Tsukuba Gakuen Church, UCCJ


Worship Service on August 18, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- As You Love God, So You should Do This! -

The Reverend Ms. Hoshiko MIYAJIMA

1.1 I have seen you for the first time in a year. I'm glad. The pipe organ of the church, and the sculpture of the sermon stand remain wonderful.
1.2 Have you been doing well? There might be some changes in each of us, but it will be due to the will of God.
1.3 Now, August has come this year. I was born in 1947 after the Second World War. In 1945, the war ended and I became a child of the defeated country. Until then, Japan had been participating in the war as one of the Axis powers, recklessly together with Italy and Germany. wonder why Japan teamed up with Germany and Italy in a distant Europe, but probably there was something similar in their way of thinking.
1.4 To put it simply, people in those three countries have the same way of thinking about the war, namely, they don't respect each other. However, war is such a thing. Japan was active in war in Asia and still now it is paying the price for it.
1.5 Anyway, I was glad that the Second World War was over with Japan defeated. If not, we might not have been here now either. Near the end of the war, mainland Japan was attacked by the United States and a lot of non-combatants were killed. Both adults and children were. Even in the 21st century, many such situations can be seen in various parts of the world. The children are running away holding their brothers and sisters. The same thing that happened in Japan before the end of the war is still continuing. How stupid!
1.6 God loved us and tried to entrust other creatures to us, thinking about them with love in his heart and ordering us to take care of them.
1.7 But human beings were more egoistic than God had expected. They had a strong meaning in their existence, fell out of God's plan and were urged to become independent.
1.8 If God had not created humans, animals such as monkeys and bears might have been able to run the Garden of Eden well. Smartness sometimes gets uncontrollable. This is because the ego has grown huge, dominating other creatures and sometimes driving them into unnatural extinction by killing them in large quantities. In this way, human history may have become God's new headache, right? Anyway, we can't change our existence anymore, and we 'discover' the existence of God who has been since the beginning of the world. We believed in him in many ways --- We made him our own 'God,' or denied the 'God' of other ethnic groups. Thus we have fought for that reason. This continues even now.
1.9 Is the present age in 'peace' at all? How is God looking at us? In Japan, 70 years have passed without war. However, there are some people who do not understand the meaning of the Japanese Constitution, which was created after the war, and which promised the people to abandon the war.

2.0 I have been working as a part-time job cleaning the station building since last fall. The working colleagues are unique and have various reasons for working there. The first is for earning their living, some people are working double, some people are working now in view of what they want to do in the future, and some are aiming to become full-time employees. Some people who have retired work for their life and health. A young man in his 40s said, 'We should change the Constitution ,' just before the Upper House election day. I was surprised. When I asked him, ' What clause should be changed? ' he said, 'Any clause will do, because the Constitution is old.' This is the result of no post-war constitutional education! I was sad.
2.1 Some of my teachers may have been relieved, saying, ' I'm glad the war has ended!', But the teachers I saw dared to carry out corporal punishment always. There was a teacher who made his students buy cigarettes at off-campus stores during the breaks. Some music teacher intimidated his students with a 1-meter ruler in front of the piano during class. One day, when he caught my eye, after threatening his students with something, he asked me, 'You are a Christian, right? You say that what your teacher does is right, right?' Christianity was probably the center of attention, because it had been considered a religion of enemy countries until just ten years or so ago. When I was 13 years old in middle school, I stood up and said to him, 'I'm sorry, you are wrong. It's not education that uses force on your students. ' The children of the class were looking at the teacher's face with their heads down.
2.2 15 years after the war, there was still no free democracy in education. Is it a little different now? It 's a really unfortunate country of a peace constitution. To return to the subject, it seemed that the mother of the Miyajima family, namely, my mother, was called to school that day and that she was blamed for her child's rebellious attitude. My mother said to me,'Please be a little quieter.' In those days the Christian Church in Japan would have been dispirited. The church at that time had a lot of members of school teachers. It seems that it was their pride. It just looked ridiculous to me, though. How are things now? Is the peace constitution rooted in this country? This is very important because it has a post-war constitution and guarantees freedom of faith. Maintaining a state of peace requires a tremendous effort of us. It 's a really tremendous effort.
2.3 Interact with people from different countries, meet them, understand each other, live together and work together. You can listen to them, ask questions, don't get angry immediately, be patient, laugh, have some tea together even if you have recognized differences between you and the other person, and you can allow your children to play in the park. That way, we have to keep in touch with each other.

3.1 Japan is a multi-religious society. Over 1200 years have passed since Buddhism was introduced into Japanese society, over 450 years have passed since the arrival of Catholicism, and 130 to 150 years have passed since Protestantism was introduced into Japan. Each has a history of blood shed. How is it? Can we say proudly, 'It's natural for us to receive God's love'? Are we works of God's? It seems that such questions are arising in other religions, too. It seems that Buddhist evangelists are now thinking seriously. They ask their patrons to fill in the questionnaire. Q: Do you need a temple? Answer: Yes, No. Q: Will you continue to have a relationship with the temple in the future? Yes, No, I'll leave. I don't know, I 'll leave. This kind of questionnaire is stunning, right? The temples have started to seriously think about their future.
3.2 Evangelists in the New Testament stepped into those who believed in various gods. They were also persecuted by the Jewish people who were the first to believe in the only God. It takes time to have faith firmly.
3.3 In today's words, an expert in the law tries to test Jesus. What does he try to test? He thinks that Jesus is an uneducated countryman and that he cannot know the essence of God. The expert thinks Jesus is an ignorant man. Jesus answers the question from this conceited man with a question. The man's question is 'What must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus replied, 'What is written in the Law? How do you read it? ' The man said, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Jesus replied, 'You have answered correctly. Do this and you will have eternal life.'
4.1 Even if you are full of knowledge and learning, you will not notice the person next to you. That is, if you don't know what to do by looking at foreigners, poor people, hungry children and parents, God will leave that person full of knowledge and learning alone and go to see those who need help. Jesus says that being aware of a person in front of you is approaching God and loving him.
4.2 The Lord Jesus was a child who was born of a family which is a little harder to explain. Also it wasn't the central city where he grew up, but a town where foreigners from the north came in and out and his father seemed to die early. Probably Jesus would have worked hard for his mother and brothers. That's why it is natural that he did not appear from the temple priests, the scribes of the law, or the royal family according to God's plan.
4.3 It was the young prophet John who was responsible for prophesying Jesus's appearance. He was active and he cried out to the people, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' (John 1:15) God's plan is careful. It overturned the notion of the 'successor of God' s will' that had already been completed, and tried to show people the understanding of the new word. It means working to help people who are constantly emerging.
4.4 'Then I ask you to do that too.' Actually we are always being renewed. Therefore, you will be able to reply,' Yes, I'll do so.' If you want to walk with God again but if you're exhausted, you might be allowed to say,'I'll take a break and go.' If you would like to live longer, how about living together with the Lord Jesus?

