little girl lay in a hospital bed folding origami cranes.  50 little papery birds lined up on her nightstand, a mound of a hundred more piled up on her bed in front of her criss-cross apple sauce knees.  And, although her hands ached and the places where blood had been drawn from her anemic skin refused to clot closed, she kept folding, quietly creasing, 200… 300 cranes.  Around the room the other children watched from their hospital beds as Sadako, day after day amassed a mountain of cranes in front of her. 400, 500 cranes. Sadako focused all her thoughts on the cranes for two reasons.  She knew the Japanese legend that if one was able to fold 1,000 origami cranes they would be granted the deepest desire of their heart.  She was now halfway to 1,000, and she wanted to live.  More than anything, she wanted to live. But she also knew that everyday beds around her were becoming empty and the children were not coming back.
They called it Lukemia.  She was one of the, more than 430,000  hibakusha – the name given to those who had survived the atomic bombs that the Americans dropped on Hiroshima and Nagisaki.  Nearly one hundred and fifty thousand people had been killed instantaneously.  There was nothing left, but a shadow burned into the ground.   But she was one of the thousands who remained, and the bomb remained with her.  It was in her bones and in her blood cells.  It was burned across her skin. 600 cranes.  Sadako was now only 400 cranes away from receiving her wish.  But she got tired easily.  Her fingers barely had the strength to complete 10 cranes a day.  She realized that soonher bed would be empty, like the other children’s beds.  It happened gradually, she decided to change her wish.  It would no longer be to get well and live.  Her wish would be peace.  Her wish would be peace with the Americans who put that bomb in her.  Her wish would be peace between those who wanted to create suffering in each other.  She had known suffering all her life, and wanted more than anything, even more than her saving her own life, she wanted peace for the world that had dealt her so much pain.
Jesus was asked, “What is too much to forgive? What is too often to forgive?  What are the limits of forgiveness?” I want a world with clear cut good guys and bad guys who are identified by the color of their cowboy hats. It’s far too confusing to have a world of victimizers who were first victims.  Some might be upset that on the anniversary of an event that deeply hurt our nation I’ve chosen to turn our attention to another event in which we took the lives of nearly ten times the innocent civilians in another nation. But Jesus says, “That’s where forgiveness starts: In discovering our equality with those that hurt us and becoming grateful for own forgiveness. It’s in discovering the log within our own eye, and trusting in God’s mercy and relying upon God’s justice.”  Jesus says, “The impetus for you to forgive those that deeply hurt you, is born out of your own experience of God’s overshadowing forgiveness of you.”
It’s one thing to talk about this on a national or global level, but it’s an entirely different thing when it hits the ground in your relationship to your spouse, to your room mate, to your children or your parents…  It’s the relationship that you are praying that I wont name next.  It’s personal.  You can feel the heat of the energy around it and now you know that we’re getting close. Forgiveness certainly does not mean continuing in a relationship as a victim.  Forgiveness redraws proper lines for boundary keeping.  Forgiveness takes back rightful power.  Forgiveness finds protection in the community and in God.  Forgiveness says I will no longer give over space in my mind and my heart for you to continue to hurt me, even years after the tragedy.  Forgiveness releases the one that hurt you, but it also releases you.  But this power to forgive can only come from being forgiven yourself.
Jesus was asked, “What are the limits of forgiveness?”  To answer this question he tells a ridiculous story about a guy, who, after being forgiven his own impossibly insurmountable debt, turns right around and demands payment on an insignificant debt.  Jesus knows that there’s two outlandish absurdities happening here:
  1. How could the King forgive such a huge debt?  That’s crazy.
  2. How could someone forgiven so much, choose not to forgive at all?  That’s even crazier.

Then the absurdity of the story is turned upon us as a mirror.  And it asks us, “Are you not like the man?  Do you forgive as you’ve been forgiven?  Why not?”  Maybe we’re afraid of not being protected.  Maybe we’re afraid of continuing to be hurt.  That’s a real threat and it makes me want to ask, “Jesus, how do you expect us to ‘relentlessly pursue peace’, when it requires us to engage with so much hurt, and sadness and anger?” And the only way that Jesus invites us to forgive is by telling us his own story week after week. The story of love for the world that he made. The story of humility to become one of us.  The story of teaching, and healing, and sitting with the hurting. The story of being wrongly accused, and tortured and saying, “Father, forgive them.  They couldn’t possible know what they are doing.”  And this story intersects with your story right now, at this table, where, week after week, the Risen Christ invites you to live as the Forgiven, grateful enough to forgive, empowered enough to pursue peace, even amidst hurt, sadness and anger, because that’s the only place where forgiveness exists. The word of hope is that, on the other side of forgiveness, this hurt does not have hold of you.  You will no longer be defined by tragedy, but by the Love of God.  And that’s where Jesus is leading you now.

The prayer that we gave out last week with the red knotted string, is the prayer that my mentor gave me.  And I want to pray it now also, because it puts us smack in the middle of real conversation with God, and in the process of real forgiveness. “God, as much as we can, we offer to you all our anger for the things that were not as they should be. We offer to you all the people who wronged us this day. We ask you to forgive them and we pray that we would, miraculously find in us a forgiving heart that trusts in your justice and relies on your mercy,because Jesus Christ who loves us.  Amen.”

The end of Sadako’s story goes like this:  There were only 644 cranes when Sadako left her hospital bed.  Her classmates honored their friend’s wish and took to folding the remaining 456 and she was buried with 1,000 cranes.  The story spread and the origami crane became a symbol of peace everywhere.  It even spread to Edmonds, where over the last few days giant cranes have been popping up all around town… I wonder who’s been doing that?  In this Free Form space, Jesus invites you to continue folding.  How might you fold peace into your family, work place, neighborhood, the planet even…  So, as an act of prayer, you can fold a crane, or just write a name or a place on a pre-folded crane and string them together at the table.  Remember, Jesus is here, folding with you.

(See images of the Peace Crane Project)


community curate, theologian artist, Bonnie's lover, baby's daddy, and God's beloved.