Tsukuba Gakuen Church, UCCJ


Worship Service on November 11, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- You Shall Not Go There -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 At long last we have come near the end of Deuteronomy. Again at the next worship service, we would like to listen to the last chapter 34 of Deuteronomy that depicts Moses' being called by God. Now today's word, as is shown in two subtitles, namely, ' Moses' Last Advice,' and 'Ascend Mount Nebo,' describes, first, the scene where Moses gave Israeli people his last advice and second, the scene where Moses was told by God to climb Mount Nebo that looked out over the land of Palestine that he had aimed to enter for the past 40 years but where he heard from God, 'You shall not go there.'
1.2 Today we listen mainly to this latter part of God's word. As probably you might have noticed, you already had the scene many times that described Moses ascending the mountain that gave a sweeping view of the land of Palestine and where God said to him, 'You shall not go there 'raising reasons for this or that. The simplest example that occurs to me applies to this case: That is the scene of Moses' death in Chapter 34 of Deuteronomy that we are going to listen to next time. Also, Verse 2, Chapter 31 in the same book that we listened to last time didn't refer to Moses' ascending a mountain but said, 'You shall not go over this Jordan.'Although I mentioned it in my sermon about this chapter 31, the latter part of Deuteronomy Chapter 3 mentions this also. Also, I talked in my sermon a long time ago, but Verses 12 to 14, Chapter 27 Numbers mentions this. Likewise, the time when I can refer to including today's word amounts to as many as five times. Why on earth did people who wrote the Old Testament describe this scene so many times? What kind of God's Will was it that was shown to them?
1.3 This is so persistently talked about in the Old Testament that we may perceive God's severity or something like bullying against Moses. Not a few people feel God who went as far as to guide him to climb the mountain that gave him a sweeping view of Palestine after 40 years of his struggling to reach there and who gave a cold word often to Moses, 'Hey, stop there. You shall not go there. The reason is that you didn't obey me in the past. That serves you right!'However, as for me, I cannot feel that way. If I had felt that way, I could not have talked about God's word in Chapter 27 or Chapter 31 of Numbers like this. I don't know why but I cannot help feeling deep relief or something like comfort from today's word. From a negative declaration like 'You shall not go there,'paradoxically I feel great encouragement. Not knowing how to put my feelings into words well, I feel frustrated but I would like to manage to communicate it to you.

2.1 The first thing that I receive a sense of relief or comfort is what we can get by understanding that Moses' life was so unfinished that he could not enter the land that he had aimed to reach. Verse 10, Chapter 34 of Deuteronomy says, 'And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.'Moses was a person who saw God face to face many times and who was given God's word in a more familiar way than any other person. If he had been such a person, then it was natural for him to get what he wanted from God as so-called a reward more easily than any other person, right? Even if he was such a person, or rather, to put it accurately, just because of that, which I will mention later, he was not able to reach the goal that he wished for. He ended his life of this world unfinished. Verse 50 says that Moses will be gathered to his people, including Aaron his brother. Actually, our ancestors who receive us are also unfinished people. There has been no one who were able to enter the place that they aimed at. Everyone has been a person who lost hope or one who failed. God says to us that our life is something like that naturally and that it is all right.
2.2 We often think that the significance of life lies in how much we have achieved our objective that we set up. We solely impose the task of achieving our objective on ourselves and people around us. We blame our life that cannot achieve our objective. I might deviate a little from the main subject but on October 29, I attended the annual General Meeting of a small group called Friends with the International (FVI) as a member of the staff and I listened to what a member of the staff Mr. J said. His topic on that day was 'Why doesn't the FVI make a plan for the year or a budget?'which was interesting. This title is closely connected with how he had taken steps so far. He is the person who took the trouble of quitting his job of working as a public servant, that is, a veterinarian and who put himself into this present position of this group FVI. I hear that he told his friends what he would be in ten years at the alumni meeting of the fiscal year 2008. In the speeches of this group, he used to talk about achieving his objectives with a vision more ardently than any other member. But such a person as he had serious depression after the 2011 East Japan Great Earthquake. He himself did not say so clearly but I felt that one of the causes of his disease was his way of living by always achieving his objective and enlisting vision. It was regrettable that the performance of the FVI and his performance there were not able to achieve the objectives that they had set forth. It can be said to have caused his depression. For a full three years he was obliged to take leave. Since around the year before last, he has got back to work. However, from his experience, he talked about why our group does not make an annual budget plan or set forth its plan for the year. Now today's society of ours is not the one where we can talk about what it will be in five years or in ten years and the same is true with us ourselves, he said. Then, what should we do without setting forth our objectives? It is that we should try carrying out the many things that God had advised us to do since thousands of years ago, whether we happen to do in the reality where we are put or whether we fail. Even if we should fail, we may withdraw from the attempt. The important thing is to try carrying it out, he said. Some of the executive members present at the General Meeting, many of whom play an important role of their religious denominations throughout Japan respectively, said that the member of the staff Mr. J 's opinion reminded them in unison including me, that we should reconsider the way the church or the religious group pays attention only to how they managed to carry out their five-year plan or 10-year plan that they had made. Mr. J came to accept his life that could not achieve his objective by having serious depression and he was able to find out what is important from his experience, I feel. Israeli people also were taught to accept their life that could not achieve their objective by remembering Moses' whole life over and over again, right?

3.1 The second point of encouragement and comfort that we can get through today's word is the one that we are taught from the scene where God showed Moses at the last minute of the end of his life what he regarded as his objective. As I repeated, Moses was told that he was not allowed to enter what was shown as his objective. Depending on the way of thinking, it might be cruel treatment. If we look at things differently, just because it is the objective that we cannot enter, it can be said to be a true goal that we should achieve, I think. The very objective that we cannot achieve in this world or that we cannot reach can be a goal that we should aim at, I can say. God showed Moses at the end of his life that there lies this kind of objective, right? We know that just because we are at the end of our life, God prepared for such a goal for us. It is not until we are being called by Heaven that we are made aware'This is the very goal that I should have aimed at. How I have struggled to get what I should not aim at and how much I have been worried!' What wonderful comfort it is!
3.2 Verse 13 and the following of Chapter 11 in the Letter to Hebrews say, 'All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. …. They were longing for a better country ---a heavenly one.'Compared to this word of the Letter to Hebrews, how about today's word? Verse 49, Chapter 32 in Deuteronomy says that the objective that they should aim at is 'the land of Canaan, which I give to the people of Israel for a possession.'To our regret, those who wrote today's word were only able to understand that what God was going to give Moses who was just about to end his life in this world was still land in this world. But that is not the case, I always think. Why is the goal that God gives us as the very last goal a possession of land in this world about which blood is shed over and over again? What Moses was allowed to view is never such a goal, I think. Rather, although he had aimed to get it so far, he realized that it was wrong. He knew that he was longing for a heavenly country. That is why he cannot enter there in his life of this world. He cannot get it. It is really wonderful to hear that proclaimed.

4.1 Lastly, the third comfort or encouragement that we get is what is given to us, through the reason why Moses was allowed to enter the land of promise, as is shown in Verse 51 ' because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribath-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because you did not revere me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel.'As I say repeatedly, depending on how you interpret this part, you might probably regard what God tells Moses like this as God's merciless accusation of Moses for his irresponsibility as a caretaker or breach of trust. But that is not the case, I think.
4.2 As is told in Chapter 34 of Deuteronomy, there was not and has never been, a person so close to God as Moses. But just because of that, there will necessarily arise a part that compels Moses to break faith with God, I think. It is the responsibility and severity that is asked about in view of the relationship between Moses and God and it is decisively different from the one that is asked about in human relations. What Verse 51 asks Moses is, as we have learned many times, the incident that took place in Chapter 20 of Numbers in the Old Testament. I do not have time to describe it in detail but if we just look at the result alone, Moses struck the rock with his rod and provided water for the people who were eager to drink it. He answered the congregation's expectations. But although he lived up to the expectations and enthusiastic applause of the congregation, with regard to the part that only God knew, Moses broke faith with him. God looks at that. He asks about it. I don't think that it is God's merciless severity. It is not so, but although we human beings may regard it as unimportant, God sometimes regard it as important. That is where I really feel his deep grace or comfort. To put it conversely, it shows that although people do not recognize it at all, God sometimes does it. At the last minute of the end of our life, we are asked about it by God and he sheds light on it. By God's shedding light, what has been nothing but darkness so far sometimes suddenly starts to shine. Conversely, what is applauded by people in this world and was shining greatly sometimes makes us aware that it was actually profound darkness. It is true comfort to know that this kind of time still remains for us at the end of our life.
4.3 Now having been taught by God at the last minute of the end of his life, Moses was able to clearly leave a message for people with regard to what is the most important. It is, as shown in Verse 47 and the following, the message saying that to live by following God's word is our life. How wonderful it is to leave a message for your children or grandchildren with confidence saying what has made you survive and what has been your life! Moses' having clearly been able to leave it as his will itself shows that his life had been significant, even if he was not able to enter the land that he had aimed at for forty years. It was not until I read writing that my father had left that I knew deeply that faith had supported him, who came home from the battleground. If we were to leave a message saying with confidence that faith IS our life, then our life would become significant.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

Deuteronomy 32:45-52

45 And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, "Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no trifle for you, but it is your life, and thereby you shall live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to possess." 48 And the Lord said to Moses that very day, 49 "Ascend this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho; and view the land of Canaan, which I give to the people of Israel for a possession; 50 and die on the mountain which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people; 51 because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribath-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because you did not revere me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. 52 For you shall see the land before you; but you shall not go there, into the land which I give to the people of Israel."
(Revised Standard Version)


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Worship Service on October 28, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- In Me -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 We sometimes hear, 'I am praying for you.'We sometimes find the word, 'I wish you good health,' at the end of our letter. In a business letter, such an expression as 'I hope that your company will go from strength to strength'is used. In job hunting too, it seems that the notification of employment ends with 'We wish you success.' The expression 'I am praying for you' is probably never rare for us.
1.2 But the word 'I am praying for you'seems to be too often used as lip service. I sometimes feel that it is used as a set phrase. Even if we hear,'I am praying for you,'we sometimes don't expect that the other person is really praying for you, right?
1.3 The expression'I am praying for you'is often used in the church. Especially in remembrance of someone, a prayer is sometimes offered. On such an occasion it is very rare for us to expect such a prayer to never be made, right? Or even if we don't hear the word, 'I am praying for you,'there are really some people who pray for me in the church, I feel.
1.4 'I am praying for you.' This word is surely often used outside of the church as well as inside of it. It is a familiar word. However, the same word 'I am praying for you' sounds different, depending on where and by whom it is spoken. Then when we say, 'I am praying for you,' in the church , what is there in it?
1.5 Part of the Gospel According to John that we have just listened to this morning is Jesus Christ's prayer. It is the last word that he said to his disciples before he left for the cross. The time for the cross came near and 'Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love ,'the Gospel says. Jesus Christ says, 'Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.'

2.2 Jesus Christ loved his disciples. What did Jesus Christ who loved them and showed them the full extent of his love before he was crucified do? What did he do in the presence of his disciples last? It was praying for his disciples.
2.3 In the part that was given to us this morning, the prayer that Jesus Christ offered was the one saying, 'Sanctify them.'What does it mean to 'sanctify'? In the Bible, as the Book of Isaiah says in Chapter 6, Verse 3, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts ,'God is said to be 'holy.'Or in the hymns that we sing, we find the one called 'Holy.'As it is the hymn and a response to God's calling, it is offered to God. Like this, 'holy'is the expression that is used for God. Jesus Christ used the expression'holy',which is used for God, in the prayer for his disciples. He prayed that they might be holy. 'Holy'indicates God, that is, it means belonging to God. In the previous part before the part that we read this morning, Jesus Christ said in John Chapter 17, Verse 9, 'they are yours,'which means that his disciples belong to God. His disciples belong to God. Jesus Christ refers to it repeatedly in his prayers.
2.4 Jesus Christ prayed that his disciples could belong to God. Then how do his disciples become holy and belong to God? Can they become holy and belong to God, if they make efforts and they are recognized by him? Is the word'Sanctify them'the prayer that means 'Give them strength enough to be recognized by God '?
2.5 That is not the case. Jesus Christ didn't just pray, 'Sanctify them.'As is shown in Verse 17, he prayed, 'Sanctify them by the truth.'He said, 'by the truth.'Jesus Christ prayed that his disciples could belong to God by the truth. It means that his disciples become holy and belong to God by the truth.
2.6 If so, the question is what 'the truth'is. Jesus Christ says, 'your word is truth.'He means that truth is 'your word.' 'Your word'which is used here is the same word that is used repeatedly at the beginning of the Gospel according to John Chapter 1, Verse 1, that is, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'The word that the Gospel according to John from the beginning, namely, from Chapter 1, Verse 1 gives us is Jesus Christ. In order to tell about Jesus, this gospel was written. Or you might remember Jesus Christ's word 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me ,'(John 14: 6). 'The truth ,' and 'your word'are Jesus Christ himself. 'Sanctify them by the truth'means Jesus Christ's prayer that his disciples will be holy through him. Through Jesus Christ his disciples become holy and belong to God. After Jesus Christ offered this prayer, he left for the cross. Through Jesus Christ who left for the cross, his disciples belonged to God.

3.1 Jesus Christ prayed further. Verse 18 says, 'As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.' This expression'As 'is a really surprising one. 'You sent me into the world 'means that God the Father sent his son Jesus Christ into this world. Likewise, namely, 'as'the Father God sent his son into the world, 'I have sent them into the world.'His disciples being sent into the world is the same as the Father God having sent his son into the world, the Bible says.
3.2 'As 'Jesus Christ was sent by his Father God, his disciples were sent into the world. Jesus Christ says for his disciples, 'For them I sanctify myself'(John 17: 19). And Jesus Christ literally sacrificed himself for ourselves by being put on the cross. His prayer saying 'For them I sanctify myself 'came true.
3.3 Here allow me to talk about myself. Today's word from Verses 17 to 19 in The Gospel According to John that we read this morning is the one that encouraged me to dedicate myself to God. At a certain shuuyokai (retreat meeting), a lecturer read this part aloud and said, 'I ask you whether the way to dedicate yourself and to become a preacher is prepared for you or not. I ask you to seriously consider it and to pray.' This word lingered in my mind. If God and Jesus Christ send someone into the world, I must respond. That's the beginning of what drove me to take steps as a student at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary. Therefore, my steps are supported by Jesus Christ's prayer, I think.
3.4 Now what did the disciples that Jesus Christ sent do? After this, they told about Jesus. And as is shown in Verse 20, 'those who will believe in me through their message'were born. Those who believed in Jesus Christ were born and they were gathered. It is a church. The church is a group of people who believe in Jesus Christ.
3.5 What was God's purpose in sending Jesus Christ to the world? The Gospel According to John says as follows: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him ,'(John 3: 16~17). The word'the world' refers to our world.
3.6 In order to save the world, and to save us, God's son Jesus Christ was sent by his Father God. In the same way as Jesus Christ was sent, his disciples were also sent. And the church was born. We were allowed to belong to it. Therefore, 'for the world to be saved 'means that those who believe in Jesus Christ are born, which means that a church is built. It means that we are allowed to belong to the church. This very thing is why Jesus Christ was sent and why his disciples were sent. That there are people who believe in Jesus Christ, that a church exists and that we are allowed to belong to the church, all of these do God's will.