5.1 Prayer. The Lord Creator and God! Please protect us, who want to continue the days of walking with Jesus. And love us. We love people too. Thank you for giving us the days to pray and talk under the cross. We offer this prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to Luke 10: 25 - 28

25. On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 26. 'What is written in the Law?' he replied. 'How do you read it?' 27. He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " 28. 'You have answered correctly,' Jesus replied. 'Do this and you will live.'
(New International Version)


Back

Worship Service on July 28, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- So That the Church may Be Edified -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 The next week's schedule for the sermon in the weekly published last week includes 1 Corinthians 14: 1 ? 19 but as it is a lengthy part, I have decided to ask you to read just the part from Verses 1 to 5. The title outside Verse 1 says 'Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues, ' but a lot of people have a hard time understanding what it means. Also the part from Verses 1 to 5 is hard to understand at a first reading.
1.2 As this is related to having a hard time understanding what it means, first I would like to mention tongues briefly. In the original Greek word, the word which refers to a tongue is used and it means moving your tongue in your mouth up and down and back and forth and uttering something whose meaning is unknown without stopping. It makes you enthusiastic by degrees and sometimes turns you into ecstasy. When I was in Koriyama before, and when I was attending the city's super-sectarian meeting, there were some people from the church who advocated speaking tongues as a denomination principle. Shaking their body, they were muttering something, and I knew for the first time that "Oh, this is something that is a tongue." As I 'll mention at the end of my sermon, in the Corinthian Church, these tongues were influential.
1.3 Paul does not deny a tongue itself. Verse 2 says that 'anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God ,' and goes on to say that 'they utter mysteries by the Spirit.' Verse 5 says at its beginning that 'I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.' However, in the middle of Verse 5, Paul says, "If a tongue-speaking person does not interpret it," and if it is not interpreted, ultimately other people do not understand what is being said. Paul has been saying so for a long time since Verse 6. If you don't know, it cannot be "building up, encouraging, comforting" as in Verse 3.
1.4 We listen to the message that is made from the words of the Bible in our weekly service. However, if it is not understood properly, it will not be able to create a listener and will not be encouraging and comforting either, which reminds us of the essence of God's message. The words of the Bible, in their written form, are often 'like tongues.' As is in today's sentences, we often do not know what they are talking about. When we preach, we read the commentary and do our own interpretation, and talk hard so that you can understand it, but unfortunately, sometimes the sermon might sound like a tongue. I hope that the sermon I give you today will create, encourage and comfort you.
2.1 Now, in Verse 1 Paul says first, 'Follow the way of love.' Here, 'love' is something that has been told in the last chapter of Chapter 13. Chapter 13 is often referred to as 'a song in praise of love ,' and is a Bible word often read at church weddings. However, as we have been taught, love here is not something that honors the love that is filled between couples trying to marry, but it is something that honors the love of God, the love of Jesus, and the love of the Holy Spirit. God's love is such a wonderful thing as I say from now on. Therefore, Paul firstly recommends that you pursue that love and live in that love.
2.2 How wonderful is God's love? In our country where Christians account for less than 1 percent of the whole population, a lot of people live without feeling the lack of anything, even without knowing the love of God. If there is love and friendship that is the love of a couple, parents and children, family relatives, friends and acquaintances, that is enough. However, I really wonder if it is true. The most fundamental difference between the love of God and the love of human beings is that the love of human beings only loves those who are worth loving, while the love of God treats the person whom we consider to be worthless as a precious being, I think. From the beginning of Chapter 13 of The Gospel According to John, which we listened to last week, in the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples, he taught us that he'showed them the full extent of his love. ' A summary of last week's sermons can be found in today's weekly report. How did Jesus's love of his disciples come out as a wash of his feet, not in any other way?
2.3 Our feet are an important organ that allows us to stand and walk. However, we weaken from our feet first. And it's time when we can't stand and walk. We are disappointed in our own conditions, and our heart is squeezed again, and we cannot move any more physical legs. As we get older, we cannot love ourselves as we have lost a variety of things. Once you think that you don't need this kind of mind, your mind will no longer enable you to stand up. As I often talk about this, many of us Japanese say that 'I just do not want to bother other people. 'I do not know the exact way people say in other countries, but they do not say this way. In our minds we have a figure of not being able to love ourselves who have become a nuisance to other people. That is the limit of the love we hold to ourselves and others.
2.4 That's why Jesus' love was poured on our feet, right? It says that 'Even if you or someone else sees you as worthless, I see you as a precious being. Actually, I regard you whose feet you have to have washed as precious.' If we have to ask other people to take care of us, ask them to put a diaper on ourselves or wipe our butt, we think it is no use to live in this world. However, strangely, a baby who does the same thing is not an existence that is not worth living for parents. Rather, their heart goes to the baby whom they have to take care of. Jesus and God treat us, who grow older and have to have our feet washed in the later years of our lives, as if they were our parents who love their babies. Isn't such love of God embedded in the behavior of Jesus washing his disciples' feet?

3.1 Furthermore, our feet make us walk towards a certain goal. It is really important to know what goals you are heading for and what goals are awaiting us. Our love will lose sight of our goals when we are placed in a situation that has been taught earlier. It is only natural that our feet cannot make us stand if we grow weaker gradually and if we can see nothing but our death. That is why we have to know such a goal that makes us feel strong and aware of God's love and that makes us happy about heading for it.
3.2 The other day the animation production company in Kyoto was set on fire. We all grieved over it. The suspect lived in Joso City next to our city for a while. His real parents' home seems to be not far from Tsukuba City. The future dream he wrote in elementary school graduation books was reported to be becoming a rich man. That is the goal he was able to imagine. Perhaps that was the goal for him who was not blessed, and that was the only goal that was considered worthy by the people around him. But how many people can reach that goal? If you cannot reach your goal, you will not love yourself. You will not forgive the society that has prevented you from reaching it. Becoming rich, isn't this a really sad goal through which we as a human typically try to love ourselves and to reach?
3.3 If the arson suspect had known the love of God and had been able to live with the goal that God brought to him, he would have taken a different way, I really think. As we were taught in Chapter 13 of the Gospel According to John, the goal that Jesus pointed to his disciples is the one of their being allowed to have their feet washed. Also, I did not read last week, but Jesus said, 'Now that I have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.' Our goal is to be such a person. It's not becoming rich. It is not to be a human being who will be admired. It would be good if you had your feet washed by God and if you could perform a really small job of washing each other's feet in that matter.

4.1 We have always talked about the wonderfulness of God's love, but talking about God's love is what we call 'prophecy ' in today's word. Generally speaking, when we say 'yogen,' we think of 'prophecy ' using the word 'pre,' in the 'forecast' It is a prediction of the future that can only be achieved with certain special abilities. However, the word 'prophecy ' mentioned here is not such a thing, but it is a word that can convey to people the love of God and the love of Jesus where there is no special ability needed. And this is in Verse 3 'the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.' There will be various means to encourage and comfort us. But there is no better encouragement or comfort than knowing God's love. There is nothing more than that that makes us firm. The reason is , again, that human beings' encouragement, and the comfort of the world, are only a matter of human judgments and scales. Sometimes they work contrary to comforting us.
4.2 Now we are being taught in the Bible Study Prayer Meeting the difficult part of the book of Ezekiel that can only be said as a 'tongue.' However, sometimes in difficult places, we encounter the unforgettable God's narration. Such words were found in Ezekiel 16: 6. Here, Israelis who were refugees and only a nuisance in Palestine are compared to babies who are hated and abandoned in the field. 'And when I passed by you, and saw you weltering in your blood, I said to you in your blood, 'Live.' ' I felt something really coming in with the words, 'weltering in your blood.' It describes our being born in our parents and in the world, and our being born in a difficult natural environment like the aforementioned arsonist, and there is no other place to live, only there. It is how you are struggling. It suffocates you 'in your own blood.' When we can only live in the relationship between our parents and this world, we die. Therefore, in Genesis 12, that Abraham was told by God that'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house.' We live in our relationship with God. Living not in your own blood but in the 'blood' of God's love, the love of Jesus will save us.

