Monday, August 06, 2007

The Feast of the Transfiguration

Today, August 6th, is celebrated in every Christian liturgical tradition as the Feast of the Transfiguration, in which Jesus was transfigured before his disciples so that his face shone like the sun and his garments flashed like lightning.

On August 6th, 1945, the US Air Force celebrated the feast of the Transfiguration with a competitor - a bomb that flashed like lightning and shone like the sun. 200,000 civilian targets died horribly and black rain beat down on the ruined city.

Three days later, another bomb, using different technology, was dropped on Nagasaki, the most Christian city in Japan. The drop point was Saint Mary's Cathedral, the largest church in East Asia, and the bomb exploded a third of a mile from it, instantly incinerating the Christian community which had survived 250 years of persecution that had ended only at the beginning of the 20th century.

Jesus reminds us that God numbers every hair of our heads. How much more does he keep track of every drop of blood shed by us and the empires we adore?

But if we join him in searching out the innocent blood on our hands, we will be cleansed from it - as John wrote: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness." John doubtless had in mind what Isaiah wrote: "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool."

Paul writes that he wants the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting (1 Timothy 2:8). This is addressed specifically to men, whose hands are most likely to be defiled with the blood of innocent people. Hands are not holy when they are defiled through pledging allegiance to an empire of slaughter and rapine, which in these very acts impudently proclaims its exceeding righteousness and godliness in comparison with others. The prayers of such are offensive to the holy God of truth - it's better to shut up and pull our hands down. There's plenty of wrath and doubting in hands committed to remaining ignorant of these things or at least given to carefully not thinking about them and impatiently blowing off those of us who bring them up.

We know that Germans who participated in or at least went along with the death camps and Hitler need to get a few things straight if they're going to lift holy hands to God without wrath or doubting. If that applies to people facing a dictatorship, it sure applies to those who so far face nothing worse than ostracism from fellow professing Christians or name-calling by flag-wavers.

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