4.1 Jesus Christ prayed for our church too. His prayer saying 'Sanctify them,'and his prayer saying that they will belong to God are not just for his disciples alone. Jesus Christ prayed further. Verse 20 says, '"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.' The word'those who will believe in me through their message 'refers to us. It refers to this church. Jesus Christ prayed for the church and for this church also.
4.2 What did he pray? Verse 21 says, 'that all of them may be one.'Jesus Christ prayed that the church might be one. Besides, here too, he used that word, 'as.'Verse 22 says, 'that they may be one as we are one .'What does it mean here that 'we are one'? The word'we 'refers to the Father God and Jesus Christ. The word 'we are one 'means that the Father God and Jesus Christ are one. As the Father God and Jesus Christ are one, the church is one. Jesus Christ prayed like this. In the church there are a lot of people. Genders, ages, careers, where they met Jesus Christ, and when they met him are all different. Such people as us are now assembled here and worshipping God together. We sing hymns altogether and pray altogether and listen to God's words altogether. This means that we are one. We pray that'all of them may be one .'What Jesus Christ prayed is now taking place here. It has come true.
4.3 In addition, 'one'does not only refer to the members of our church. Verse 23 says, 'I in them and you in me?so that they may be brought to complete unity.'This is also a really surprising word of a prayer. 'You in me'means that the Father God is in Jesus Christ. With regard to this, the close relationship between the Father God and his son Jesus Christ is referred to. Therefore, we can accept such a figure of God's.
4.4 Then, what about the part 'I in them'? This means that Jesus Christ is within ourselves and within the church. God who is Jesus Christ is within ourselves and within the church. We cannot help being surprised at this word of Jesus Christ's.
4.5 Religious Reformer M. Luther wrote as follows: 'I give myself as Christ to my neighbors,'(Freedom of Christians). This means that Luther himself is Christ and that he meets his neighbors as Christ. The expression 'Luther himself is Christ,'is a surprising expression. Why did he write this kind of thing?
4.6 I am Christ. This word may sound bold. It may sound blasphemous. But we can say that this is Luther's confession of faith. The reason is that Jesus Christ is really one with us. The church displays the cross. What does it stand for? In order to show that Jesus Christ shouldered our sins with his cross, the church has displayed the cross. 'I 'll shoulder your sins.' Jesus Christ was thoughtful enough to do so. What Jesus Christ did is so close to what we have done that he has become one with me. Your sins are mine and my righteousness is yours. To such an extent Jesus Christ and we have become one. I am Christ. That is nothing but the confession that I have belonged to Christ and that I have belonged to God. Therefore, Jesus Christ said, 'I in them.'

5.1 We are holy, we belong to God and we are one with God. That is because we have Jesus Christ. That is because the only son Jesus Christ who is one with the Father God and we are made one. We, the church, and Jesus Christ are one. And Jesus Christ and the Father God are one. If so, we are one with the Father God.
5.2 Verse 23 says, 'Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.'As God loved Jesus Christ, he loves us and takes us within himself. God has already taken us within his love and within himself. 'As'his only son Jesus Christ is taken into God's himself, we are taken within God. We are holy and we belong to God. We are within God and we are one with him.
5.3 Now we are here. Now we are in the church. Our being in the church means that we are one with God and that we are within God. Since we are one with Jesus Christ, his prayer becomes our prayer and it becomes the prayer of the church. Praying in the church, the church's, namely, our praying means that we are one with God.
5.4 We are, and the church is, within God. We are so close to God that we can say that we are one with God and or that all that we can say is that we are one with God. We believe this and make a profession of it. We continue to be kept in God's church. We have heard on this morning of the Lord's Day that we are within God, namely,'in me,'by being invited by God.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel According to John 17:17-23

17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one ? 23 I in them and you in me?so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on October 21, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- Neither do I condemn you -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1. This part of today's words depicts one of the best-known episodes not only in the Gospel According to John but throughout the four Gospels. There is no doubt among the Bible scholars that this part was actually not contained in the original version. The quotation marks at the beginning of Verse 53 of Chapter 7and at the end of Verse 11 of Chapter 8 prove it. Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament was edited based on one original version only as we see at present. Probably there existed a kind of original version, which a number of people copied by handwriting?called Manuscripts ? and among those copied manuscripts there were particularly influential standard versions which were edited as the Bible. None of such standard manuscripts contained this part of today's words.
Though this episode in today's words was not contained in the Gospel, it was widely told and disseminated as a matter of fact that really happened. Though I do not go further about this now, according to an Annotated book by Berkeley, a man named Papius who lived a bit later than AD 100 referred to this episode. The well-known Latin translation of the Bible called Vulgate which was edited by Hieronymus who lived during the 4th century referred to this episode, too. Augustine whom I mention below was definitely aware of this episode.
Then, why was such a well-known episode as this case was not contained in the Gospels? According to Prof. Berkeley, Augustine said that they intended to avoid bringing setbacks to those who have weak belief in God. Because there was a risk that this episode might be misinterpreted that Jesus did not care about what this woman conducted and took it as a minor thing.
As was explained many times, the Gospel of John was meant to teach that Jesus only was the savior to the Jewish people, particularly those who spoke Greek, living in Asia Minor during AD 100. For their religious life, it was essential to follow laws that had been kept by their ancestors for generations. According to their laws, obviously what this woman did could not be overlooked. Nevertheless, eventually Jesus did not punish this woman for what she did. If this episode had been depicted in the Gospel, those Christians who had converted from Jewish might have been affected with setbacks. Furthermore, Christians might have been regarded to be too immoral to punish such conduct as adultery. The intention was to prevent such bad influence from spreading among the Christian community, Augustine thought so.

2. Having said this, I would like to start to talk whether Jesus really took this woman's conduct of fornication as a minor misconduct and did not care about that. No, it was not the case, we understand it when we read today's words carefully. On the contrary, Jesus regarded her conduct as a sin and took it very seriously, I think.
Jesus did not tell her "you are innocent", but Jesus said, "neither do I condemn you." Considering that in the colloquial translation Book published in 1954, it was written as "neither do I punish you," its original nuance was to deny making the final judgment against the sin and conducting the punishment. Those Scribes and Pharisees who caught the woman in the act of adultery and brought her to Jesus thought that she should be killed by stoning because of her sin and it was the way of making the final judgment and punishment for the sin she conducted. They anticipated this woman should be burdened and confined with negative things for long because of her sin. This is how they expected her to be "punished". However, Jesus said that he would not do so and that none of them could do so, either.
We understand very well how seriously Jesus took a sin for teaching us, as "forgiveness of sins" is pointed out as one of the points of Lord's Prayer which Jesus taught his disciples to pray each day. Jesus thought we would commit sins and because of this he thought "forgiveness of sins" to be as essential as "our daily bread" and put it in the Lord's Prayer.
What does "forgiveness of sins" mean? It is, as is explained many times before, not to make a sin undone or wipe it off. The original meaning of "forgiveness" is to release you. While it is impossible to wipe off sins as if they were not done, "forgiveness of sins" means to release you from negative things due to the committed sins and turn such negative things to something positive so that you can live a positive life in an amazing way. This is what "forgiveness of sins" means. It was exactly this kind of forgiveness of sins that Jesus tried to give to this woman.

3. Some people dislike Christianity because it easily talks about sins, while we come to Church to attend the worship service not to have our sins pointed out but to get power to live and encouragement. It is definitely true. However, in order to get power to live and encouragement, isn't it important to have our sins pointed out, if necessary, and to make ourselves aware of such negative things within? I myself do not like very much to use a word "sin," so in my sermon I often refer to "illness" in place of sin. When we do not feel well or have a pain in the body, in order to get rid of the pain and get well, we go to consult a medical doctor. If the cause of the poor condition or the pain is an illness, the medical doctor would talk us about that, however unpleasant it might be for us to hear. We come to consult a medical doctor all the way to get well, and it would be unpleasant indeed to be told "you are sick and you have such and such problems." However unpleasant it might be, unless it is told to us, we cannot recover our good health.
It is the same thing, I think, to come to church and attend a worship service to be told about our sins. A sin is like an illness. If it is left, a sin will increasingly multiply just like cancer cells to the extent that we are driven to internal death eventually. The problem is that it is more difficult to find sins rather than cancer cells, I think. It is not a kind of crimes in the legal sense, and it is not a kind of inappropriate things in the ethical and moral sense. It is not a kind of visible behavior which the woman in today's words took. Because of this, it is difficult. From a common perspective, a sin does not look like an illness but just a normal condition.
In the Bible, it is in the episode of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis (Verse 5 of Chapter 4) that the word, sin, is mentioned for the first time. Though it is not mentioned explicitly as a sin, the essence of sin is depicted in the scene when Adam and Eve took the fruit and ate it, which was forbidden (Chapter 3). Here an enticing voice was heard saying, "For God Knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Verse 5, Chapter 4).
Whenever I read this episode, I realize that this enticing voice was heard immediately after Adam and Eve were united as good partners and I am puzzled why they wished to know good and evil like God. To know has an implication of controlling or governing something. Because they got a partner to help, from that stance, they began to wish to control good and evil. In order to help the partner who is depicted as "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," you wish to stay healthy and live long as much as possible. You wish to make your children whom you share your blood and flesh live as long as possible. It is what good means for us. Such sense of good as this usually cannot be regarded as a sin or as an illness. It must be something quite normal as humans. However according to the Bible, it is a sin and an illness. This sin gradually expands inside ourselves, and when we realize it, it has helplessly and vastly controlled ourselves.

4. As we learned at the worship service on the Respect for the Aged Day and at the Bible Study & Prayers Meeting last week as well, there are words from the latter Verse 3 to Verse 4 of Chapter 46 of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah; "who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb; Even to your old age…. and even to gray hairs I will carry you!"
The point of this word is that particularly when we get old and our hairs turned gray, we must be the same ourselves when we were carried by God when were born so that we can spend time peacefully. However, when we get old and have gray hairs we have completely forgotten about the time when we were born. Since we grew up we have carried ourselves and we have come along a road as we wished to come.
In the context of the Book of Genesis as mentioned earlier, we have controlled good and evil by ourselves. In other words, we might say seriously that we have become God by ourselves. It has multiplied just like cancer cells in ourselves and deprives us of a sense of peace. It deprives us of time to live as peacefully as a baby.
A pet dog of my family has cancer, probably all of his body and particularly in the nose. He incessantly sprinkles nasal mucus which also contains nasal blood. So, in order to protect the floor cloth, we cover it with newspaper. In such a situation, however, the dog does not look sad at all, but he shows us a lovely face. They do not make themselves God and do not intend to control good and evil, either. They leave all to their owners. But it is not the case with us. We try to make ourselves the owner. This is a sin. This is an illness.
What this woman conducted is, after all, a sin. We learned in the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians that "fornication" means to control your body at your disposal. This woman in today's words, too, might think there was nothing wrong for her to control her body as she wished to do. There might be a sense of protest against the society which does not allow her to do so. Otherwise, she might not have conducted in a place which could be easily found by others.

5. In this way this woman committed a sin. The people called the Scribes and Pharisee could convict the sin that she committed. However, It was a conviction only and it was a very superficial one. It was a conviction based on the law of Moses, not a kind of a sin that is deeply rooted in ourselves as an illness, as is just taught earlier. What they could do was taking measure by stoning to kill both the illness and the person who was suffering from that. This was the limitation of humans when we think of a sin and taking measures against it.
However, the way Jesus looked at, and treated, the sin of this woman was quite different. What Jesus did to her was forgiveness of her sins. It was to release her from her sins. It is impossible to wipe off the sin she committed, but the way Jesus did was to change the negative thing she did into something positive for her life.
Though it is not known how this woman lived after this, probably she changed the way of living after this, just like many other women who were forgiven their sins by Jesus as is depicted in the Old Testament. She must have changed her life and never conducted indulgent behaviors. What made her change the way of living? It was her encounter with Jesus.
Jesus clearly staked his life in having an encounter with her in this way. It was a challenge against the Scribes and Pharisees whose influence was dominant among the Jewish community at that time, and the way Jesus did to her also breached the law of Moses. Having this encounter which Jesus staked his life so much did not allow this woman to live a self-indulgent life again as before. Amazingly in this way, the sin this woman had committed changed into a means which could provide something good to her life. Something negative has changed into something positive in such an amazing way. Into a deep ditch which was made due to a sin, Jesus sacrificed his life.
This is exactly what God has done to our sins. In our encounter with Jesus, the deeper the ditch of our sins is, the more affluently God runs water there.
(Translated by Motoko Shuto from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

Sermon: John 8: 1-11


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Worship Service on September 16, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- Even To Your Old Age I Will Carry You -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 According to this world's calendar, tomorrow is Respect for the Aged Day. Therefore, annually this church has observed the Worship Service as the one for the Respect for the Aged Day. Today we are going to listen to the word from Isaiah 46: 1-4. The part from the latter part of Verse 3 to Verse 4 is the one that I talked about for a short time at the Home Prayer Meeting held at the Ochiai Residence in July this year, but today I hope that from today's word I can give an encouragement, blessing or important advice for those who have grown older.
1.2 Now what you understand after you have browsed through today's word is that the first half of it says that we carry a certain thing, whereas the second half of it says that in contrast we are shouldered and carried by God. Therefore, first, let's listen to what our shouldering something refers to. Verses 1 and 2 say, 'Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols are on beasts and cattle; these things you carry are loaded as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop, they bow down together.' A book with notes says that Bel is a god who people believed in Babylonia in those days and that his name is derived from Baal, with the same name. Indeed Baal and Bel sound similar. Baal means'possession'and he was believed to provide wealth to those who believed in him. On the other hand, the book with notes says that Nebo was believed to be a god who was Bel's child or messenger. The king who destroyed the Kingdom of Judah was Nebuchadnezzar. The first part of his name Neb comes from this god's name. During the fifty years or so when they were in captivity in Babylonia, more and more Israeli people came to believe these gods in it.
1.3 Then what does the word saying that this'Bel'or 'Nebo'bows down and stoops, and that with their idols being on beasts and cattle, these things that people carry become burdens and make them stoop and bow down mean? When this word was told, the king called Cyrus arose in Persia, and he conquered his neighboring countries with accelerating force. It is thought that that was the time when he was going to direct his attack at Babylonia finally. Prophet Isaiah prophesied that sooner or later the King Cyrus would attack Babylonia and that before that attack idols of gods Bel and Nebo would fall. He also prophesied that when they tried to shoulder their idols on beasts and cattle, those things would become burdens not only on animals but also fleeing Israeli people would bow down.