5.1 Last but not least, Paul recommends many times that the church will be built in speaking of such love of God to build, encourage and comfort people. As I mentioned at the beginning a little, in the Corinthian Church, 'a tongue ' was influential. I think that it is probably related to having worshiped the Greek and Roman gods. An instrument called a' gong ' or a'cymbal ' comes out in Verse 1, Chapter 13. In the worship of the gods of Greece and Rome, they used these instruments to create a state of selflessness, and at the same time experienced liberation from their body. Those who spoke tongues could have been able to create a similar situation. So it would have been thought that the presence of such a special person was to build up the Corinthian Church-in other words, to make it doctrinally large.
5.2 In today's church not to use literally a tongue, but to make an attempt to try to build a church with something that attracts people's attention and creates enthusiasm for many people might be influential. However, Paul says that it creates and encourages people and comforts people to speak about God's love and to have them understand God's love in words. He recommends that doing so will build up the church firmly. Paul says in Verse 19 that 'in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.' Rather than 10,000 people gathering in the church by tongues, for only five people who are only 1/2000 of 10,000 to listen to God's word and to know the love of God and to build their life firmly is more important. Even though it is very modest work, I would like to work to encourage and comfort people by saying words that convey the love of God.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 14: 1 - 5

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
(New International Version)


Back

Worship Service on June 30, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- I will Draw All People to Myself -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today, I have given a title from today's part in the Bible to today's sermon, but focusing on the words of Jesus in Verse 32, 'I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself, ' I would like to turn my heart. I myself was very attracted to this word of Jesus', so I wondered why. I'm not sure who he was, maybe it might be a memory I made myself, but a certain person engraved Jesus' word, in the literary sentence, 'I will draw all people to myself,' in his tomb. I remember that. I really understand that feeling. When we go to death, and after death, we think that we are in danger of being drawn and caught by various evil things. Of course, I have not yet been in such circumstances, so this is just an imagination. However, speaking from the experience of seeing off many members of the church, including my father, we, who are going to die, and we, who are dead, must be put in the danger of being caught by such things, I think.
1.2 I think that the typical thing is 'darkness' as is said in verses 35 and 36. We cannot imagine how deep is the darkness that surrounds us, who are dying, and us, who are dead, but I think it is really deep. That is why we need light at that time. The lecturer for the district conference this September is Hideko Suzuki, a well-known Catholic sister on television. When she was in the nunnery, she experienced the so-called near-death experience when she fell off the stairs in the middle of the night. There are people who think that the near-death experience is just the near-death and the experience of the people who came back from there. Therefore it is not exactly what the dead person tasted. It seems that some scholars simply think that it is something like illusion that the brain that is put in a crisis has made to avoid it. I do not know anything exactly, but the common thing to those who claim to have a near-death experience is the encounter with light. Sister Hideko Suzuki also said that she was wrapped in a warm and soothing light. The fact that everyone is meeting such a light, conversely, means that for those who are dying there is nothing more necessary than light. When we go to death, we are actually in the dark. Therefore, that time is when it is full of danger of being drawn by various evil and fake lights. We must meet the true light and be drawn to it. For us who are likely to be attracted by the fake light, it is encouragement that Jesus appears as a true light and draws us.

2.1 From that, I would like to appreciate the famous word,'Walk while you have the light' in verses 35 and 36. What Jesus is going to say here, and what John is trying to say is, in short, 'Walk in the light while there is light.' It is a story that is a little difficult to understand, but'while there is light' is understood as saying when Jesus is alive on this earth, if it is read normally from the context. 'You are going to have the light just a little while longer' means, conversely, that someday the time for the light to disappear will come among you. It can be interpreted as pointing out that Jesus will be killed on the cross. Anyway, it is common to understand that when Jesus is killed, there is no light anymore, and now it is said here that you should believe in Jesus as light and walk. I myself have read that way so far, and the commentary and sermons that I have at hand interpret it that way.
2.2 But when I read these words anew, I was made to wonder whether this understanding is really what Jesus and the author John are trying to say. To reiterate, the present understanding means that Jesus is the light only while he is living in this world. If he is killed on the cross, it will not be light anymore. If so, how on earth can Jesus, who is not in this world, be the light for the dying and the dead? Therefore, I feel that what Jesus is trying to say is the opposite of what I read earlier. The time when Jesus comes to us as a light and draws us to him in the dark will be the one I'll mention in details, ----'when I am lifted up from the earth,'that is, when Jesus was crucified. In a normal sense, Jesus is the light that is invisible as light and he is killed on the cross where he can no longer seem to be light. Those who go to death and those who are dead are drawn by Jesus. Because we are placed in the dark, we come to find this Jesus as a light.
2.3 The light in Verse 35 'You are going to have the light just a little while longer,' does not actually refer to Jesus, but it refers to the light of this world, that is, what we have regarded as light in this world, right? That kind of light will exist for a while now. We cannot help but be drawn to such a light. However, the time will come when such lights will eventually disappear. It is time to go to death, or it is time of death.'Still have peace of mind ,' says Jesus. The truth is that only then, when we are placed in the middle of the darkness, we know that Jesus, who died on the cross, is a true light. And we are drawn to this light. It is when the light of this world is gone that we meet the true light of Jesus. It is when we are placed in the dark that we can find the light of Jesus. Because we are in the dark, even a single candle or a single light will shine and attract us. 'The light shines in the darkness (John 1: 5). ' Therefore, don't worry, even if you are placed in the dark. John encourages us because right at that time you will be drawn to the light of Jesus.

3.1 Now, the most important point is,'Why is Jesus such a light?' Verse 32 says, 'I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.' The time when Jesus is lifted up from the earth is the time when Jesus manifests himself as a true light and draws us all to himself. And the time'when Jesus is lifted up from the earth' is actually the time when he is lifted up onto the cross and killed, as John explains this in order to indicate the kind of death he was going to die. Why on earth is this Jesus a light of us who goes to die or who are dead? As for this, I always think that there is something that I could not fathom at the bottom of my mind, but if I were to recommend the point indicated by today's words, I could say the following thing.
3.2 Jesus says that the time of the cross is really the time 'when I am lifted up from the earth. ' Some people regard the time 'when he is lifted up from the earth' as a time of resurrection or ascension. However, John is purposely writing the commentary of this verse 33 in order to make sure that it is different from what Jesus taught. It is the time of the Cross that is the time'when he is lifted from the earth.' Certainly, it is the time to be'lifted'in the sense that he is crucified at the high place of the cross. But that is not the time when he is'lifted' in an ordinary sense. It is rather the time of the death on the cross, the most miserable and most painful time for human beings. However, Jesus says that it is the time 'when he is lifted.' In Verse 28 God said, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.' It means that this glory of God's appears on the cross. Because God's glory appears on the cross, it is the time'when he is lifted up.'
3.3 By us, who are dying, and by those who are dead and who are in the dark with no light, --- those who are still going to be drawn to the false light by the wicked, --- this very Jesus is recognized as the light, right? Of all the sufferings that we experience, there is Jesus who was thrown into death and whose suffering has been the deepest. Its lowness is what we all can see. There are no obstacles to see this lowness. If Jesus, like Buddha, is a man who died a natural death in peace and who made a peaceful death under a big tree, or if Jesus is a man like Muhammad, who with a sword and the Koran in both hands, achieved success in this world very quickly, then we, who are dead, cannot look up at their height nor peace. For us who are in the dark, it may be a light that is too bright and invisible. But the lowness and darkness of Jesus killed on the cross is a light that we can look up at. And we can have a look at God's glory there. We see height, light and hope in the lowness.
3.4 We realize this way: Likewise, if we are knocked down to'lowness' in dying, it is linked to being elevated by God. The lowness in death is tied to the height in God.