2.1 I was impressed with this word deeply anew. After the Bible Study and Prayer Meeting was over last week, a certain member said that last week she even thought that she would rather die because of a very difficult experience. Usually she looks alive and well but as she made complaints, I asked her what was the matter with her. Then she answered like this: Due to fatigue in her body and heart, she didn't have enough strength to carry the laundry upstairs and she dragged it upstairs and hung it finally. She wondered why she had become so miserably weak and she thought that she would rather die if things got worse and worse. She is twice as energetic as other people. Such a person as she would be the more depressed when the energy that she has had so far is gone and she would have a difficult time accepting herself as a weak self, right? The same is true with me, I feel keenly.
2.2 Of course we don't directly worship such gods as Bel or Nebo but since we live in this age and society, as Bel was the god that represented abundance, we depend upon good health or various abilities to do a lot of things, that is, having a lot of things that are worthy and we live carrying them on our back, right? A person called Luther said that the existence that we depend upon is our idols of gods. That way we also have carried Bel and Nebo on our back. Even if we grow older and our hair turns white, rather, just because of that, we cannot stop carrying something positive on our back. That kind of thing becomes a burden for us when we get older and our hair turns white and when we cannot help carrying many negative things on our back. What we have depended upon so far, on the contrary, becomes a burden on us this time and makes us bow down. The word that the person whom I mentioned a minute ago said reminds us that he is really made to shoulder a burden.

3.1 What I am going to talk about moves away a little from the topic about Respect for the Aged Day but what is shown here is quite true with our church, I think. Last week after the worship service, we had a social gathering to talk about our dream or vision of our church for the sake of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of our church 10 years from now. Contrary to our expectations, I have often heard and seen this kind of dream or vision become a burden on us. After the Pacific War Christianity became so-called a boom and those who became Christians and who were in the same generation as my father ascended to heaven. And their children, that is, our generation turned 60 something old. Everyone is worried about what would happen to our church if this generation were to ascend to heaven? Amidst worries, the vision held by the congregation tends to be how we can increase members of our church or how we can continue our church. But that is to try to maintain the number of members and the way our church has been run so far. If we continue to shoulder from now on what we have relied on and have shouldered so far, then we will carry a burden and Bel and Nebo on our back. It will be a burden that makes us stoop and bow down. The situation where King Cyrus attacked with accelerating force and where all the surrounding areas were suddenly changed politically and socially is the same as the sudden change that is now happening to our church, I think. The same is true with our physical change where we get old and our hair turns white and where we cannot do what we have been able to do. On such an occasion we must not shoulder what we have relied upon in the same way as before. We must not get over it carrying Bel and Nebo on our back. We have to get over this sudden change, not by shouldering Bel and Nebo.
3.2 How can we overcome this period of sudden change? The answer is that we can do it by taking the way that God has provided us with since the Old Testament days, that is, the way people have survived the period of sudden change for thousands of years. In such a meaning, I have talked about how the church has relied upon for generations and how it has survived. It means that the church is a community for prayer and the one to take care of weaker people. It is the original way God himself and Jesus gave the church from the beginning and it is not Bel nor Nebo that we created at our own sweet will. Therefore, to shoulder it is never a burden that will make us bow down.

4.1 I moved away a little from the main topic but what kind of word does God give to Israeli people who try to rely on what they have relied upon so far and who are just going to stoop and bow down? The part from the second half of Verse 3 to Verse 4 says that you'have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.' Just now we were taught to keep following the way the church should be from the beginning but here what God tells us is how our primitive existence should be, I think. The Bible says 'you'have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb'but this does not refer to the fact that such and such happened when you were born but that if you were born in this state, you would continue to be fundamentally in such a state until you die, right? Therefore, the beginning of Verse 4 says 'Likewise'in the Japanese translation. It means that even if we grow old or even if our hair turns white, we continue to be the existence where we are borne by God in the same way as when we were borne.
4.2 For some time after our birth, we accepted this very naturally and relied upon this. We, who were babies, could not carry anything. As we didn't have any strength nor ability to carry anything, it was natural for us to be borne. In today's word, God carried us but, in concrete, our mother and father took care of us. But as we grew up, we got various things and on the basis of them, we have carried. Naturally our parents ascended to heaven and it was our turn to become parents and carry our family. It made us forget the fundamental state that shows 'However old you may get, you are the existence where you must be borne by God,'right? And only your willingness to bear a heavy burden and to carry your family has become stronger. To put it another way, you didn't feel it necessary to be carried by somebody. To put it furthermore, you have been able to put yourself on the side of carrying someone and of shouldering a heavy burden. Therefore, you have completely forgotten to be borne by God and by someone. It is difficult for you to put yourself on the side of being borne.
4.3 I hear that recently there is an increasing number of people who say that they would like to die without giving anyone trouble. When you get down to it, it comes to the thought that you have to give someone trouble and to be borne by them and that you don't want to accept the state where you are negative, right? I myself might have such a strong tendency. However, if you try to continue the way you should be or the way of carrying someone to the end, then it will become a burden. It will make us bow down. Therefore, God tells us to accept being borne by someone, in concrete, maybe by your husband or wife or children or a helper, right when you get old or when your hair becomes white. He tells us to gladly accept it as what is done by God. He tells us to accept it as God's work, because God's bearing you appears in such a concrete way.
4.4 A few minutes ago, I said that the person whom I mentioned crawled up stairs dragging the laundry. How much do we, who have grown old and whose hair has turned white, 'weigh'? It is the psychological weight. It is the weight and bitterness of ourselves who has experienced such weakness. It is not possible at all for us to put up with that weight by ourselves. We cannot help being borne by someone, as when you were a baby. I would like to be such a person with gladness, I think. I would like to be such a person as is loved by a person who takes care of me. I want to be grateful for being borne as God's work.

5.1 Lastly, I said that however old we grow, we are like a baby who can be borne by God. At the Home Prayer Meeting at the Ochiai Residence in July, this year, I said that if we can be borne by God, there is growth between God and us. Today also I felt that I was given the same comfort. If we are the existence that can be borne as something like a baby by God, he provides us with growth, even if our hair turns white and even if we turn out to be a person who is only taken care of by someone. Line 2 at the bottom of Verse 4 says, 'I have made.'This is never a word that literally refers to what happened in the past. Rather, on the contrary, it implies that 'As I made you, I will continue to make you everlastingly. My work of creation continues for ever and ever and for all time.'In Paul's letter to 2 Corinthians, he says in Chapter 4, Verse 4, 'Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.'We continue to be made by God. Therefore we are precious children who are borne by God all the time. We feel peace, lightness and comfort in it, I feel keenly.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

Isaiah 46: 1-4

1 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols are on beasts and cattle; these things you carry are loaded as burdens on weary beasts. 2 They stoop, they bow down together, they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity. 3 "Hearken to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; 4 even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
(Revised Standard Version)


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Worship Service on September 2, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- The Word Became Flesh -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 In our church, we make it a rule to observe the worship service on the First Lord's Day of September, together with children of the Church School and their parents as the prayer of ' The Rally Day,'in accordance with the church school calendar. The part of the Bible that should be used for the Joint Worship Service is chosen out of the textbook that the Church School teachers are using. In this textbook the part of the Bible to read today is to deal with The Gospel according to John 1:6 -18, which is somewhat long and is also impossible to read. Therefore we read only Verse 14, today.
1.2 Now we are reading this Gospel according to John almost every three weeks. We began to give a sermon here last March. Also at the district general meeting for women, I used this part as the opening prayer. There I introduced Dr. Barclay, who went as far as to explain that John wrote this gospel as he wanted to say this verse of 14. It is safe to say that the word of Verse 14 is the soul and bottom line of this gospel. Therefore, I would like to take time to appreciate this part.

2.1 Now first John said, 'The Word became flesh ,'and he dealt with 'The Word.' What is translated into'The Word'is the word, logos, in the original Greek. With regard to logos, it goes without saying that John wrote a very profound thing at the beginning of this gospel from Verses 1 to 5 as follows: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
2.2 What John wrote here is too profound for me to understand but what even I understand is that John puts tremendous emphasis on logos. When I say, 'Logos was God ,'I am afraid that it might give birth to the misunderstanding that logos equals God, and that God equals logos. Here what John wants to say is not that logos equals God but that there lies logos in the most essential part of God's nature and that we cannot talk about God without logos, I think. In other words, God is the person who talks and the person who talks to us with logos, and also it is logos that God talks with that gives us the light of life. I think this way.
2.3 With regard to why John regarded logos as this important, in last year's sermon, by using a lot of commentaries of Dr. Barclay's for reference, we learned that in about A.D. 100 in Ephesus when John wrote this gospel, the technical term logos and its concept were the most effective for telling that Jesus is the Savior to Jewish people and people in Greece and Rome who lived there. I won't say the same thing today. What draws my attention now is that God is the person who talks with logos above all.
2.4 To change the subject a little, before dawn on Wednesday last week, I woke up before I knew it and as usual, I turned on the radio at my bedside. While I kept dozing off, the program on the air turned into the one that started at four o'clock and its title was 'The Word for Tomorrow.'The interviewee in the dialogue that day was the person called M Namae (of course this is a pen name). He became blind at the age of 35 because he had had diabetes since he was young. Formerly he was earning a living as an illustrator but he was pronounced that before long he would become blind. It plunged him into the depths of despair and he cried on and on to God asking why he would have to endure this miserable state alone. By the way, this information was available from the article on the Internet about the dialogue between Catholic Sister Suzuki Hideko and M Namae but judging from the fact that M Namae appealed to God and that he had a dialogue with Sister Suzuki Hideko, he might be a Christian.

3.1 While he was appealing crying on and on, all of a sudden before his nose light appeared and with everything in the world shining, he heard a voice. What kind of voice was it? It said, 'The world is loved everywhere.'Sister Suzuki said, 'This is quite the same as the near-death experience that she had.'When he saw this scene and heard this voice, M Namae realized that his loss of sight was given while he was being loved by God. If so, he decided to accept it thinking that it was fine. Thereafter, he changed from working as an illustrator to writing passages. But now he has been able to draw illustrations again and he is in charge of illustrating the cover of the late night service on the radio, I hear.
3.2 Through this person's experience too, the word 'the darkness' in Verse 5, Chapter 1 is drawing near. We are often put in a difficult situation where we are dragged into the darkness. This person called M Namae was pronounced that he would lose sight, although he was earning a living by drawing illustrations. Therefore, it was the experience where he was dragged into the darkness physically and mentally as well. It was this wondrous sight and word that gave him hope to live with and light to bring life, right? The scene full of light might have been enough but it was decisively important that the word was added to it. When he heard the logos 'The world is loved everywhere,'he was protected from being dragged into the darkness and he was able to head for the light that brought life to live with hope.
3.3 When we read the Bible, we see the image of God who talks with logos everywhere. At the Bible Study and Prayer Meeting we are studying Chapter 40 and the following of the Book of Isaiah now. The established theory says that this part describes how Israeli people's homeland was destroyed by Babylonia and how they were held as prisoners of war for more than 50 years in Babylon. Naturally those people lived a life that was like being dragged into the darkness but suddenly what came into the prophet's ears was God's logos 'Comfort, Comfort my people.'What kind of comfort is it? The voice says that the difficult experience so far was given as good reward many times for your sins that you have committed. It says that the difficult experience is not bad reward or a punishment for the sins that you have committed. On the contrary, it is good reward, God says. When they heard that the bitterness that they had was good, the Israeli people in captivity were really comforted. There is no one else who can say this kind of logos except God, I think. It is the kind of logos that human beings would never be able to say, I think. When we hear the logos that God says, we are able to be dragged out of the darkness and to head for the light that gives us hope to live with.

4.1 When we talked only about logos, it took so much space but next John said, this logos 'became flesh and made his dwelling among us.'Dr. Barclay tells us about this, but although a lot of researchers as well as that famous theologian like Augustin studied about logos becoming flesh so far, they say that John is the only person that says that logos became flesh. Why has nobody written such a thing?
4.2 Flesh refers to salkus in the original Greek. The word almost equivalent to salkus is soma (body or flesh). People in Greece and Rome hated this soma or salkus. I often introduced to you that there used to be a very easy-to-remember mnemonic like'soma, seema'(meaning "A body is a graveyard") that was used as a proverb of those days in a Greek dictionary. It is salkus that drags soma meaning a body to a graveyard, you can say. The essence of salkus is rotting. It is this salkus that controls our heart, mind or soma and drags us through greed or worries or anxiety and drags us to the graveyard---in today's word, the darkness--. It is logos that has nothing to do with this salkus, people of those days used to think. But John said that logos became this salkus. It goes without saying that this refers to Jesus being born as a human being and Jesus putting himself especially in the misery of death on the cross.
4.3 When it comes to the question why in Jesus God's logos had to become salkus, it is to save us who are already controlled by salkus. God's talking to us with logos cannot save us who are controlled by salkus and who are caught by the darkness. Therefore, logos had to become the human being called Jesus. It is not just becoming a human being but also having'made his dwelling among us ,'the Bible says. Judging from the original, staying for'making his dwelling among us 'is a very drastic interpretation, but I really think that that interpretation is amazing. It is as if an embryo stayed in its mother's womb, I think. When the embryo stays in its mother's womb, what happens to the mother's womb? Although the embryo and its mother's womb are different creatures, they are put in an inseparable profound interrelationship. The mother's womb is influenced by hormones that the embryo secretes. Influenced by them, the mother's womb itself secretes various hormones and changes itself drastically into the body, or soma that grows the embryo and that makes the mother's womb ready for its birth. The similar thing happens inside us by our believing in Jesus and by Jesus's making dwelling among us, right? God's logos functions within ourselves and our soma and salkus are transformed. Although salkus does not lose the essence of rotting, it doesn't just drag soma to the graveyard but drastically changes in the opposite way so that it makes us live as soma and with joy.
4.4 What is the change that takes place especially inside us by Jesus's salkus making his dwelling among us? It is that we realize for whom our own soma is, I think. As Jesus lived for his disciples on the cross bleeding as salkus, we understand that our soma is for bleeding for the sake of someone else. We understand that to live as soma through Jesus is really precious. We are made to realize that soma does not just drag us to the graveyard but also makes us live with joy and that it is precious.

5.1 I am running out of time but the word'The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us ,'is followed by 'We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.'What John wants to say above all is that Jesus, who became salkus, is full of splendor as the one and only son of God, I feel. John's calling the existence that Jesus became salkus the One and Only son of God and his pointing out that there lies glory there were probably a quite surprising message to people in those days, right?
5.2 Last week on my way home from Hijirigaoka Church, I happened to find the facility called the Turkish Culture Center near Yoyogi-uehara Railway Station where a 72-hour program was broadcast on NHK. I entered a mosque on the second floor of the building for the first time in my life. As Islam hates idol worship extremely, the pattern inside the mosque was a geometry pattern that would prevent people from imagining idols. As Judaism hates idol worship in the same way as Islam, Judaists would have thought how blasphemous it was to call Jesus who became a human as salkus the One and Only Son of God and to say that there lies extreme splendor there from such a point of religious view. I don't have time to explain in details but to say that Jesus who became salkus was the One and Only son of God shows that God loved Jesus who became salkus so much. How patiently God who is his father endures his only son Jesus' pain in salkus! Likewise, God loves us who are in salkus, too. He regards pain and bitterness that we have as his own. Jesus's misery and pain as salkus is filled with God's glory. Our misery as Soma Salkus is filled with glory. It is awesome.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 1:14-18

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, "This is the one I spoke about when I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'") 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on June 24, 2018/h2>

Gist of Sermon

- Grieving Paul -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today's word shows the place where the preacher Paul's very vehement resentment and grief or bitter sarcasm were vented on some people at the church in Corinth. It is thought that this part is one of the top two places in terms of a harsh tone of voice among a lot of letters that he wrote to various churches. We feel it somewhat hard to judge what kind of encouragement or comfort we could get from the word like this. First, let's pay attention to what context and circumstances Paul was compelled to utter these vehement words in.
1.2 Awhile ago, we listened to the sermon that dealt with Verse 18 and the following of Chapter 3 last time, and Verse 18 said, 'If anyone of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age ,'which suggested that there were a few people who regarded themselves as such people in the church at Corinth. As to what kind of people they were, there are various interpretations. But, probably, they were the preachers who, after the founder of the church in Corinth Paul left, came and made it develop very greatly, I imagine. Verse 4 in Chapter 3 describes a row in the church where one says, 'I follow Paul ,'and another says,'I follow Apollos.'Just after that, in Verses 6 and 7, Paul said, 'I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who make things grow.'In the 1954 colloquial translation version of the Bible, we can find the word, 'unworthy.'From this passage of Paul's, we can infer that with regard to the argument at the church in Corinth, there was a confrontation about the growth of the church. Those who made the church grow very greatly talked in the way which was just the opposite of the word, 'unworthy,'and they boasted of it, right?
1.3 What did the founder of the church Paul do to the preachers who made the church in Corinth big? Probably he could nothing but keep the church in a small group of people. That is because he continued to give the message as a gospel, the message of good news, that was nothing but foolish and stumbling to a lot of people in the then Roman Empire, namely, that Jesus, who was crucified as a criminal of the Roman Empire, was the Savior. Only a small number of people belonging to the class of slaves believed his words but the other people would not have accepted this kind of message. After Paul left the church in Corinth, came Apollos, Then after that, preachers whose names were unknown came and the gospel saying that Jesus who was crucified was the Savior was made to retreat from the center stage, right? In contrast, a lot of people were attracted to messages focusing on so-called "material benefit gained in this world" such as 'If you believe in this man, you will be healed or get rich'and the church in Corinth would have grown big, right? Sarcasms found in Verse 8 like 'Already you have all you want! ,' 'Already you have become rich!,' 'You have begun to reign?and that without us! ,'might have been the content of the attractive messages that those preachers gave them. Thus the preachers who made the church grow big received offerings from a lot of believers and were respected, as was told in their gospel, and they were honored as rich men or like their king. In sharp contrast, Paul, who although he was the founder of the church kept the church in a small group of people, was looked down on as a fool and was regarded as the scum or the garbage of the world whom they wanted to keep away from.

2.1 What kind of message does today's word send to us? It is what we have learned in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. First, since the church was born, the preachers and the believers have sought the quantitative growth of the church and when they have succeeded in it, they have rejoiced or boasted of it and on the contrary, when they have failed to do so, they have looked down on or have thought little of themselves or other people. We are reminded of that anew. When I myself reflect on my 32 years as a pastor, I really take to my heart how deeply I have been preoccupied with this matter. Even now when 32 years have passed since I became a pastor, I find myself trying to satisfy myself by achieving the quantitative growth of my church. You believers will be evaluating such a preacher and respecting him, too. Such a sense of values has existed persistently since the church was born.
2.2 From June 11 to 13, as a guidance committee member of the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ henceforth), I helped about 50 people who were appointed as sub pastors in April this year with their orientation. There the following topic came up: Two thirds of the teachers who attended the orientation were just 20 years old, still very young. They say that to them, the church of this religious group is what it is now. Our generation knows the age when a lot of children got together at a church school and when a lot of young and middle aged people supported their church. Still more, the same is true with people older than those people. We, those who belong to such an older generation, are worried about the future of the church and say that if the present situation goes on, the church will vanish and that we have to increase the number of the church members and spread the gospel more. But to people of the younger generation, the present situation is what it should be, and so they don't have such an anxiety at all about the future as we have and some young people dared to say that they could manage to get along as preachers without worrying. I was convinced of their way of thinking. However, the other way of thinking occurs. Indeed there might be no pressure to increase the number of church members. Then as a preacher, where could he find his satisfaction and pleasure? Nobody would think that he would like to be king or a rich man in a literary sense. Also nobody would take pride in doing such a thing as a preacher. But as Verse 10 says, 'You are honored ,'I would like to be honored as a preacher by you believers. Then how could I be honored? There a wish to accomplish the quantitative growth of the church that fascinated churches and preachers 2000 years ago cannot help coming into my thoughts.
2.3 In any age and society, there is no changing of the interpretation that the message that Jesus Christ who was killed on the cross is the Savior is foolish and a stumbling block, I think. It is evident that if the number of people who go to church decreases, the difficulty that is described in Verse 11will emerge as a reality. The situation will take place where pastors will have to earn their living with their own hands. In the orientation that I mentioned a minute ago, the following topic was talked about: The seven guidance committee members presided over the group discussions, serving as their moderators. In the group discussion which I was in charge of, surprisingly enough, as many as one third of the participants were pastors' children. To the present young people, to become a pastor is one of attractive'occupations.'If the young preachers who became pastors by regarding their job as one of good occupations were to encounter the situation where the difficulty described in Verse 11 took place, still could they get along, with their pride within? Do we as preachers continue to serve as preachers even if the reality that is described in Verse 11 takes place, I wonder.

3.1 Now what I have talked about is exclusively concerned with the church and especially with us preachers. How are these matters concerned with you believers? To you believers, the quantitative growth of the churches that we pastors are so concerned with might not matter so much. You might say, 'Why are pastors worried about it so much?'
3.2 But as is always told, to you also, a multitude or a large amount, in a number or quantity in a sense is the value that we cannot do without, right? It does not mean that we would like to be proud or to get respect from other people by becoming king or rich people in a literal sense. However, we would like to be honored. It means that our existence is regarded as precious and meaningful. We don't want to be regarded as scum or garbage. Then the question is where we could get respect. It means that in our family or the community that we belong to, we would like to be of some use, right? To be of some use depends on the number of plus signs or the large quantity or wealth in economic and physical terms. However old they might be, the parents would like to hear that they are precious or necessary from their children or grandchildren, in terms of their ability to provide some assistance to them. If they should lose their positive richness in economic or physical terms, they will be the existence that causes trouble to their children or grandchildren, they think. They tend to think that they themselves have turned out to be nothing but scum or garbage after all. It is regrettable that in a sense that I mentioned just now, the time will surely come when we are all regarded as nothing but scum or garbage. The time is sure to come when we cannot be respected in any way. To such people as us, today's word of Paul's will become a big encouragement, I think.
3.3 What kind of encouragement is that? Indeed, even Paul grieved over, in a harsh tone and got infuriated by, being regarded as scum or garbage without being respected. However, although he grieves and is infuriated, he is not upset about being treated that way at all, rather he is throwing out his chest, by thinking of it as what makes him proud, I feel. In Verse 16, he is so proud that he says, 'Therefore I urge you to imitate me.'In the face of not being respected and being treated as garbage, there was something about Paul that made him throw out his chest. Even if some people treated Paul that way, he had something within himself against it that made him think, 'My existence is precious and of some use.'We are reminded that steps of faith or the church have surely this kind of part and we are encouraged. As I said a minute ago, churches and preachers have had some regrettable scenes in history where they have sought quantitative growth of the churches, have found a value there, have boasted of themselves and have looked down on somebody, since they were born 2000 years ago. But, on the other hand, in our life of faith and in the church, there is firmly something that makes us face such a way and makes us throw out our chest, even if we are regarded as scum or garbage.
3.4 We are told that the driving force to enable us to throw out our chest is nothing but Jesus. At the beginning of Verse 10 Paul says'We are fools for Christ.'It means that to be a Christian enables us to be fools with our chest out due to Jesus. I am not sure whether the article is still on line or not, but I was asked by my alma mater Tokyo Union Theological Seminary to write 'Advice for those who would like to enter the ministry ,'that is, advice for those who would like to enter Tokyo Union Theological Seminary. I wrote the following: In imitation of 'Three Principles beginning with in- ,'or something like that which were popular in those days, (I think the three principles refer to indifference, apathy and irresponsibility), pastors are those who live in accordance with the principles of no profit, no use and no reward. That is how I felt in those days when I had taken the steps as a pastor for 20 something years. Even if I made full preparations for sermons or the Bible study prayer meetings, as a result of them, no visible quantitative growth of my church was given to me. I helped those who were not expected to become the church members but who wanted to apply for welfare benefits to go through the necessary formalities or I became a guarantor or worked as president of a volunteer group for handicapped people. All of them produced no visible reward. In that sense, they produced no profit, no use and no reward. I cannot help saying that it was a quite foolish way of living from the viewpoint of this world. But I think that it was 'because of Jesus Christ'(the word 'for ' in 'for Christ 'in Verse 10 refers to because of, I think), and that because we believed in Jesus Christ, it was a valuable way of living that was provided for us. In the society that seeks only positive profits, and although we too are deeply imbued with such a sense of values, Jesus enables us to live as fools with our chest out in a way contrary to the aforementioned way.
3.5 The latter part of Verse 12 says, 'When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it.'Because of Jesus who was put on the cross, Paul was able to find happiness that Jesus provided him with, in his circumstances where he was cursed or persecuted. Therefore, although he was cursed, he was able to bless someone and to answer kindly. Even if he had no quantitative pluses, the existence of Paul has its own pluses. Only the person who is regarded as scum or garbage is provided with pluses because of Jesus, right? If now there are those who think of themselves as scum or garbage, I would like you to think that Jesus IS who says that such a person as you is precious and necessary.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 4:7-13

7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign?and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world?right up to this moment.
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on May 20, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- The Holy Spirit Who Is Your Advocate -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today is the day of a special worship service called Pentecost. The word Pentecost is unfamiliar to those who have not come to church for long, I think. This is a Greek word meaning fiftieth. Although I mention this every year, there is a festival called Passover which is the New Year holidays for Israeli people. (During this festival Jesus was killed on the cross. ) They observed 'the festival of seven weeks ,'or'the day of Pentecost ,'after Passover. It seems to have been the festival for celebrating the harvest of wheat. As it is seven weeks since Passover, it is about fifty days. Five periods of 10 days mean 50 days. Therefore, this festival was also called Pentecost. Probably Jesus's disciples were observing this festival in Jerusalem. And although we did not read this part today, the Holy Spirit was poured over them, together with the strange phenomenon that the beginning of Acts Chapter 2 in the New Testament described. They took the opportunity to tell people that Jesus was the Savior without fear and boldly and churches began to be born. Thus churches called this day Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on people, and came to observe this service as the special worship service.
1.2 Just the interpretation that the Holy Spirit was poured over on the fiftieth day after Passover is the one by Luke who wrote about it in the Gospel according to Luke and also in Acts. According to him, the resurrected Jesus often appeared to his disciples over a period of forty days (Acts Chapter 1, Verse 3) and while he was eating with them, he spoke about the Kingdom of God. And after forty days passed, he went to heaven. On the tenth day after that, the Holy Spirit was poured over on them. But the interpretation by John that we read today is different. As Verse 22, Chapter 20 says, 'he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit,'John's interpretation was that the resurrected Jesus gave his disciples the Holy Spirit at once. Thus, there are several ways of interpreting when and how the Holy Spirit was given. But Luke and John were of the same opinion that the resurrected Jesus gave his disciples the Holy Spirit as the indispensable existence. As the Holy Spirit who was poured over worked as their God whom they could not do without, while they were walking in their lives, they came to believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This way they came to have'the faith of the Trinity.'Although this event takes place annually, we would like to remember through today's Pentecost worship how indispensable the existence of the Holy Spirit is to us.

2.1 Then, in today's word --- a part of Jesus' s long words that he gave as his will at his Last Supper ---,he calls the Holy Spirit 'another advocate.' I am going to mention the word another later but Jesus says first that the Holy Spirit is 'advocate.'This word comes from the original Greek parakratos. If I translate it directly, it means call someone to your side or come near someone ( para means such a thing) and call or invite (which refers to kureo ). Dr. Barkley explains this parakratos as the following existence: parakratos is a person who is invited into a courtroom in order to testify in favor of someone. When a heavy punishment is expected to be imposed, he is an advocate who is invited to defend what the defendant has to say. …. He is the person who, for example, when the military forces are depressed and discouraged, is invited in order to inspire a new courage into their hearts. Parakratos is a person who is always invited in order to help those who are in difficulty or suffering or under a cloud of suspicion or at a loss. Jesus thought that this kind of parakratos was indispensable to his disciples and to us as well and he said in his will that he asked God to send the Holy Spirit as such a person to us.
2.2 Why is such an existence indispensable to the disciples? The reason is that the advocate who has been an advocate for the disciples so far is going to disappear. As the advocate disappears, in Verse 16, Jesus goes so far as to say 'I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate.'Then who is the advocate up to now? It goes without saying that he is Jesus. But Jesus who is a flesh-and-blood person and who is the advocate for his disciples is going to be killed on the cross before long. That Jesus was resurrected and, as we heard a minute ago, according to the Gospel according to Luke, he often appeared to his disciples for 40 days. But that resurrected Jesus goes to heaven sometime sooner or later. As parakratos who was with the disciples and who taught them and encouraged them will disappear, they need another advocate by all means. That advocate, as is said in Verse 16, will 'be with you forever.'
2.3 We have always the question, 'Why isn't the resurrected Jesus kind enough to be our parakratos ?'We understand that Jesus who is a flesh-and-blood person cannot be with us forever. But the resurrected Jesus could have appeared at all times to us in a mysterious way as is described in the Gospel according to Luke, right? Then in this present age, all people all over the world would believe in Jesus and God, right. But even God could not do it. We are not sure about the reason. If I were asked, I would say like this: The fact that the resurrected Jesus often appeared to his disciples, ate with them and talked about the Kingdom of God to them was actually very special, right? I think that God needed to show to Jesus's disciples that the existence of Jesus never ended up being killed on the cross but that his existence continued to exist after that too. However, it was impossible to continue longer than a certain period. He was not able to continue to be parakratos with a specially resurrected body. Therefore, it was necessary to send 'another'advocate different from the resurrected Jesus. Because another advocate is a person who is the Holy Spirit, he has come to be with us forever, without being restricted by time.

3.1 Then in terms of what function in the world is this person parakratos? Verse 17 directly teaches us that he works as'the Spirit of truth,'I think. That the person parakratos is the spirit who teaches the disciples truth as'the Spirit of truth,'means that Jesus who was an advocate after all and the resurrected Jesus taught truth to his disciples, I think. For disciples to be taught truth is a bigger encouragement and comfort than anything else. To speak from the opposite standpoint, to be told lies or falsehoods sometimes discourages us. Some spirits teach truth, whereas other spirits teach lies or falsehoods. Against such an existence, the resurrected Jesus would have told his disciples truth. Since the resurrected Jesus went to heaven, the person who is the Holy Spirit, has taught truth to Jesus's disciples and to us and he has worked as parakratos.
3.2 The resurrected Jesus taught his disciples a lot of truth, I think. But as we always remember, the first word that the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples was 'Peace be with you ,'(John 20: 19) from which we have something to learn. They were the disciples who forsook Jesus, denied him three times and betrayed him. They must have thought that they could not be forgiven or that they were really in a tight corner. It was such a whisper that came from 'the Spirit of falsehoods 'who was not the Spirit of truth, right? But the resurrected Jesus came to his disciples who were together with the doors locked, which showed that Jesus still did not forsake them or did not intend to break off relations with them. He said, 'Peace be with you!'The truth shown here is that God forgives those who committed mistakes or sins and that he gives them peace by doing so. Jesus stands between his disciples who committed sins and God. His disciples have a really deep relationship with Jesus, which he gave to them. God won't forsake those people. This is the truth that the resurrected Jesus first taught them, I think. The Holy Spirit who is parakratos continues to teach us this truth forever. In faith in Jesus, we are given a really deep relationship with Jesus. God never forsakes such people as us. He never does, whatever sin we may commit. Even if the truth of this world whispers, 'You are useless,'and no matter how often he says so, God doesn't think that way. This is the truth that the Spirit who is parakratos teaches us, I think.