4.1 Lastly, I would like to conclude today's sermon, by mentioning Verse 27 and the first half of Verse 28. This section is called by experts Gethsemane's prayer in the Gospel according to John. In the three gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, after the last supper, Jesus said, 'if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done' (for example Luke 22:42). But in the Gospel according to John there is no such scene. However, it is said that today's Verse 27 is equivalent to it.
4.2 Even up to Verse 26 which we listened to last time, Jesus said that death was to make one grain of wheat spread to the earth and bear fruit in abundance. He taught that if wheat loathes to be spread to the ground and die, it cannot bear fruit richly. If so, it is strange that he should make complaints, such as 'Now my soul is troubled,'right? It is strange that he may seem to avoid the cross even for a moment, such as 'Father, save me from this hour,' right? But this too is for Jesus to be our light. Even Jesus was disturbed in front of the cross. He thought, 'Father, save me from this hour.' Still more, the same is true with us. Through such hesitations and heartbreaks, Jesus realized'No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour ,' and prayed, 'Father, glorify your name! ' and God answered from heaven. Jesus says that it is for us that God called out from heaven like this. That's really the case. Even Jesus avoids the time when it should have come for this time, and there is a moment when he seems to think,'Save me from this hour.' Still more, that is the case with us. Because of this kind of Jesus, he is an essential light for us who try to avoid 'this hour.' It is this Jesus who draws us to himself. We can feel safe and accept the time of death, right?
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 12: 27 - 36

27 "Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. 34 The crowd spoke up, "We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?" 35 Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light." (New International Version)


Back

Worship Service on June 23, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- A Will of Joshua -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1. With this sermon today, I would like to finish our learning of the Book of Joshua. For today's words, actually we would like to read up to Verse 20 of Chapter 24, but it is too long to read all Verses. So, in an unusual way, we have skipped several Verses between Verses 1 and 18.
In the Verses we have just read, Joshua was almost closing his life and he looked back how the Lord had brought the ancestors of the Israelites up to what they were at that time, by referring to the words of the Lord, and he urged the people of Israel if they would serve the Lord or serve other gods. Then, the people answered Joshua that they would serve the Lord. Here we can feel the strength of conviction and words which a dying man only could speak. We can take it as a will of Joshua, from which we would like to learn his message for us today.
As I have just said, Joshua was telling what and how the Lord had done for the Israelites including their ancestors in this will. And he strongly urged the people to choose whether they serve this Lord or other gods. By urging the people to choose from the two options, though it is not explicitly mentioned in the words of Joshua, he was inexplicitly comparing the Lord with other gods. By telling enthusiastically what the Lord had done for them, he meant the Lord was absolutely different from other gods. That is why, I think, he asked whether the people would serve the Lord or not.

2.Today, first we would like to learn how Joshua talked about the Lord and, on the contrary, how he regarded other gods. We did not read all Verses in which Joshua talked about the Lord, but in responding to Joshua, what the Israelites talked in the Verses 16-18 seem to sum up well what Joshua talked about the Lord.
The people answered and said, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods". Then, they summarize in their own words what Joshua talked to them. The first thing they talked was, "God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." It is not about this Exodus only that Joshua talked as the great thing the Lord had done for them. After Verse 2 of Chapter 24, a number of things were mentioned as what the Lord did for them.
Nevertheless, what was strikingly common was that Joshua kept talking that the Lord led them. In Verse 3, the Lord said, " I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River," and Verse 4 depicts, though it was not what the Lord did, "Jacob and his children went down to Egypt." At the end of Verse 5, the Lord said, " I brought you out" from Egypt. In Verse 8, the Lord said, " I brought you into the land of the Amorities," and in Verse 11, the Lord said, "then you went over the Jordan."
What is common throughout these Verses is that the Lord was He who brought out the Israelites from where they were and brought them to other places. Their ancestors since Abraham were brought far to Egypt and then crossed the Jordan river. In short, they were strangers and "pilgrims on the earth" as is said in The Epistle to the Hebrews (10-13). Above all, the point is that the Lord makes us go as strangers or pilgrims.

3. At the starting point, in Verses 2 and 3, as we have just read, what the Lord did for the ancestors of Abraham and Abraham himself is depicted as " in old times, they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan and multiplied his descendants."
Nothing is written about the gods which Abraham used to serve while he dwelt on the other side of the Euphrates River. Nevertheless, as it is depicted in this Chapter, the Lord said, "I took them from the other side of the River." Here, in this point we can see a crucial difference of the Lord from gods they served on the other side of the River.
In Verses 1 and 2 of Chapter 12 of the Book of Genesis, the situation at that time is depicted as follows. "Now the Lord had said to Abram, Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing."
This means that the gods they served in their father's house over the Euphrates River were Gods who bless them so far as they dwelt in the area, I think. The area of the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers is one of the four great world civilizations was created and flourished. Egypt. too, is one of the areas. Economic wealth that the river yields must be deeply related to this. By dwelling close to the River, various assets of economic wealth were accumulated and all of a certain family and relatives must keep their vested interest. Such power structure and the gods they served must be connected inseparably. It is unclear why Abraham decided to leave the place of such social relations. He may have found any limitations of living in the area where such blood-relations dominated the social order.
Then, he heard a call from the Lord. It was the same call with the case of Noah's Ark. It was not Noah only that the Lord told to make an ark, or to Abraham only that the Lord told to leave the place of their birth and the house of their fathers to go to a place which the Lord showed. The Lord talked to all the people in this way. The call of the Lord is always the same essentially.
Even though few people respond to this call of the Lord, those are happy who respond to the call from the Lord and leave the place of birth, the father's house where they dwelt for long, without knowing where they are going. Because in doing so, there is a blessing from the Lord. In other words, the Lord gives a blessing to those who respond to the call of the Lord and leave their place of birth and father's house without knowing the destination to which they are going. This is a crucial difference from the gods whom they served on the other side of the River or in Egypt.

4.Why can we be blessed by the Lord, in leaving the place of our birth, our father's house where we used to dwell long? The other day, I was watching a TV program of NHK. The topic was "resilience" which I heard for the first time. The word, resilience, means the ability of a substance to return to its original shape after it has been bent.
The program featured on the people who were trying to get out of the adversity and returning to the normal life. What was impressive was the story of a family who used to live doing natural or organic farming in Niidate village, Fukushima prefecture. After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, they were forced to leave the village, leaving all that they had there. They have moved to Shikoku and started natural farming there.
The man flatly said that he did not look back any more on what he has lost. What do you think made this man say so? His father is a Christian and he was familiar with the Bible since he was small. When he was leaving Niidate Village, what he recalled instantly was that a nephew of Abraham, Lot, fled without looking back when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. But his wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19, 25).
He said that he interpreted this Verse teaching him that "there is no need to look back any more," not he "should not look back." From this Verse, he thought there was no need to look back and in doing so he sensed a blessing of the Lord, he said. I was much impressed with his interpretation of this Verse. He got a message from this Verse that even if we leave all fortunes behind, we can still live.
Like this man who was forced to leave Niidate village, time will come to all of us when we are forced to leave everything behind, to leave, as is depicted in the Verses of today, "the places of birth and father's house where they used to live over the River." How much we might wish to stay there, it is impossible for us to do so. Whether we like it or not, we are forced to become strangers and pilgrims.
Under such situation, we will not find a blessing if we keep staying there. When time comes, we cannot find a blessing if we keep serving gods who bless us only when we dwell there. If so, it means that we keep looking back what we have lost or left behind.
The Lord knows well about such human behaviors, and tells us "leave the place of birth and father's house, then go to an unknown place to which I lead you." Even if we are forced to leave a hometown with no money left with us, and even if we have no idea where we should go, if we can believe that there is a blessing in going out, then there is a blessing and encouragement of the Lord in doing so.