4.1 One more truth that the resurrected Jesus taught his disciples is shown in the account about the Gospel according to John. When Jesus's disciples saw him for the first time, they thought of his figure as nothing but a ghost. But when they looked at his wounds that Jesus had on the cross, they recognized him as Jesus and they were overjoyed (John 20:20). I think anew that here is a truth that the resurrected Jesus showed his disciples.
4.2 Our life of the world and of our flesh and blood are put to a period by this 'wound.' Diseases and wounds deprive us of life on the earth. That's all with our existence and life. This is what the truth of this world tells us. But it is false. The resurrected Jesus broke through this falsehood. Our existence does not end up dying or being murdered. Far from it, there lies a new life beyond the end of life on the earth, where, strange to say, the wounds that we received during our life on this earth --- the wounds that brought death to us --- are changed into what brings joy to our bereaved family. This is also a truth that the resurrected Jesus taught to his disciples and one that the person called parakratos keeps teaching to us forever.
4.3 Let me remind you once again that in contrast to truth that the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of truth who is parakratos teach us, there is a falsehood that the Spirit of falsehood tries to whisper to us and to breathe into us, I think. In the Bible, we can find the word spiritual forces of evil, and existences like 'a ghost,'and 'a demon.'We cannot deny such spiritual existences. The influence of falsehood that they have on us is great. Verse 18 says, 'I will not leave you as orphans ,'and Verse 19 says, 'Because I live, you also will live.'To the disciples who had their beloved Jesus deprived due to their betrayal and denial, there is a spirit of this world whispering 'No one needs such people as you any more or forgives you. No one loves or supports such people as you.'Probably they would have thought of themselves really as orphans. Not only that but also the Spirits of falsehood would have made Jesus who was killed look as if he was a departed spirit or a ghost and they would have declared, 'How much he hates you! How bitter he feels against you!'There is the Spirit of falsehood who turns Jesus who was resurrected and lives into the dead existence and who, by doing so, turns the disciples who live into an existence who is equal to death.
4.4 So far, during my sermons, I have several times introduced nonfiction stories about various spiritual events that have happened to the bereaved families who lost their beloved ones since the Great East Japan Earthquake. There is a wicked Spirit who never ceases to confine dead people in the coldness and darkness of the tsunami. All that the bereaved families hear is painful moaning from their family members who were struck by the tsunami. Because of that, the bereaved families are alive but they are driven into the state of being as if they were dead. It is here that we need parakratos by all means who is the Spirit of truth and the Holy Spirit. Parakratos is indispensable, who can say, first, to those who died, 'You are alive. You do not end up dying. You can see Jesus and take steps along the route that you should take'and who can let them listen to the truth. Parakratos who can say, 'Your beloved one who died is actually alive ,'is indispensable to the bereaved families. I would be happy if I could serve in some small way to talk about the indispensableness of the person who is the Holy Spirit.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 14:16-19

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever? 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on May 20, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- The Holy Spirit Who Is Your Advocate -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today is the day of a special worship service called Pentecost. The word Pentecost is unfamiliar to those who have not come to church for long, I think. This is a Greek word meaning fiftieth. Although I mention this every year, there is a festival called Passover which is the New Year holidays for Israeli people. (During this festival Jesus was killed on the cross. ) They observed 'the festival of seven weeks ,'or'the day of Pentecost ,'after Passover. It seems to have been the festival for celebrating the harvest of wheat. As it is seven weeks since Passover, it is about fifty days. Five periods of 10 days mean 50 days. Therefore, this festival was also called Pentecost. Probably Jesus's disciples were observing this festival in Jerusalem. And although we did not read this part today, the Holy Spirit was poured over them, together with the strange phenomenon that the beginning of Acts Chapter 2 in the New Testament described. They took the opportunity to tell people that Jesus was the Savior without fear and boldly and churches began to be born. Thus churches called this day Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on people, and came to observe this service as the special worship service.
1.2 Just the interpretation that the Holy Spirit was poured over on the fiftieth day after Passover is the one by Luke who wrote about it in the Gospel according to Luke and also in Acts. According to him, the resurrected Jesus often appeared to his disciples over a period of forty days (Acts Chapter 1, Verse 3) and while he was eating with them, he spoke about the Kingdom of God. And after forty days passed, he went to heaven. On the tenth day after that, the Holy Spirit was poured over on them. But the interpretation by John that we read today is different. As Verse 22, Chapter 20 says, 'he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit,'John's interpretation was that the resurrected Jesus gave his disciples the Holy Spirit at once. Thus, there are several ways of interpreting when and how the Holy Spirit was given. But Luke and John were of the same opinion that the resurrected Jesus gave his disciples the Holy Spirit as the indispensable existence. As the Holy Spirit who was poured over worked as their God whom they could not do without, while they were walking in their lives, they came to believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This way they came to have'the faith of the Trinity.'Although this event takes place annually, we would like to remember through today's Pentecost worship how indispensable the existence of the Holy Spirit is to us.

2.1 Then, in today's word --- a part of Jesus' s long words that he gave as his will at his Last Supper ---,he calls the Holy Spirit 'another advocate.' I am going to mention the word another later but Jesus says first that the Holy Spirit is 'advocate.'This word comes from the original Greek parakratos. If I translate it directly, it means call someone to your side or come near someone ( para means such a thing) and call or invite (which refers to kureo ). Dr. Barkley explains this parakratos as the following existence: parakratos is a person who is invited into a courtroom in order to testify in favor of someone. When a heavy punishment is expected to be imposed, he is an advocate who is invited to defend what the defendant has to say. …. He is the person who, for example, when the military forces are depressed and discouraged, is invited in order to inspire a new courage into their hearts. Parakratos is a person who is always invited in order to help those who are in difficulty or suffering or under a cloud of suspicion or at a loss. Jesus thought that this kind of parakratos was indispensable to his disciples and to us as well and he said in his will that he asked God to send the Holy Spirit as such a person to us.
2.2 Why is such an existence indispensable to the disciples? The reason is that the advocate who has been an advocate for the disciples so far is going to disappear. As the advocate disappears, in Verse 16, Jesus goes so far as to say 'I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate.'Then who is the advocate up to now? It goes without saying that he is Jesus. But Jesus who is a flesh-and-blood person and who is the advocate for his disciples is going to be killed on the cross before long. That Jesus was resurrected and, as we heard a minute ago, according to the Gospel according to Luke, he often appeared to his disciples for 40 days. But that resurrected Jesus goes to heaven sometime sooner or later. As parakratos who was with the disciples and who taught them and encouraged them will disappear, they need another advocate by all means. That advocate, as is said in Verse 16, will 'be with you forever.'
2.3 We have always the question, 'Why isn't the resurrected Jesus kind enough to be our parakratos ?'We understand that Jesus who is a flesh-and-blood person cannot be with us forever. But the resurrected Jesus could have appeared at all times to us in a mysterious way as is described in the Gospel according to Luke, right? Then in this present age, all people all over the world would believe in Jesus and God, right. But even God could not do it. We are not sure about the reason. If I were asked, I would say like this: The fact that the resurrected Jesus often appeared to his disciples, ate with them and talked about the Kingdom of God to them was actually very special, right? I think that God needed to show to Jesus's disciples that the existence of Jesus never ended up being killed on the cross but that his existence continued to exist after that too. However, it was impossible to continue longer than a certain period. He was not able to continue to be parakratos with a specially resurrected body. Therefore, it was necessary to send 'another'advocate different from the resurrected Jesus. Because another advocate is a person who is the Holy Spirit, he has come to be with us forever, without being restricted by time.

3.1 Then in terms of what function in the world is this person parakratos? Verse 17 directly teaches us that he works as'the Spirit of truth,'I think. That the person parakratos is the spirit who teaches the disciples truth as'the Spirit of truth,'means that Jesus who was an advocate after all and the resurrected Jesus taught truth to his disciples, I think. For disciples to be taught truth is a bigger encouragement and comfort than anything else. To speak from the opposite standpoint, to be told lies or falsehoods sometimes discourages us. Some spirits teach truth, whereas other spirits teach lies or falsehoods. Against such an existence, the resurrected Jesus would have told his disciples truth. Since the resurrected Jesus went to heaven, the person who is the Holy Spirit, has taught truth to Jesus's disciples and to us and he has worked as parakratos.
3.2 The resurrected Jesus taught his disciples a lot of truth, I think. But as we always remember, the first word that the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples was 'Peace be with you ,'(John 20: 19) from which we have something to learn. They were the disciples who forsook Jesus, denied him three times and betrayed him. They must have thought that they could not be forgiven or that they were really in a tight corner. It was such a whisper that came from 'the Spirit of falsehoods 'who was not the Spirit of truth, right? But the resurrected Jesus came to his disciples who were together with the doors locked, which showed that Jesus still did not forsake them or did not intend to break off relations with them. He said, 'Peace be with you!'The truth shown here is that God forgives those who committed mistakes or sins and that he gives them peace by doing so. Jesus stands between his disciples who committed sins and God. His disciples have a really deep relationship with Jesus, which he gave to them. God won't forsake those people. This is the truth that the resurrected Jesus first taught them, I think. The Holy Spirit who is parakratos continues to teach us this truth forever. In faith in Jesus, we are given a really deep relationship with Jesus. God never forsakes such people as us. He never does, whatever sin we may commit. Even if the truth of this world whispers, 'You are useless,'and no matter how often he says so, God doesn't think that way. This is the truth that the Spirit who is parakratos teaches us, I think.

4.1 One more truth that the resurrected Jesus taught his disciples is shown in the account about the Gospel according to John. When Jesus's disciples saw him for the first time, they thought of his figure as nothing but a ghost. But when they looked at his wounds that Jesus had on the cross, they recognized him as Jesus and they were overjoyed (John 20:20). I think anew that here is a truth that the resurrected Jesus showed his disciples.
4.2 Our life of the world and of our flesh and blood are put to a period by this 'wound.' Diseases and wounds deprive us of life on the earth. That's all with our existence and life. This is what the truth of this world tells us. But it is false. The resurrected Jesus broke through this falsehood. Our existence does not end up dying or being murdered. Far from it, there lies a new life beyond the end of life on the earth, where, strange to say, the wounds that we received during our life on this earth --- the wounds that brought death to us --- are changed into what brings joy to our bereaved family. This is also a truth that the resurrected Jesus taught to his disciples and one that the person called parakratos keeps teaching to us forever.
4.3 Let me remind you once again that in contrast to truth that the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of truth who is parakratos teach us, there is a falsehood that the Spirit of falsehood tries to whisper to us and to breathe into us, I think. In the Bible, we can find the word spiritual forces of evil, and existences like 'a ghost,'and 'a demon.'We cannot deny such spiritual existences. The influence of falsehood that they have on us is great. Verse 18 says, 'I will not leave you as orphans ,'and Verse 19 says, 'Because I live, you also will live.'To the disciples who had their beloved Jesus deprived due to their betrayal and denial, there is a spirit of this world whispering 'No one needs such people as you any more or forgives you. No one loves or supports such people as you.'Probably they would have thought of themselves really as orphans. Not only that but also the Spirits of falsehood would have made Jesus who was killed look as if he was a departed spirit or a ghost and they would have declared, 'How much he hates you! How bitter he feels against you!'There is the Spirit of falsehood who turns Jesus who was resurrected and lives into the dead existence and who, by doing so, turns the disciples who live into an existence who is equal to death.
4.4 So far, during my sermons, I have several times introduced nonfiction stories about various spiritual events that have happened to the bereaved families who lost their beloved ones since the Great East Japan Earthquake. There is a wicked Spirit who never ceases to confine dead people in the coldness and darkness of the tsunami. All that the bereaved families hear is painful moaning from their family members who were struck by the tsunami. Because of that, the bereaved families are alive but they are driven into the state of being as if they were dead. It is here that we need parakratos by all means who is the Spirit of truth and the Holy Spirit. Parakratos is indispensable, who can say, first, to those who died, 'You are alive. You do not end up dying. You can see Jesus and take steps along the route that you should take'and who can let them listen to the truth. Parakratos who can say, 'Your beloved one who died is actually alive ,'is indispensable to the bereaved families. I would be happy if I could serve in some small way to talk about the indispensableness of the person who is the Holy Spirit.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 14 : 16 - 19

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever? 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on April 22, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- On the Foundation of Jesus Christ -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 After today's worship service, we are to have the general meeting of this church. This year's general meeting marks the first step toward the next 50 years and 60 years after the commemorative 40 th anniversary of the founding of the church. At the worship service of the Lord's day when such a general meeting is held, it is a great encouragement and comfort to us to have been given today's word, strangely enough, I feel really keenly.
1.2 With regard to this year's church slogan, I proposed 'Step by step with a vision in our hearts.'We have some fear in our hearts, as to whether we will be able to have something like a dream or vision about our church in 10 years or 20 years at this age. Our church, which belongs to the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ), decreases 500 in number every year, I hear. Talking of 500 people, I mean that as many as five churches, each of which is the same size as ours, disappear within one year. Our church has been managing to keep the status quo. However, we sent as many as three church members to heaven last year. Also, due to circumstances beyond their control, one couple moved to Kyushu. This year, another two couples may move out. Furthermore, Sister Hosoi, whom we should call the great senpai, senior of faith, was obliged to move out. At the general meeting, the difficulty of the church budget will be revealed, I think. In terms of real money, it is a fact that our budget lacks tens of thousands of yen. I am afraid that probably this situation will worsen by degrees.
1.3 The number of churches that have a lot of difficulty inviting a pastor has been increasing. Pastor AKIYAMA Tooru, who had been serving as the chairman of the Parish until May last year, became one of the general organizers of the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) but offered to resign last summer. But his church, Kami Ageo Joint Church, could not invite his successor and since April, this year, it has had no pastor. When we think about these situations, it is somewhat difficult to have a bright vision for sure. But today's word gives us a very comforting message, I think.

2.1 The focus of today's word is still Verse 11, I think. It says, 'no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.'The comfort or encouragement that we receive from this word has several points. First, it is an encouragement from the standpoint of a negative sense in that no one can lay any foundation that is not suitable for the one already laid or build standing fixtures on it. If we should lay any foundation which is not suitable for the foundation which is Jesus Christ or try to build any standing fixtures on it, they will collapse someday. They cannot keep standing. The reason why it becomes an encouragement for us is illustrated as follows:
2.2 I have a complete collection of sermons written by Karl BARTH, a theologian who represents the 20 th century and who was a preacher. In it there is one sermon that was used at the dedication ceremony in June, 1939, when a lecture hall of University Basel was built. The word that was quoted on that occasion was the word in Verse 11 that we read today. The beginning of his sermon was a really comforting word, which I am going to mention later again and which says, 'We can surely build.'With regard to the sermon beginning with 'We can surely build,'actually, half of this sermon is full of messages that say'We cannot build ,'which means that God does not allow us to build. In those days, in Germany next to Switzerland where Hitler took power and in September of that year the Second World War started. In that country, the existing churches obeyed the Hitler administration one after another and people who were called 'German Christians ,'came to control them. The foundations of the churches were not the ones of Jesus Christ but the ones that were Germans by nationality and where Hitler was the Savior. If such churches should last for ever, to Barth and people who agree with him, such a thing would be a really terrible thing. Just because of that, it is a hope to Barth that such buildings will surely collapse and that God will never fail to break them.
2.3 The same is true with us too. Just after this word, I am going to tell what it means to build a church which is fit for the foundation which is Jesus Christ. We sometimes go so far as to lay a foundation which is different from the one which is Jesus Christ, as these German Christians did. Just because of anxiety about the future of our church, there is no guarantee that we may build a church that puts the first priority on the number of church members or financial power alone. If such churches should remain and the real church based on the foundation of Jesus Christ should collapse, then we will not have any hope left. But Paul said that such a thing will never take place: 'God never allows it. The church that disregards the foundation of Jesus Christ will surely collapse. It cannot remain.'This is our comfort.

3.1 One more comfort from the word that says 'no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ and that implies that no one can set up a building that is not fit for the foundation which is Jesus Christ,' is found in the perspective that'We can build,'just as Barth told at the beginning of his sermon, which I introduced a minute ago.
3.2 The part that takes our greatest difficulty and requires the largest amount of money and the longest time when we construct a building lies in laying a foundation or cornerstone, just as you know well. Barth also said in his sermon that I introduced a minute ago, as follows: 'It is an infinite comfort for us to know that we are allowed to lay ourselves on the foundation that is already laid lightheartedly, cheerfully and without being worried, right?'The foundation which is Jesus Christ is already laid. Just because of that, we are allowed to omit that part which is the greatest difficulty when we construct a building. There is no need for us to be worried about what kind of foundation or cornerstone on earth we should lay. We don't have to take any pains about that. When we build the community called a church, we don't have to be worried about what kind of foundation or cornerstone on earth we should lay. We don't have to take pains about it. And an additional comfort is that as long as we construct a building on the foundation that is already laid, we'can construct'a strong building automatically that won't collapse. After today's sermon, we will sing a well-known hymn but such a church does not collapse just as a building constructed on a rock. This is the very greatest comfort.
3.3 Now is the time for us to talk about the foundation. When it comes to the material of the building, the end of Verse 12 quotes wood, hay and straw etc. The material of the church that we are going to build in the future, which is of course not the church as the building but as the worship community and faith community, will probably be something like hay or straw. It cannot be the material that our predecessors have used so far. We must be prepared for the smaller number of members and the smaller amount of donation. But even if the material is hay or straw, as long as the building is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, it is strong. However strong the storm may be, it is all right. It won't budge an inch. It is safe.
3.4 Verse 16 and the following saying'Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?'refer to this material. The material that is used for building the church refers to nothing but us. It does not mean that apart from the church or temple that is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, we are God's temple. It does not mean that we, who are quite a long way from the church, are God's temple respectively. We are precious material of the temple, however poor the hay or straw may be, in that we are a part that forms the church or temple. We are precious. We are a treasure for God. God builds the church of us, who are nothing but this poor material. As the strong foundation of Jesus Christ is already laid, even if hay or straw like us becomes the material, the church is built. And it does not collapse. Therefore, we do not have to worry about our future. We are allowed to conjure up a vision of our church proudly which is 10 years ahead.

4.1 Then what on earth does it mean that the church is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ? This is the very key point of today's word. Here I am reminded of the word that Jesus taught as the most important principle and fundamental truth about the church. It is found in Verse 20, Chapter 20 of the Gospel according to Matthew: Jesus said, 'Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.'
4.2 That a church is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ means that those who come together get together in the name of Jesus. What does it mean to get together in the name of Jesus? The word just before that says, 'if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.'To get together in the name of Jesus means that in the name of Jesus, that is, in terms of his existence, two or three people agree and get together to pray to God in heaven. What do they ask God for? They ask for various things but, talking about what we learned last week, they ask for God's grace.
4.3 I reflect on the word from Verses 1 to 9, Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to John, which was given last Sunday. In Jerusalem, there was a pool called Bethesda, which means the house blessed by God. Around it, a great number of people who wanted to be blessed by God used to lie. Among them, there was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. As there was a pool that was called the house of God's grace nearby, did those people get God's grace? The answer was negative. The reason was that they were prevented from being cured by a legend that when the water is stirred, only the first person to go down is cured. In such a way, we set arbitrary limitations or conditions, this way or that way, on receiving the grace of God. Jesus did away with them. He asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'He thought that it was enough for him to have the urgent desire 'to get well.'Although this person said various conditions for receiving the grace of God, Jesus didn't listen to such things. He only said, 'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.'He meant that 'Use whatever little ability that remains within yourself and whatever little power to get up, and God will use them and he will let you walk.'Such a miracle in which literally this man got well and was able to walk may not take place to us. But if you dare to jump into the existence of Jesus Christ and wish to'get well'wholeheartedly, something good will surely come in one sense or other. You can get up. We come to church to ask for the grace of God. That is a church being built on the foundation of the very Jesus Christ.
4.4 I wonder why Jesus said in the Gospel according to Matthew that I quoted a minute ago, 'if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.'The reason is that they are the minimal unit, with one person talking about Jesus through the word of the Bible and with the other person jumping into Jesus. The church built only by two people is nothing but a building made of hay or straw. It might look as if it would be broken to pieces in an instant. But it IS strong. It is the church built on a rock.
4.5 I want our church to receive the grace of God in that Jesus is talked about and in that God is talked about from the word of the Bible. It should always be based on all visions that we have about the future of our church. If our church is such a church, then whatever storm may come, it will never collapse at all. Even if there were only two members in the church, it would never disappear. But on the contrary, however large the church may be, if it doesn't receive the grace of God, it cannot help collapsing.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 3 : 10-17

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved?even though only as one escaping through the flames.? 16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on March 18, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- To Serve -

By Rev. Mr. Nobuhisa YAMAKITA

1.1 I congratulate you on the 40 th anniversary of the founding of Tsukuba Gakuen Church and pray for the Lord's blessings and guidance furthermore. The birth of Tsukuba Gakuen Church is attributed to a sheer guidance of the Holy Spirit. Of course, Hijirigaoka Church made a plan to preach the gospel with the Reverend Inagaki Moriomi as the central figure, and they made great efforts to carry out their plan. They considered which area to choose as the place to preach the gospel at and visited candidate areas a lot of times. But the final phase of their decision started when the pastor caught a glimpse of an advertising circular. 'That's right. Let's go to Tsukuba.' The committee took a step further in one direction. It can't be described in any other way but the Holy Spirit.
1.2 But it didn't go as well as they thought. In the area of Tsukuba, estate agents mushroomed one after another and they thrived so much that there were a lot of touters. The committee members visited an estate agent with the advertising circular in their hands and they were shown around the plot of land. Later, they went so far as to pay its deposit. But one day, all of a sudden, the whole estate agent vanished. Later the Chief of the Tsukuba Police Station heard the rumor that they were deceived in the purchase of the plot of land.
1.3 In the meantime, a landowner showed up who got infuriated with the fraud and who was kind enough to give a helping hand to them. They met this landowner named Shibahasi Ken and decided to buy a plot of land (110,000 yen per tsubo x 300 tsubo). This was also attributed to the guidance from above which was beyond human knowledge. With regard to the rest of the story, I would like to talk about it at the lecture meeting this afternoon. Through the Holy Spirit, that is, with God's invisible hand of love, the church which is the Lord's body crystallized into a visible form and it formed Tsukuba Gakuen Church, which is based on an account written by the Reverend Harry Burton Lewis, at the United Methodist Church of the Kanto Division.
1.4 For what on earth is the church built and for what do those who are related to it exist? It is 'to serve.' The page in the Bible that we read just a minute ago says so. It is the lesson for today of our religious group.
1.5 After the Lord Jesus announced in advance his cross and resurrection, to live in response to those heavy facts is to serve. It teaches us that it is to live in order to serve that becomes the purpose of our life in God.
1.6 Although the Lord Jesus proclaimed his cross and resurrection with such a feeling of high tension that his disciples wondered why, there occurred some trouble among his disciples: When James and John said to Jesus,'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory ,'the other 10 disciples got angry, thinking how impudent they were that they should try to get one step ahead of the others. Matthew probably thought that it was not appropriate for such leading disciples as James and John to ask for such a shameful thing, and Verse 20, Chapter 20 of the Gospel According to Matthew says,'the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked for a favor of him.'It could happen to a mother who is overzealous regarding her children's education, he thought, right?
1.7 But it was probably not shameful that James and John asked Jesus to allow them to sit by him just like the Minister of the Right and the Minister of the Left. If they love the Lord Jesus, it is a natural desire for them to sit near him as long as they want to.
1.8 The question is not to try to become great among you in a self-satisfactory way or in an authoritarian way, but whether to become great in order to serve a lot of people far and wide. In Verse 14, Chapter 5, of the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus says,'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden,'which is quite true.
1.9 The Lord said, 'whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.'It makes us understand what kind of person God seeks. It is the person who serves. And it overlaps the way of living a strict life by passing through checkpoints and not by asking for God for your sake but becoming yourself for the sake of God.
2.1 People say, 'If I had more money and time, I could do it. If I had more ability and physical power, I could do it.'But our life isn't made up of 'if, then .' What we do with what is given to us now, does matter. As long as we only say, 'I want to get, I want to acquire,' we cannot expect to grow. What is important is first to give and to try to share what we have within ourselves. The Lord taught us, ' Ask and it will be given to you, ' which is quite true.
2.2 Hijirigaoka Church has been made to grow by establishing Tsukuba Gakuen Church and seeing it grow. The number of Genju communicant members of Hijirigaoka Church who decided to establish Tsukuba Gakuen Church was 183 in 1976 ,whereas the number of those who attended the worship service was 94. And when Tsukuba Gakuen Church celebrated the tenth anniversary of its foundation in 1988, the number of Genju communicant members of Hijirigaoka Church grew to 308, meaning the increase of 125, and the number of those who attended the worship service came to 168, meaning the increase of 74. Since then, stimulated by Tsukuba Gakuen Church, Hijirigaoka Church has been growing and now the membership of the church is about three times as large as it was forty years ago. I think that this is attributed to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2.3 The Lord Jesus proclaimed, 'even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' We praise by saying, 'The Lord has come, and the Lord has come' but the Lord introduces himself and tells us why he has come to us.
2.4 The Lord came ' to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' He came to love this world and us but to love ends up with dying for the loved ones.
2.5 As in Philippians 2, Verse 7 and the following, Jesus 'made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death ? even death on a cross!' God saw his son's figure, that is, how he dedicated his whole life, and said, 'That's right. It was good.' He resurrected Jesus as the first crop offering and made him a reminder of eternal life.
2.6 When we think of the love of God who came to give his life for us and when we think of his will and that he loved this world so much that he gave his only son, in response to his love, we pray that we too will take a step in the direction of serving other people and that we will be given such strength to do so.
2.7 In American churches, we find the following words like a slogan: 'Jesus loves me ? so do I. ' This means that the Lord loves me and that I love the Lord too. This is serving in response to being served, namely, just because the Lord served me, I in turn serve him.
2.8 The original word of 'to serve ,' means 'a rower of the lower part.' It refers to a slave who keeps on rowing at the bottom part of a battle ship.
2.9 Strong men always stand at the bottom. The bottom, and men who stand at the bottom. It is the reality of those who serve the Lord. ' Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.' The church produces such strong men one after another.
2.10 There is a word that we must not use to yourself as well as to other people: It is 'a good-for-nothing.' In the vagrant Tora-san's word, 'That is a taboo. ' There is no one who is useless. Once you think of yourself that way, you end up in becoming that kind of person.
3.1 To live by serving other people sets us free from being useless. Indeed, nothing gives us so much delight and freshness as the real feeling that our own existence is serving someone else. Our life is made up of two parts, namely, for someone to live and to let other people live. Therefore, we interpret serving each other as 'shiawase' in Japanese meaning happy, and we say 'shigoto' to express 'serving other people.' Those are the reasons why we use such words 'shiawase' or 'shigoto.'
3.2 During Lent, in which we think of the Lord Jesus who came to serve and of Jesus Christ who achieved our salvation on the cross, we were able to offer the worship service commemorating the 40 th anniversary of the founding of Tsukuba Gakuen Church with gratitude.
3.3 This number '40' is also symbolical. For forty days and forty nights, it rained and the Flood took place. Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai for forty days and he was given the Ten Commandments. For forty years, Moses and his people wandered in the wilderness and went on with the exodus to glory. The Lord Jesus himself was exposed to Satan's temptations in the wilderness for forty days. And the resurrected Lord talked about the Kingdom of God for forty days.
3.4 If we give such examples, there will be no end to them. Thus the number '40' symbolizes trials and suffering and at the same time it shows the route to glory. Lent is set for forty days so that we can prepare our route of faith from suffering to glory and from the cross to resurrection.
3.5 Tsukuba Gakuen Church advances powerfully, raising the cross high and bravely in commemoration of 40 years after it was established. May God use Tsukuba Gakuen Church that is built to serve!
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to Mark 10:35-45