5. I have talked too much on the first point of the Israelites responses toward the words of Joshua. Well, the second point is what is depicted in the latter part of Verse 17, "the Lord our God _ did those great signs in our sight." We can understand all that Joshua talked in Verses 5 to 13 is wrapped up here. The core of what Joshua talked and the Israelites responded toward what was told by him is that the Lord did the great signs. It is a "blessing" or we can say, in a difficult term, "Grace." In short, it was not what the Israelites could do, but well beyond their capacity, a kind of amazing grace of the Lord was given to them.
In the words of Joshua, one of the core words is "being brought out" or "lead up." In addition, the other core word is to "provide." Though there is no word meaning "give," in these Verses a series of what the Lord did unilaterally for the Israelites is depicted. What is symbolic is the word of the Lord in Verse 13: "I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant."
This is of course something unacceptable for the Palestine indigenous peoples, but what the Lord meant was that the Lord had given them a blessing for which they did not labor, build nor plant by themselves. This is crucially different from the gods the people served over the River or in Egypt or in Palestine.
When we become strangers or pilgrims, leaving all behind and not knowing the destination to go eventually, we can hardly labor, build and plant enough. All that we can build in treading our path is to trust in, and rely on, the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord abundantly rewards to our small contribution. By far more abundantly the Lord rewards and provides us.
This is what Verse 13 means, "for which you did not labor." The Lord is who provides us in this way. On the contrary, it seems to me that the gods over the River, the gods of Egypt or the Palestine peoples who are by far perfectly superior in terms of the number and power, respond to the extent that they labored, built and planted. Just like Joshua, when we are about to close our life as a believer, we wish to be able to confess and urge our children to chose the Lord.
(Translated by Motoko Shuto from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

Sermon: Joshua 24: 1-4/13-18

擊踏組赭


Back

Worship Service on May 26, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- Cities of Refuge -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1. Last time when we read the verses of Joshua, we listened to the words of Chapter 7. Today, jumping far ahead from there, we listened to the words of Chapter 20. What is written from Chapters 8 to 19 is, in short, how the Israelites deprived the indigenous Palestine people of their land by force and how they allocated the land as their places of residence by drawing lots. The Israelites did this based on an order of the Lord. We are much puzzled how we can take their actions in this way.
Some people take this literally and understand that the Israelites should do exactly in the same way against the Palestine people because they are qualified to do so. However, I cannot read these verses in such a way. When they destroyed Jericho, for instance, the Bible says the city and all who are in it"shall be doomed by the Lord to destruction(Chapter 6 Verse 17)". Later again, the same order of the LORD was repeatedly depicted. No wonder a question emerges whether we should read this part exactly as it means literally. But, I cannot read this part in the literal meaning.
In this context, in the previous sermon I introduced the comment written more than 90 years ago by Uchimura Kanzo. When I read his comment, my heart was strengthened. He said, "against our enemy we cannot take the same actions as Joshua wrote and the Israelites did. However hard we might try to do so, we can never do so. However, life is war. Even if war with swords is over, war of soul will not be over." He said there is war of belief and it is war to take and protect"place" that is belief,"he wrote.
I, too, would like to interpret in this way. When we try to serve our whole lives by believing in God, isn﹊t it a kind of war that never ends? It is not easy at all, because as we were taught many times, the overwhelming majority was the indigenous Palestine seven peoples and they were dominant in power, while the Israelites were poorer than any of the Palestine peoples.
Nevertheless, they were selected as a treasure of the Lord. Here is a fundamental point of confrontation. When we live in this world, we have to deal with those who tend to resort to the majority number and force. We hear a voice, saying that you should live like us. Compared with the majority number and force, how vague and poor your"belief"is. They always criticized in this way. Against such criticism, we must live by believing that we are found as a treasure of the Lord. Here is a war of belief. Without waging war of belief, we cannot obtain the place of spiritual life and protect it.

2. Verses of today depict how the Israelites carried out the order by the Lord, ﹉Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge." We have so far read starting from Genesis up to Joshua, and though actually the phrase "cities of refuge" was mentioned here and there, Chapter 35 of the Book of Numbers depicts "cities of refuge" by far more in detail. As I suggested you in January last year, many of you remember that.
For what purpose did they make "cities of refuge"? Verse 3 says that"the slayer who kills a person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there, and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood."In short, such cities were places for those who killed a person accidentally or unintentionally in order to escape from the avenger of blood. In Verses 7 and 8, it is fully depicted in detail. as I tell you later again, regarding where and how such places were built. When we count the number, we can find they built eventually six "cities of refuge."
Though it is not written in Verses of Today, according to the Book of Numbers, the land to live was given to the Levites in a way different from the ways to other tribes of Israel. Even the places given to other 11 tribes of Israel through drawing lots was partly handed over to the Levi people, and 6 cities out of 48 cities were appointed to be "cities of refuge."
It reminds us of the meaning of "cities of refuge." Literally speaking, it means the places where those who killed a person by mistake could flee in and escape from avengers of the victims family For us, too, we might be put under the same situation of a person who killed a person by mistake. The most possible case would be a car accident by mistake. Recently, a driver of 87 years of age unintentionally hit and killed a young mother and her girl. The man, who is husband and father of the victims, wishes the driver who killed his wife and daughter to be punished severely. We can understand how he feels in such a shocking situation. The driver will be punished based on the civil traffic law and accidental homicide of the Criminal Law. He will be fined and ordered to pay for the losses and damage caused by the accident. The victim could have wished to seek revenge for the losses, if it could be allowed.
Nevertheless, after all a question remains whether this driver in this case should be blamed to this extent. Certainly, the family of the victims may feel they could not get rid of the desperate and helpless grief unless they could seek revenge of blood or the driver was sentenced severe punishment. Still, a question remains whether the driver in this case should be punished to that extent.
A long time ago, the transportation means which the aged people could handle were either a horse-carriage or a bicycle. But now, the aged people whose action skills and cognitive capacity declined in many ways are driving a car which could easily hit and kill a person. Without making use of such dangerous means, our society nowadays has become inconvenient or difficult to manage. In such a situation, tragedies of traffic accidents happen unintentionally. And once it happens, a person who committed the murder accidentally or unintentionally could be blamed and imposed punishment thoroughly till the end, as the word "avengers of blood"aptly shows.
This is not limited to driving of cars only, I think. In our human relations, we might become a person who might kill or hurt others unintentionally. As a Church Minister, I have many times hurt unintentionally hearts of the church members, and many times I was blamed of what I said or did. I think that is part of nature of human relations. Victims tend to wish to seek revenge of blood and the person who caused the tragedy is forced to feel responsible exceedingly. Because of this, "cities of refuge"are needed for us.
It means when our man-to-man relations reached a deadlock such "cities of refuge" help us keep away from such deadlock and bring back to the place where the Lord stands between us. That is a place where the Lord tells us that there is no need to blame ourselves any more and we can unload a burden. I myself was given a place of refuge in this way, though I do not go into detail now.

3. Here, I said "we can unload a burden." Apart from human relations between victims and a person who caused it, in a sense to "unload a burden," we truly need a place of refuge. It is a place where we can unload a burden which we carry in our path living in this world. I always remember that among the church members who join the worship service there are a number of people who carry a burden in their life. Last week, a spouse of our church member was hospitalized to take an alleviation care. Other church member is in a difficult situation to attend, even though she is eager to attend the worship and a prayer meeting. There are many Church members who have been suffering from symptom which is not getting better. We are all loaded with a burden somehow.
The Verses of Today seem to tell us that the Lord is telling us that we need a place of refuge. It seems that the Lord is telling us, "you cannot go without having a place of refuge." Here I find a comfort for us. If we keep carrying a burden and the blames endlessly, we might be overwhelmed with a heavy burden which might kill us, or destroy us in a revenge of blood. If we live in human relations of this world only and if we live based on a secular perspective only, we could not unload a burden. Jesus said,"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest( Matthew 11,12)" It is a "place of refuge"for us to live, being tied to Jesus and God.