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
38 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
39 "We can," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,
40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
42 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on February 25, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- Your son will live -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1. The verse 46 says, 'Once again he visited Cana-in-Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.' From this it is apparent that the author John was intent on reminding the readers that Cana-in-Galilee was the place where Jesus turned water into wine as written on verse 1 and the following of chapter 2. The verse 11 of chapter 2 says, 'So Jesus performed at Cana-in-Galilee the first of the signs which revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him.' Therefore it seems that the event that took place during the wedding banquet turned out to be a decisive moment for the author John himself to believe Jesus as the savior. I don't think the repeated reference again on verse 46 about what had happened during the wedding festivity at Cana was made simply to underline that the episode of today's Bible passage took place in the same village. I gather the author John wanted to say that today's event overlapped with the earlier episode, don't you? Or it could be a message to suggest that the wondrous event during the banquet at Cana wasn't just a one-time event. He wanted to say that it can happen over and over again. Obviously it is not possible for us, readers of this Gospel, to go to Cana back in the age of Jesus. Yet the event during the wedding banquet at Cana does take place for us all; it is something we can relive, John was saying in order to encourage us.
John took what lay at the core of the event at Cana was that 'Jesus turned the water into wine.' This made me think again about why Jesus told the banquet servants to fill the jars with water instead of directly giving wine to the guests; the point I will come back to later in the course of my sermon. It wasn't the intention of Jesus to give them the best wine immediately. The thing began with water. The important matter then was that the servants filled the jars with water as told by Jesus, although we may wonder what the water had to do with wine. While wine may not be available at anywhere, one can possibly take water from any place around. Jesus would have us do what we can easily. Then it turns gradually into wine of indispensable value. Let us have a taste of the Bible words for today, laying them over the event of festivity at Cana!
2. The first stage of the water turning into wine began with Mary, the mother of Jesus, coming for help and telling him that wine, which was an absolute must for any wedding festivity, was giving out. It goes without saying, that for the water to be turned into wine, the thing had to begin with her coming to know that wine was giving out and coming to ask not anyone else but Jesus to 'do something help.'
An officer in the royal service in today's episode did exactly the same as Mary. Verse 46 tells at its end that he was an officer serving 'the ruler of Capernaum.' As you will find it on a map at the end of the Bible, Capernaum was a town along the Dead Sea, some 30 kilometers east of Cana. That was where the palace of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, was and the officer belonged to him. 'Officer,' in the original Greek suggests he was either a very high-ranking officer or a nobleman. As such it could never be that he would come to be in touch with Jesus, who was only a son of a carpenter. What made the high-ranking officer bother to take a 30-kilometer journey to meet Jesus? His son ? probably the only child ? was about to die due to serious illness. The Bible doesn't say anything as to how his visiting of Jesus affected either his status or position. However, Herod Antipas was such a kind of ruler as to have had John, the Baptist, beheaded for half a sport. And Jesus had deep relationship with John the Baptist. So Herod couldn't have allowed his high-ranking subject to go and visit with Jesus with good grace. Possibly the officer might have gone to see Jesus without taking the leave of absence from his lord. That very decision may have been decisively important for his son to be healed of his illness, I gather; the point I will again come back to later. The visiting with Jesus itself was already the beginning of the process of healing. He was already beginning to put water into the jar. And the visiting with Jesus never ended in vain.
He went home certainly with an empty hand, as I will soon touch on. While believing as written on verse 50, 'The man believed what Jesus said and started for home,' he set to a return journey without the wine he had sought for, i.e. the healing of his sick son, or without having the blessing of Jesus coming to Capernaum with him. It may be said that he couldn't take anything with him, not even water, let alone the wine he wanted on his way home. Yet visiting Jesus for getting wine never ends in vain. The author John was telling, I gather, that this can be true of anyone. That is why John is giving courage to us saying that if we faced with 'short supply of wine,' which cannot be solved by any other means, just go to Jesus and ask him for help. We may not get what we wish, yet visiting with Jesus and asking for help is never going to end in vain, John tells.

3. During the festivity at Cana, Jesus replied to Mary in really a cold manner that makes ones, who read the passage on its surface, wonder if that was the kind of attitude a son should take toward his biological mother when he said, 'Woman, that is no concern of mine.' Likewise, when the officer begged Jesus to go down and cure his son before he dies, he answered saying, 'Will none of you ever believe without seeing signs and portents?' and only gave words and said, 'Return home. Your son will live,' and refused to go with him. This is the very point where we find Jesus making people, who come to him seeking for wine, draw water first instead of wine immediately.
I hinted about what was in the mind of Jesus when he reacted to plea of the officer. By saying, 'Will none of you ever believe without seeing signs and portents?' Jesus pointed out that a man would seek for wine. Signs and portents are the wine which will men seek for. Men would believe when the wine is given, Jesus was pointing out. However, there are few who will get the wine they seek in their hands as they wish. If they will believe when given what they wanted from God and Jesus, they will never come to be able to believe God and Jesus. The walk of faith begins with drawing water first, which is far different from wine. If water, one can draw it with ease. Because it was water, the servants at Cana festivity could fill as many as 6 empty jars to the full brim. While there's no filling of jars with wine from the beginning, one can do so if it's water. And the water turns into wine, says Jesus.
I think the author John intended also to say the following in the form of a discourse between Jesus and the officer. We readers of the Gospel can neither go to Cana nor take Jesus to our place. We also cannot have Jesus touch his hand on us or on our family in illness we wish cured. I guess John had us readers in such conditions in his mind; John is giving courage to us meaning to say, 'You don't need to have Jesus directly come to you and do wondrous performance. It is good if you don't go to Cana or have Jesus come to you. Good if you don't get him to cure you. Good enough if you just draw water.' He encourages us saying if we don't have wondrous works performed or the wine given us by Jesus which we wish and seek after, in so far as we can draw water it will at some time turn into wine which we need.
4. What then does it mean to draw water? It is, as on verse 50, 'to return home believing the words Jesus spoke.' While the officer pleaded with Jesus to come with him to his son and cure him, the only thing given was just the words, 'Your son will live.' The officer could have burst into anger at it. The officer could take it that Jesus was talking irresponsibly to get him return home because he could not cure his son after all. Yet he believed what were just words of Jesus. With the words he headed for home. That was the act of drawing water. Then the water turned into wine. Wondrously the fever left the son just at the time when Jesus had said to him, 'Your son will live.'
This makes me think again what it means for us to draw water. I am taught that it is to receive and accept the words of God and Jesus given through the Bible. The water we draw begins with just a drop of it at the outset. It dries out in a matter of seconds because it is just a drop. Yet the drawn water gets abundant a bit by bit as we repeat attending the worship services over and again and reading the Bible. It strikes me home to recollect that I've been drawing water for more than 60 years now. It hits me home that the water I have drawn through the words of the Bible has gotten increasingly more abundant as I advance in age. And the water is turned into wine within us.
Perhaps there may be some among us who bemoan that while the officer was given the wine, i.e. his son on the brink of death cured, no wine has been given me; the water remains as water; there is no change in that someone so dearly valuable for me still stays at the point of death as far as I am concerned. What does it mean that the water given through the Bible turns into wine? If someone on sick bed we love is not cured and doesn't get back to strength literally, does it mean the water has not turned into wine?
When Jesus said, 'Your son will live,' I don't think he meant a life in the sense of a physical being. Of course it could be that wine is given in the form of our sick body being cured up to a certain point in time. Yet when the time comes we must leave from our physical being and set to our journey towards wearing a new instrument of life. We cannot remain in instruments made of soil forever. The wine God and Jesus give us is what makes us go in joy and celebration when we graduate from the instrument made of soil into spiritual instrument, i.e. when we die, isn't it?
At the Bible Study & Prayers Meeting we are beginning to learn from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah after an interval of 10 years for me. The words of Isaiah are giving me much richer water than it used to at earlier times. And certainly the water is turning into wine within me. At the study of last week I was struck by the word, 'the survivors,' which struck me deep in my heart. I didn't feel it as strong as at this time when I was in my forties and fifties, which I take to mean that the word is giving me richer water as I gradually approach the end of my life on earth. The word 'the survivors,' carries a message that God will leave survivors without fail when the Last Day comes which he causes to come ? it comes to the whole world and it also comes to each one of us as well. We may think that the end of our life as a physical being means the end of all and nothing remains. But God says he will show us that which does not end, never disappears on the Last Day. What a joy it is to learn that there is such a thing as that at the final time!
The word, 'The survivors,' has an implication to suggest 'the remnant.' By this we get to know that what we left uncared, what we regarded as unnecessary and leftover during our heydays are what will definitely survive. The water given through such words as those turn into wine within me. The water given will have changed into wine with which we can well wish the steps in that direction and be pleased with, even though we are heading towards the time when our life in physical being will end,
The last point I wanted to make was the reason why the sick son was cured physically. As I touched on it earlier, it may well be that the officer went to Jesus for the sake of his son, even abandoning the high position he held under Herod Antipas. It may have been that the father of the son serving as a high-ranking officer of Herod was possibly casting dark shadow on the family, especially on the son. Yet the father left Herod for the sake of his son. He may have continued to serve Herod thereafter. But he became one to serve Jesus in his heart. He exposed his weak self, pleading with God and Jesus for help, and that was for the sake of his son. Can we not say that such a figure of the father saved his son and made him live afresh? I think we can say he saved his entire family that way.
(Translated by Hiroshi NISHIDO from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 4: 43 - 54

43 When the two days were over Jesus left for Galilee; 44 for he himself had declared that a prophet is without honour in his own country. 45 On his arrival the Galileans made him welcome, because they had seen all he did at the festival in Jerusalem; they had been at the festival themselves. 46 Once again he visited Cana-in-Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. An officer in the royal service was there, whose son was lying ill at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judaea into Galilee, he went to him and begged him to go down and cure his son, who was at the point of death. 48 Jesus said to him, 'Will none of you ever believe without seeing signs and portents?' 49 The officer pleaded with him, 'Sir, come down before my boy dies.' 50 'Return home,' said Jesus; 'your son will live.' The man believed what Jesus said and started for home. 51 While he was on his way down his servants met him with the news that his child was going to live. 52 So he asked them at what time he had begun to recover, and they told him, 'It was at one o'clock yesterday afternoon that the fever left him.' 53 The father realized that this was the time at which Jesus had said to him, 'Your son will live,' and he and all his household became believers. 54 This was the second sign which Jesus performed after coming from Judaea to Galilee.
(The Revised English Bible Version)


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Worship Service on February 11, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- As special possession of God -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1. As we finished learning from the Book of Numbers, beginning today I should like us to start learning from Deuteronomy at a pace of once in three weeks. Today being the first of our learning from the book of Deuteronomy, I should like to share with you about what kind of scripture it is.
Shinmei-ki (of which a direct translation in Japanese language means a record of God's instructions) is Deuteronomy in English. This is a straight English translation of a Greek word Deutro-nomion. Deutro means the second and nomion is derived from the word Nomos, which means law or rules. God said to Moses, 'You did not trust me; therefore you will not lead this assembly into the land I am giving them.' So Moses left his will, so to say, to the Israelites who were about to enter the land of Palestine soon in the coming days. He gave the words of God or instructions (carefully, or yet again) for the second time. So the book is titled Deuteronomy, i.e. God's words given for the second time.
That having been said, though, a widely accepted view today is that it is utterly impossible to say that it is true to the fact. There may certainly be such words in Deuteronomy as Moses received from God and relayed to the Israelites. It is thought that the words so passed on by mouth were put in letters since after some time and in that way what constituted the basis of Deuteronomy was written. Verse 8 and the following of chapter 22 of the Second Book of Kings say that what came to be known as 'the scroll of the law,' was found in the house of the LORD when the king Josiah was having the Temple of Jerusalem repaired. This is said to be the source document of what is Deuteronomy of the present days. Yet, it contains just a part of today's Deuteronomy. Many other factors were added to the source document, and it is considered that it might probably be that the book was written and edited in its present form by the people with priests at its center in the midst of the Babylonian Captivity.
The point here is that the book was edited in the midst of their Babylonian Captivity. As verse 4 of today's Bible passage says, 'Then the anger of the LORD will be roused against you and he will soon destroy you,' Deuteronomy was written in the midst of what God said would take place became a reality in fact. As such the position of their faith was one to inquire why it was that they were drawn into such a situation; why God got angry with them and destroyed them. The inquiry led them to go back in history to arrive at an answer that their ancestor way back in early age had not done what they should have. The answer to the question was compiled in the form of God's words as having been given as his instruction through the mouth of Moses.

2. Coming to know of such a background, we get to be able also to understand what God meant when he told the Israelites with such horrible words as 'you must exterminate them.' This order of God to say, 'you must exterminate them,' appear time and again in Deuteronomy and also in the Book of Joshua. We have to struggle indeed asking how best we should understand this. You'll remember the Reverend Dr. Satoshi Ootomo, whom we invited to address at the meeting of general assembly and the retreat for church women's associations in our district last year. On a certain occasion, I asked him this question; how we shall understand this instruction of God. It is a very tough question for him as well, he said.
Some people take it literally as the order of God. People who took it for an absolute order of God even justified stretching their legs to Africa and Americas and expelling or even destroying the aboriginal, indigenous people already dwelling there. Also the Israel of today uses the series of these Bible words as the ground for expelling Palestinians. However, these words were never spoken by God in the literal sense of the term.
As taught just a while ago, these were the words which the Israelites, having their kingdom destroyed and having themselves taken as captives under the Babylonian Captivity, heard through inquiring how their ancestor should have done. Behind the inquiry was the primary posture in their mind that they shouldn't have lost their sovereignty or their fatherland. How did they fall in such a situation? And they thought the answer was that they invited anger of God because they established marital relationship with other people around them and came to serve gods before they knew it, which those other people served. Therefore, in the anger of God they heard his words saying that they should have exterminated other nations in the first place, and they shouldn't have come into marriage relationship with them, and further that they shouldn't have made various contracts with them. They took the words of God passed on them by mouth to mean the above said messages. The words of God they heard were words they took standing on their position that they shouldn't have lost their sovereignty or their fatherland. But I have doubt as to whether these were indeed truly the words from God.
There is a fundamental question that applies to all throughout the Old Testament Bible, which is that while God repeated his promise to Abraham and his descendants time and again to give the land to the Israelites, what did it really mean? On verse 1 of chapter 7 there is a phrase to say, 'the land to possess.' A Biblical scholar Mr. Masao Sekine, referring to the word 'inheritance,' as it appeared in the Book of Numbers, translated it as 'the land for inherited occupancy,' in place of the land to possess, which I think is pertinent translation.
God surely gave this land to the Israelites. But it was just that they were given a place for dwelling only by chance as a result of drawing a lot; to talk about ownership of the land, it was in the hands of God. In terms of a form, the Israelites were not in possession of the land. The land inhabited by the Israelites never came to be possessed by them as a result of expelling the previously inhabiting people or of literally exterminating them. The state of the fact was that it was the land where the Israelites and other people co-existed. In reality those other people were more likely to be such as couldn't ever be exterminated as we'll learn it later on. It was because the Israelites would fight with them for possession of the land so that they were drawn into having to make contracts and marrying with these people with the result that it was the Israelites who were drawn to their gods and came to be stained with their values, ultimately leading to be perished. How they should have done to keep their sovereignty of a nation and the land under their occupation from the hands of Babylonians, and thereby to hold on to the ownership of the land? If the Israelites couldn't hear the words of God on other stance than the one by which they only pursued the above question, I think the words they heard cannot be said to be really the words of God.

3. Then what was the true will of God that lay at the bottom of the Bible words for today? What God was saying was revealed to me that while the Israelites were going to dwell on, but not possess, the land of Palestine, there were certain things which they should keep in their mind. As can be expected, it was about nothing else but the relationship they would come to have with the people already living there. When the Israelites began dwelling there, it was inevitable that they came to make contracts with those other people on various fronts and also to have marital relationship with them. It wasn't out of mishap that the deeper the relationship with them got, the more the Israelites were drawn into serving their gods, and so invited their own ruin. Hence the warning: they should never serve gods of other people; they shouldn't be stained by the value and the way of living of other people, and sunk under their influence even if the Israelites might come to have relationship with them.
What were then the sense of values and the ways of life of the people already living on the land? As written on the latter part of verse 1, at the core of the problem lay 'seven nations more numerous and powerful than the Israelites.' Seven being a perfect number, the ramification was that these people were perfect in terms of numbers and strength so that the Israelites were no match with them on these terms. Some 40 years before then, men were sent out from the place called Kadesh, a place of encampment, to explore the land of Canaan. Men reported back saying, 'its inhabitants are formidable, and the towns are fortified.' (Numbers chapter 13, verses from 28). It was that kind of people who were waiting ready for your coming with their hands loosely bound to bows. They were waiting to take you in and ruin you. Therefore they were to fight a battle with them. The will of God was not that they should exterminate the enemies. It was the contrary to it. God was concerned lest the Israelites should be exterminated; that they should not lose out.
Then how the Israelites were to wage the battle? They were destined to be defeated if they fought on the battle field of the enemies by competing with them in numbers and strength. Therefore they had to fight on the field other than that of numbers and forces, and battle with other kind of weapons. That was the only way for winning. This, as on the phrase of the Bible passage for today, was expressed as winning by 'terminating them,' not literally though. It didn't mean literally to exterminate them based on numbers and forces; it meant to win the battle with the people who were already dwelling on that land in terms of the values, the ways of living and of religious faith, and to keep the Israelites themselves from being swallowed and so hold independence.
It was impossible to literally expel and exterminate the people already dwelling; should they have tried, they would have been involved in a battle with numbers and forces. What today's Israel and supporters of her are doing is to try to be superior by numbers and forces. That is never what God is willing. If they are winning, it is fundamentally nothing else but foreshadowing of their figure that will have been destroyed by the numbers and forces they are deploying.

4. Then what sort of weapons will God give us other than numbers and forces for this difficult battle faced? That is what verses from 6 to 8 elaborate. We find the especially well-known words here among all other known phrases on Deuteronomy: 'God has chosen you out of all peoples on earth to be his special possession.' Why the Israelites? It was not 'because they were more numerous than any other nation that the LORD cared for you and chose you, for you were the smallest of all nations.' What was the weapon given? It was this choice of them made by God; God chose them to be his possession for they were smaller and feebler than any other people, and the fact that God chose them as such was the weapon for them. With this weapon in their hands, they were to face up with the battle charged by the seven perfect people with their numbers and forces.
They would provoke us with the yardstick of numbers and forces, and say in mockery to us how small you are, how worthless, and that you will find no meaning in life. They say that those without numbers and affluence based on forces have no value. My wife borrowed a monthly magazine 'Friends of Tomorrow,' from a library which had an article of conversation between the chaplain of Yodogawa Christian Hospital and a lecturer of a course for operators of Kansai Inochi-no-Denwa (Life Telephone for Kansai Area). In that conversation, the Chaplain Fujii said that 'the words I hear most frequently at the hospice are "I cannot find a meaning to live any longer. It will be much better if I died as there's no meaning in it that I continue to live just giving troubles and burdens on my family." Very many patients staying in the hospice say these words. Prepossessed by the idea that one would do well to avoid being a cause of trouble to kin and others, they refuse to accept themselves as they are, I gather.'
As the chaplain Fujii says, we are indeed prepossessed. What keeps us prepossessed is the value we have of wishing to live in vigor, in good health without being a cause of trouble to kin to the end; a way of life supported by our vigor, sound health and strength. It is the value to live as a winner by being 'a perfect man,' without illness, and without weakness. But all of us will be 'the smallest and the most enfeebled in the world,' sooner or later. When the time comes, murmur comes out of our mouth to say that one has no meaning to live exactly because one is prepossessed by the value to win by numbers and strength. That is ruinous. The only weapon for us with which to avoid falling in that situation is the choice made by God. That God chooses us, the smallest and the most enfeebled on earth, to be his possession is our weapon.
Why would God make such a choice? The phrase on verse 7 which says that 'the LORD cared for you (by the Japanese translation, "affected by you) and chose you,' is really a unique expression. 'The LORD pined for you,' says other translation; a phrase commonly meant to express the feeling of love toward a person of other sex. God pines for the smallest and the most enfeebled rather than the ones with superior numbers and strength. What a solace it is for us to be able to think that God pines for us and chooses us as his special possession when we become the smallest and the most enfeebled. In this way God beats seven people eyeing to ruin us. It is not that we win but God who wins for us.
The way by which God wins is not by numbers and forces but by choosing us, the small and the enfeebled. And this choice finally led to the choice of Jesus who was scorned on the cross as the smallest and weakest and was spat on his face as a useless being. This Jesus God declared his greatest possession. That was why it was only Jesus, the greatest possession of God, who was given eternal life. Just as the people who would win by numbers and forces killed Jesus on the cross, they will win over us in the same way for a time. Yet that Jesus, who was put on the cross, was resurrected and is alive now, tells us that the vulnerability of him on the cross and us with our weakness will be chosen to be the possession of God, and that we will continue to exist eternally. The fact that God chose Jesus on the cross as his greatest possession is our support and encouragement for us. That works as a weapon for us to live without being ruined by the seven peoples of earth and by their way of life to try to win based on numbers and forces.
(Translated by Hiroshi NISHIDO from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

Deuteronomy 7 : 1 - 8

1 When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are about to enter to occupy it, when he drives out many nations before you -- Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you - 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them into your power for you to defeat, you must exterminate them. You must not make an alliance with them or spare them. 3 You must not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 because if you do, they will draw your children away from the LORD to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD will be roused against you and he will soon destroy you. 5 But this is what you must do to them: pull down their altars, break their sacred pillars, hack down their sacred poles, and burn their idols, 6 for you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you out of all peoples on earth to be his special possession. 7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other nation that the LORD cared for you and chose you, for you were the smallest of all nations; 8 it was because the LORD loved you and stood by his oath to your forefathers, that he brought you out with his strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
(The Revised English Bible)


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Worship Service on January 14, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- Will you Give me a Drink? -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today's word describes the scene where by the well near Sychar in a town in Samaria, Jesus met a Samaritan woman and he talked with her. Mr. Tadao Yanaibara, the Former President of University of Tokyo and economist, says at the beginning of his commentary on today's word as follows: Here we happen to find a conversation which is deeper than that of Jacob's well between the Savior of the world and a foreign woman. That account is filled with the most literary touch in the Gospel according to John. But when we are asked how much we can draw the water that is likened to 'the spring that is deeper than Jacob's well ,' and how much we can drink it, we wonder how difficult it will be. Still we hope that we will get that water from this word and that it will turn into 'a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'
1.2 Now, let me talk about the lexical knowledge that is essential for understanding today's word. First, I would like to talk about why the well at Sychar in Samaria was called Jacob's well. If you have the Bible with references, with regard to Verse 5, Genesis, Chapter 33, Verse18 and Chapter 48, Verses 21 and 22 and Joshua Chapter 24, Verse32 are cited as references, I think. Genesis, Chapter 33 says that Jacob who under his uncle Laban experienced 20 years' labor and toil came back to his hometown and it describes what happened immediately after Jacob managed to meet his brother Esau again and to be reconciled with him. It says that Jacob who parted from his brother Esau bought a plot of land that local people called Shechem with 100 qesitah, whose monetary value we are not sure of but which was probably very expensive. Genesis Chapter 33 doesn't say anything about the well but probably this place came to be called Jacob's well, before they knew it. In Genesis Chapter 48, on his deathbed Jacob said that he would give this land to Joseph, while Joshua Chapter 24 Verse 32 says that the bones of Joseph who died in Egypt were buried here.
1.3 For reference, let me quote a part of the book Hearts and Thoughts of the Gospel according to John (2) 'written by Dr. Kiyoshi Tsuchido, the leading researcher of the Gospel according to John in Japan. The doctor, who visited this place on his way back from the international society held in Tel Aviv in August, 2000, says the following: 'A town in Samaria has a mountain called Mt. Gerizim ….At the north eastern foot of this mountain lies the town of Sychar. It is located 400 meters to the south east of the ancient town Shechem. It was an important place in traffic in those days and at the place where two ancient highways crossed, there used to be a vertical well that was 32 meters deep. It is the place that even now tourists and pilgrims visit. One thousand years ago those who took part in a campaign of the crusaders built a church on this well in commemoration of their visit. But actually that church collapsed in the past 1000 years and only the ossuary of it remains as if it were closing the well. Even now you can see it. ' I am not sure of whether the well had not dried up when Dr. Tsuchido visited it but in the days of Jesus it had not dried up as a well. It was already 1700 years since Jacob's days but in the meantime this well had been continuing to provide people who lived there with water without drying up.
1.4 Next, I would like to talk about people called 'Samaritans. 'The woman who was spoken to by Jesus, who said, 'Will you give me a drink? ', is described as saying 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? ,'and after that, the author John added the explanation' For Jews do not associate with Samaritans ,'in parentheses. They are the people who often appear in the New Testament as 'Samaritans ,'but the problem dates back to the 8 th Century BC: The Kingdom which David built was divided into two countries, the North and South Kingdoms, after his son King Solomon died and the capital of the Kingdom of the North was placed in Samaria. But the North Kingdom was destroyed by Assyria in 722 B.C. or so. Of the twelve tribes who were derived from Jacob's twelve children, ten tribes, except two tribes who stayed mainly in the South Kingdom, were dispersed thanks to it. We are not sure of the exact numbers of them but their descendants are said to have followed a road in the Asian Continent and to have reached as far as Japan. It prompted a racial and religious mixture with those who migrated from Assyria. But still some people of those who lived in Samaria were proud that they were true Jacob's descendants, that they had this well of Jacob's as their mark and that they had drawn water from it from generation to generation. This woman's word in Verses 11 and 12 reveals part of their pride strongly. They built a temple on Mt. Gerizim which Dr. Tsuchido quoted in his passage a minute ago and they believed only five books from Genesis to Deuteronomy as their Bible. These Samaritans had a strong sense of rivalry against the Israeli people who were captured by Babylonia in the sixth Century B.C. and who returned home, and both Samaritans and Israeli people were always at odds with each other.

2.1 I have just told a rather long story but against this kind of historical background the Samaritan and Jesus met and they talked a lot. As a result, although we didn't read it today, she spread what Jesus said, as Verse 29 says, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?' Finally thanks to her testimony as in Verse 39, many Samaritans in the town of Sychar came to believe in Jesus. First, it seemed that here was a part of the message that the author John wanted to give us.
2.2 The Samaritans who were at odds with Israeli people for a long time, who believed the first five books of the Old Testament and who didn't even pay a visit to Jerusalem Temple came to believe in Jesus as the Christ. And its beginning was that, as will be told soon, the only woman who was ostracized by those Samaritans, met Jesus and believed in him. The author John was going to tell this as a strong encouragement to people in and around Ephesus, right? In and around Ephesus in about A.D. 100, we are not sure how many Samaritan people there were or how many people overlapped with this woman. However, among them, there were some people who could not help being at odds with traditional Israeli people and who were thought to be totally unable to believe Jesus as the Savior, right? But John felt that it was such people that could meet Jesus and believe him as the Savior. In order to give such encouragement to readers, the author John must have written this event.

3.1 We have to think that there are essential factors in the fact that this Samaritan woman met Jesus and came to believe him as the Christ: They are both a factor on the woman's side and a factor on Jesus's side. First, I would like to consider the factor on the woman's side.
3.2The beginning of the encounter was, as in Verse 7, that' a Samaritan woman came to draw water.' Usually they never drew water at such an early time. It was probably usual to draw water early in the morning or in the evening and to come with her friend, not alone. There are some reasons why she had to do this: The first reason is that she told the whole truth as is seen in Verse 18. She had as many as five husbands one after another and what on earth has happened to her, now that she has the sixth husband? For these reasons, there was nobody who came together with her to the well. She had nothing but to come to the well alone in broad daylight so that she would not meet anybody.
3.3 What is meant by the word, 'came to draw water' is not just to come to the well just simply because she wanted water. She had very deep thirst, and such deep thirst that she had to have so many love affairs so far. But probably it was not just physical or sexual thirst. It must have been religious thirst. Just because of that, suddenly, probably suddenly, in Verse 19, she turned to the subject about faith and prayer. Since early times, there has been an interpretation to the effect that in order to avoid talking about her innumerable number of love affairs with men, she started to talk about prayers. But I cannot agree with it. The fundamental reason why she had to change her partners this way was just that she lacked spiritual partner, that is, partnership with God. To put Jesus' word in Verse 10, it is to 'know the gift of God .'As long as that thirst is not satisfied, no matter how many men she may have love affairs, her thirst is not satisfied. It might not be possible to say that all women in the whole world are seeking a spiritual connection with God, but some women seek such a thing from the bottom of their hearts. Such thirst was never satisfied, through connections with men or no matter how much water she might drink from Jacob's well that ancestors had used from generation to generation, and even if she made a visit to the temple at the top of Mt. Gerizim. To have such thirst makes her unhappy? Indeed, it made her live like this and made her ostracized. But it made it possible for her to have an encounter with Jesus.
3.4 We are the ones who are sure to have such thirst, right? It makes us go first, toward the well. The well means a church. It was fortunate that even this woman had the well that she could come to alone. The reason was that she was able to meet Jesus there. I really hope that the church will be such a well.

4.1Now how did Jesus meet this kind of woman? The beginning was, as is shown in Verse 6, that 'Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.' And it was that to a Samaritan woman who came to the well ? probably Jesus at a glance would have known that there was something wrong with her --- , he said, 'Will you give me a drink? ,'regardless of the difference between a Samaritan woman and an Israeli man. Since early times, it has been interpreted that today's word to the effect that Jesus felt thirsty as he was tired from the journey and said, 'Will you give me a drink? 'at about noon overlaps with the scene where Jesus was put on the cross at about noon and he said, 'I am thirsty' (The Gospel according to John, Chapter 19, Verse 28). I think so, too. Of course, it is impossible for this woman from Samaria to know the figure of Jesus on the cross, but anyway in her presence, Jesus, tired from the journey, sat down by the well and was able to say 'Will you give me a drink?' to such a woman as her, without putting barriers around him. Jesus appeared as such a person. Not as a person who is not tired or a person who is not thirsty, but as a person who is more tired and thirstier than this Samaritan woman, and as a person who asks, 'Will you give me a drink?', he met this Samaritan woman.
4.2 Jesus kindly meets us too, as a person who is thirstier than us and more tired than us in this world. Just because Jesus is such a person, we are able to meet him, I think. In Verse 11, the Samaritan woman said to Jesus, 'Sir, you have nothing to draw with .' Dr. Berkley's book with notes says that Jesus had nothing to draw with, unlike people who traveled in this region carrying something like a long leather strap with a bag at its end. It says that because of that, Jesus could not drink any water although there was a well and that all that he could do was to lick the water that was spilled by the person who drew water before him. That Jesus 'had nothing to draw with 'implies Jesus, who had nothing unlike ordinary people who had something to draw with in this world, and it suggests the figure of Jesus who was put on the cross. Jesus who was thirsty on the earth and who said on the cross, 'I am thirsty , 'taught us by his own action that in the midst of his thirst we are able to get inexhaustible water, right? That revelation is his resurrection. In the midst of thirst of the cross, a spring of inexhaustible eternal life does appear. We, who were drawn to Jesus who is thirsty and who were privileged to meet him, turn out to know this inexhaustible gift of God's.
4.3Water flows from a higher place to a lower one. On the basis of the principle called osmotic pressure, if water touches something that is drier or thirstier than ourselves, it flows toward it by itself, I think. Just because Jesus, who was thirstier than she was, met her this way, something started to flow from her, who was thirsty.She believed in Jesus, who caused such a flow within herself, as the Savior, right?
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 4: 5 - 26

5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." 11 "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?" 13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." 15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." 16 He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back." 17 "I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." 19 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." 21 Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." 25 The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) " is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." 26 Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."
(New International Version)


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