4. Then, how the "cities of refuge" were built? Though it is not explained in the verses to which we listened today, the cities were built particularly in the area where the Levites lived. Here is a very significant meaning. What are the Levites people? They were primarily committed with religious service, ritual ceremonies, managing and repairing various kinds of tools for such purposes. Their life greatly depended on contribution from other tribes. Even the Levites, they were living in the human relations of this world. However, they spent much more time on living with God compared with other"Children of Israel." Most of their time was spent on minor and daily religious services for God. Because it was a town of the Levites who spent time in this way, it was possible for those who should not be loaded with excessive blames or burdens, to unload such burdens and to find a place to live tied to God.
Not only church ministers but also all religious leaders are living more or less like the Levites, I think. Compared with those who do not have religious belief and live in the secular relations of this world only, we, religious leaders, spend much longer time on living in relation to God. Though not living in a monastery, because of that, there is, and must be, a special way of living a religious life. How about me? I wonder if you sense such special way of living a religious life from me.
And, each of you can be a person like the Levite people. Every Sunday, sparing your precious off-time, you come and attend the worship service which is unlikely to bring any tangible benefit to you. You offer a huge amount of time and money to church in terms of the total amount throughout your life. Such way of life as yours must produce something even if we cannot sense it. Church is a place where the people who live such spiritual life come together, and it must become a place of refuge for others where they can come and unload their burden.
And eventually the way of Levites goes to Jesus. As Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."Jesus is nothing but a place of refuge. Jesus is living as a Levi. Jesus has something special because he had lived in relation to God. Something special was represented at the time when Jesus was about to be crucified. That Cross was, from the secular perspective in human relations, a token of revenge of blood, and it meant his life was deprived.
But Jesus carried the cross as something good in relation to God and then by doing so, he was relieved from the burden. A burden of Cross itself is not gone, and we cannot escape from the cross in human-relations. But in our relations to God we can flee and unload the burden. This is why we can unload our burden when we go to Jesus. Freed from human-relations and the secular life of this world, we can live a life that is tied to God through Jesus.
Verses 7 and 8 tell us a very interesting story. Three "cities of refuge" were located in the mountains and other three cities of refuge were "in the wilderness on the plain." The last place in the Golan heights is a familiar place which we often hear in the news. As these verses show, "cities of refuge" were located in the mountains or in the heights. It might indicate the cross of Jesus. The place of refuge to escape from blames in human-relations and unload a burden of this world is not a fertile and comfortable place. It is in the wilderness which symbolizes the Cross of Jesus and the Cross which each of us carries. Nevertheless, because of this, there is a place of refuge there. What a comfort for us to have a place of refuge in the mountains or the wilderness.
(Translated by Motoko Shuto from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

Joshua 20:1-9

擊踏組赭


Back

Worship Service on May 12, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- The Gifts of the Spirit -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today I asked you to read the first part of Chapter 12 of The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. The margin of Verse 1says that this chapter is entitled'The Gifts of the Spirit.' Actually, I think that it can be said that not only this chapter 12 but also all the sections up to Chapter 15 except for the last chapter 16 deal with'The Gifts of the Spirit.' The original Greek word translated as 'The Gifts of the Spirit' is the word 'pneumaticos. ' 'pneuma' means a spirit. Especially when the word'Hagios' meaning 'sacred' is attached to this, it becomes 'Hagios pneuma' and it means the Holy Spirit. 'Pneumaticos' refers to the condition in which 'pneuma' is full, or the condition which is filled with 'pneuma'.
1.2Why does Paul spend four chapters from chapters 12 to 15 in explaining about this? It is because 'Pneumaticos' is a major concern for the people of the Corinthian Church, and it is also because it was something that was causing a problem.
1.3 Let's look back a little on the flow from Chapter 10. Starting from the question of whether it is acceptable to eat the meat offered to the gods of idols, the luncheon, which was an opportunity to have a meal together in worship, was taken up in Chapter 11. From the flow from Chapter 11 onwards, Paul takes up 'The Gifts of the Spirit' in this Chapter 12 as a very natural brushstroke. We do not immediately understand the natural flow, but for Paul who is the writer, the luncheon and 'The Gifts of the Spirit' were probably deeply connected things.
1.4 The problem about the luncheon was, in short, the problem about food. Specifically, Chapter 11, Verse 21 says, 'for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.' I think that a fundamentally similar situation was happening with 'The Gifts of the Spirit' as well. When you get down to it, to receive the Gifts of the Spirit is nothing but to receive spiritual food from God and to fill your stomach with spiritual parts. It seems that there was a problem similar to what happened at the luncheon about filling the stomach with eating spiritual food. At the luncheon, like a person who eats his own food, there was probably a person who self proclaimed that he had received spiritual food and who was self-satisfied alone. Just as there were drunken people, so there were those who behaved as if they were drunk, claiming they had the gifts of the spirit. Having felt that there was an inevitable connection between the problem of eating material food and the problem of eating spiritual food, Paul moved to the description of the matter called 'Puneumaticos ' as a very natural brush flow, we understand.

2.1 First of all, Paul speaks in today's words: 'You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.' What Paul is trying to remind people here is that the people of the Corinthian Church were taken to the traditional Greek and Roman deities before they became Christians, where they believed they received the gifts of the spirit. Chapter 16, Verse 6 says, 'he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in one body.' It probably means sexual acts with the women who were in the temple where the Greek gods were dedicated. That act, drinking alcohol, and using some sort of medication also triggered an ecstatic euphoric state. It is exactly the same as 'another gets drunk' mentioned in Chapter 11, Verse 21. It was thought that being in such a state was just a state of receiving the gifts of the spirit.
2.2 The people of Greece and Rome have long followed such a way of thinking. Therefore, even if they become Christians, they cannot get rid of that way of thinking. The question is why the Greeks and Romans eagerly asked for 'Pneumaticos.' The answer is deeply related to the freedom from soma, which has been taught as a theme that goes through this entire letter. Soma is the body, but they said 'Soma Sema' (which means 'The body is a graveyard ') and they hated the body. Although it is a difficult term, they had a deep idea of ??spiritual flesh dualism. As flesh, which may be considered as synonymous to soma and body, bound the spirit and dragged it into a graveyard, they eagerly asked for freedom from this flesh, or the body by all means. The spiritual gift is to free the spirit from the flesh or body. Therefore they will eagerly seek the gifts of the spirit. And it is "pneumaticos" that indicates a special state as described before and that makes them feel as if their bodily restraints were released.
2.3 But in fact, does such a condition really make us free from the various problems that the body has? Also, can we say that such a special condition is 'Pneumaticos'? I usually don't drink alcohol at all, and since I got diabetic, I haven't even drunk at a social gathering. When I drank alcohol in my youth, I didn't feel sick but since my headache got worse, I have felt so bad after drinking alcohol. Temporarily, we may feel as if our body were released by alcohol or drugs, but the subsequent side effects are terrible. And it leads to alcohol dependence or addiction. Therefore, getting into an ecstatic euphoric state will never free us of our bodily restraints.
2.4 As we have been taught in reading this letter over and over, freedom from the body with all sorts of problems is a real problem for us too. The other day, someone complained of the pain of her body in tears. In such a situation, it was painful for her to be present at the morning worship service where the energetic people gather, and she decided to attend the evening worship service. The desire for freedom from our body might be stronger for us today than for people who used to live 2000 years ago, right? Now that various scenes of life have come to be controlled as we wish, the desire to control our body and our mind and spirit linked to it more and more has become stronger. But that is why our worries are the deeper when we cannot do so. Therefore, I think it is very important for us today to receive the gifts of the spirit. What does that mean? What kind of support and strength does the gifts of the spirit give us with various problems in our body and mind?

3.1 Then, Paul clearly teaches'What kind of state is it to be given the gifts of the spirit?' That is Verse 3. 'Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. ' Those who have been given the gifts of the spirit by God do not say, ' Jesus be cursed,' and they cannot say,'Jesus is Lord.' Although' Jesus be cursed' is interpreted as a word of a certain curse, it seems that there are various interpretations regarding in what kind of situation it is said. The point is that Jesus, who was crucified and killed, is the existence that was forsaken and cursed by God. As a person who is given the gift of the Holy Spirit does not say so, rather, on the contrary, a person who can say that Jesus, who was killed on the cross, is blessed by God can believe so and the person who can say that Jesus is his master is 'pneumaticos,'Paul teaches us.
3.2 I think again about how deep comfort and encouragement there are in this. We have been able to believe that Jesus who was crucified is an existence who is blessed by God. And we can believe in Jesus as Lord. Being able to believe so doesn't give birth to an extraordinary situation that is ecstatic. It does not have the effect of letting us forget the various problems that our body has. In a literal sense, it does not make us free from our bodies. As I mentioned the woman suffering from a sharp pain earlier in today's sermon, even though we can believe in Jesus' cross, we will not be released from the suffering of our body. But even so, if you believe that Jesus' cross is a state of being blessed by God, and if you believe that Jesus is your Lord, then God has already given you a lot of gifts of the spirit, Paul teaches us. This is important.
3.3 What kinds of gifts of the spirit are they? By believing that Jesus' cross is not a state of being cursed by God but a state of being blessed by God, when we are put in a situation where we are each put on the cross, we are able to interpret that 'This is the time to receive God's blessing.' It might be rather difficult to think that 'we are being blessed,' but we are allowed not to think at least that we 'are being forsaken by God ,' when we are put in a state of being in pain. Jesus too could not keep the cross from disappearing. The sacrifice of the cross was essential to fulfill the mission of the Savior. Therefore, we cannot escape from the cross. Through our carrying the cross, God is going to make us carry out an important mission. As always shown, it means to realize the meaning of suffering. We cannot be free from the suffering that our body has. However, it is possible to find meaning in the burden of suffering. I think that is the very gift of the Holy Spirit.
3.4 And we can trust the crucified Jesus as our master. We can accept that we are not our master and that we have not been able to control our own life any longer. Instead of finding the gift of the Holy Spirit for being our own master, we can receive a full gift from God Jesus right in situations where we cannot be our own master. As things stand now with me, it is really painful that I cannot control my own body as I wish. Because I cannot eat what I want to eat freely. However, it is right at the time when we are blessed by God that we are put in a situation where we are forced to part with our position of being the master of ourselves, right? It is thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are able to think that way.

4.1 I would like to mention another point that Paul teaches as a 'pneumaticos' in Verses 4 to 7. What we notice when we read this part is that 'service' and 'working ' are described as the manifestation of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Verse 7 says that it is 'the manifestation of the Spirit, ' and that it appears as 'the common good. '
4.2 I will quote this again and again. Chapter 11 Verse 21 says, 'each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. ' For the people of the Corinthian Church, 'Pneumatics' means that each one is in a state of fullness, satisfaction and uplifting. But, Paul teaches, 'It's different.' Rather, apart from their own satisfaction and uplifting, 'Pneumaticos' manifests itself as a way to other people, whatever happens to themselves. The situation may be disadvantageous and painful for ourselves, because Soma has various problems. But the gifts of the spirit from God given there will be a benefit for the whole. They work as a must for everyone. The suffering of the cross which was imposed on Jesus by God did indispensable work for us. There was a service. As such, the suffering given to us will fulfill the essential work and services for someone and for the church. You will be asked for what kinds of working and services and for what benefit of the church your suffering will be. Next week we will listen to Chapter 12, Verse 22. It says, 'those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.' The part that carries the weakness and suffering is indispensable for the whole life of each of us, and the body with various problems is also essential for the family and the church community. It is the state of "pneumaticos" that is to be accepted like that.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 12: 1-7

1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
(New International Version)


Back

Worship Service on April 14, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- In an Unworthy Manner -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today is a special day of worship called the Lord's Day. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, where the Passover Festival was about to begin, people met him with the palm leaves (The Gospel according to John, Chapter 12, Verse 12. Furthermore, the New Joint Translation says , "with branches of date palm trees"). Therefore it has been called Palm Sunday from ancient times. As we will see later, speaking of our day, the last meal to be eaten with the disciples - called the last supper - was finished on Thursday night this week, it was over and Jesus was arrested and put on trial. At about noon on Friday he was put on the cross and he was crucified. And early on Sunday morning, the resurrection was told by the women who went to the tomb where the body was buried. Because of that, this week starting on Palm Sunday is especially called Passion Week.
1.2 Today is such a special Lord's Day, but with regard to the Bible, I will read the passage following the first Corinthians Chapter 11, Verse 26 that we listened to last week. It will be better understood if you have read it for two weeks in a row than when we read them at intervals of a few days. Verses 27 to Verse 29 say, 'So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.' The scripture in Verses 27 and 29 are familiar to you, right? These are ceremonial sentences prescribed by the United Church of Christ in Japan, and are mentioned as a scripture to be read out in'the Preface ,' at the time of the Communion service. Although it is a little different from the New Joint Translation, after the word 'The Lord instituted this Sacrament so we might inscribe in our hearts this immeasurable love and mercy,' comes the following word: 'We are counseled that 'If we eat this bread and drink this wine in an unworthy manner, then we sin against the body and blood of our Lord,' and that those who eat bread and drink without understanding the body of the Lord invite judgment on themselves by eating and drinking. '
1.3 In fact, since I started taking care of the congregation at Koriyama Church I have intentionally omitted reading the latter part of Verse 29 and I am now also doing so in the sacrament ceremony at this church. The word, 'unworthy' in Verse 27 is also often misunderstood, as I will tell you now. Still more, I think that the word 'invite judgment on themselves' is really'unworthy ' when it comes to the sacrament instituted'so we might inscribe in our hearts this immeasurable love and mercy.' If it is read aloud, I think that sufficient explanation is essential. If only this word is read without it, the sacrament might be regarded as an opportunity to invite judgment on us.
1.4 Well, as I said just now, 'worthiness' has been regarded as totally different from the original meaning. This is what I actually heard as the word of the believer of Koriyama Church. :He did not receive the sacrament today because he was not worthy for receiving the sacrament, as he quarreled with his wife on the morning when the sacrament was to be given. The word 'worthiness' here means literally that there is no mistake in the way of such understanding, but I think that it is completely different from the meaning originally intended by Paul. It feels like it is very subjective. It is regarded as just a matter of feeling. I hear that such churches are now increasing not only in the United Church of Christ in Japan, but also in the whole world, because of this sense of worthiness. It means that even if you are not baptized, if you want to attend the service of the day and if you feel like receiving the sacrament at that moment by all means, you can receive the sacrament. The 'worthiness ' here is also something that is extremely subjective and moody, right?

2.1 In the first place, what kind of thing on earth is'worthiness' that Paul recommends here? Verse 28 says, 'Everyone ought to examine themselves ,' but what sort of thing ought you to examine? What kind of state of us is suitable for receiving the sacrament? If you look back on what was taught through verses 23 to 26 last week, you will be able to understand it. What is written in verses 23 to 26 is how is the last supper that Paul himself heard from his predecessors about. The last supper was the origin, and the ritual of the sacrament has been kept for a long time, even after 2000 years. If we know the significance of this last supper, we will be able to understand what it means to be suitable for receiving the sacrament.
2.2 As we were taught last week, on the basis of Jesus' own intention, the last supper meal was kept as a Passover meal. Jesus tried to regard it very important to keep the last supper as a meal for the Passover Festival. The Passover Festival is a festival that they have kept for a long time as New Year holidays, in commemoration of Israeli people who were slaves escaping from Egypt in a very strange way around 3500 years ago. The most important part of the Passover meal was the sacrifice of the lamb. It comes from the fact that the sacrifice of the lamb played a crucial role when the Israelites escaped from Egypt. The blood of the lamb killed as a victim was painted on the pillars of the entrances of the houses of the Israeli people and in a visible way, so the existence of 'the destroyer' passed over the doors of their houses. 'The destroyer' entered the houses that did not paint the blood of the sacrificed lamb, and brought them disasters but the houses of the Israeli people who painted it had escaped from being destroyed (See Exodus Chapter 12). In the last supper Jesus took bread and the cup and said, 'This is my body broken for you,' and he said, 'This is a new covenant in my blood. ' Based on the events of Passover, Jesus clearly laid himself, especially on top of this lamb, and the sacrifice of his own blood and body makes his disciples and later generations convinced that he was definitely going to save them from the destroyer.
2.3 It is here that lies'worthiness' that we receive at the time of the sacrament. It is a serious thought that in order for us to be saved from 'the destroyer', Jesus must be sacrificed. In terms of 'thoughts,' as I mentioned at the beginning, it is the same subjectively as 'thoughts,' such as 'I am not suitable because I have quarreled with my wife today' or 'I want to receive it now by all means.' However, the idea that ' I must ask Jesus to be sacrificed so that I can be saved' is not just a mere thought, but a more serious one, such as a difficult word of recognition as a sick person ? consciousness of disease. It is such a difficult level of word, right? I hate doctors, and as I often say in a sermon, I am a human being who seldom goes to the hospital except when I get a medicine for a headache, but this time, being aware that something was wrong with me, I went to the doctor. It is not just a matter of a mood. It includes what appears as an objective act of going to a hospital, receiving medical attention from a doctor and receiving a necessary treatment.

3.1 I talked about illness, but as I always say, the fact that we receive Jesus' sacrifice is equivalent to receiving a transplant of the bone marrow and organs of Jesus who is a donor. Our mind and body are sick. As it is, they will be destroyed by'the destroyer .' Therefore, we must receive bone marrow and organs from the healthy, non-diseased and clean person of Jesus. But is it just something that is done in our selfishness? Is it something like what I would like to accept today, but do not have to accept tomorrow? That is not the case. Not only one doctor but also several doctors have to make an objective diagnosis and it is recognized that it is necessary to transplant, because there is a sacrifice of the lives of those who will be donors. Even on the side of receiving transplant surgery, there is something of a reasonable objective value. Therefore, in the same way, there is objective worthiness to receive Jesus' sacrifice, right?
3.2 It has been understood in the history of faith traditionally as baptism. It is always explained in the preparation for the baptism recently like this: Just as the sacrifice blood of the lamb was painted on the lintel and on the doorposts of the house so that it might attract everyone's attention at the time of Exodus, so the sacrifice of Jesus is painted in the presence of everyone. Baptism is, in principle, carried out in front of those who are worshiping like this today. The reason is that the blood of the lamb was painted on the lintel and on the doorposts of the house that everyone can see. Also, the baptismal water represents the blood of Jesus ' sacrifice, and pouring the blood is a manifestation of the transplant of Jesus' sacrifice as a donor. The fact that a person is baptized represents objectively in front of everyone that 'I am a sick person who must be given the sacrifice of Jesus' life throughout my life ,' and I live for my subsequent life as a patient who has received an organ transplant. Those who receive organ transplants have to continue to take immunosuppressant drugs for a lifetime. I think that receiving a sacrament can also be compared to this kind of thing. In baptism, on the basis of the decisive fact that the life of Jesus was transplanted at a cost of sacrifice, Jesus 'sacrifice is repeated many times in his life, and the person depends upon Jesus more deeply and seeks Jesus' sacrifice the more. That is a holy communion. In addition, I will receive good care and treatment as a transplant recipient for my whole life. This is a holy communion. As I say many times, in the life of baptism, there is a major operation of sacrificing the life of Jesus only once, and there is a premise of the body and mind that have received Jesus' sacrificed life, then in the holy communion, sacrifice comes to have meaning and acts effectively on our body and mind. Thus, it is inseparable and deeply connected to the holy communion. This cannot be separated. This is what 'worthiness' means.

4,1 Now I hope that you have understood that Verse28 'Everyone ought to examine themselves ' means what I have said. Then how should we interpret the word 'judgment' in Verse 29? How about Verse 30? Traditionally, this word is used in the sacrament together with Verse 27. From this fact, it has been interpreted that those who receive the sacrament in an unworthy manner call for judgment. If Verse 30 is linked to that, it follows that the judgment will produce'the weak and the sick' and will also kill a lot of people. Does Paul really tell us that this kind of judgment will occur if you receive the sacrament in an unworthy manner?
4.2 When I read this part one more time, I became aware of the following thing anew. : At the Church in Corinth, the communion and the luncheon, namely a meal, were mixed together. Therefore, it is impossible to distinguish which of the two Paul referred to. The title of Verse 17 is 'Instructions about the Lord's Supper.' However, what Verses 17 to 22 deal with does not refer to the Lord's Supper --- sacrament---but the luncheon. Even the editors of the New Joint Translation mistook Verses 17 to 22 and mixed up the Communion and the luncheon. From such a context, I think that it is permissible to interpret Verses 27 and 28 as the Communion, because we can find words'bread and cup ' in those verses. But as Verse 29 says 'eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ ,' we should interpret this part as the luncheon, right?
4.3 As we were taught last time, the Communion and the luncheon are closely connected. Those who have received Jesus' life in the sacrament are, as it were, brothers who are allowed to live together with the life and organs of one donor, in other words, brothers who share the blood of Jesus. If so, Paul told us that naturally the condition of the body, the economic situation, and the living conditions in the world should be taken care of. Verse 29 advises us to do the same thing. As the ones who receive the Lord's body in the sacrament ---which means 'discerning the body of Christ '--- drink and eat in the luncheon. Because of their lack of concern as brothers and sisters with respect to each other's physical and living conditions, there are a lot of vulnerable, sick and dying people in your community. It means that it is God's judgment and penalty for you who are separated from the communion community and the luncheon community. But just because you are judged, you will be able to tackle the problem seriously. My illness was diagnosed as diabetes this time, and I have finally been able to change my past fast eating and carbohydrate-rich meals. Likewise, if there is a large number of people in the church who are weak or sick, and they die without any help, it is a judgment and penalty that indicates that the church has a serious problem in it. But through that, the church will be aware of the problem, and it will be able to receive the medical treatment of doctors, who are God and Jesus, and to receive appropriate treatment. Judgment is something that has such a meaning full of grace.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 11: 27-34

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.
(New International Version)


Back

Worship Service on March 31, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- When on the Seventh Day Israeli People Marched around the City Seven Times -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today we have read only the beginning of Joshua Chapter 6. The event described in this Chapter 6 is very well-known and famous in the Old Testament, and it describes how the walls of the city of Jericho collapsed in a very strange way, and how Israel people were able to occupy this city. As it was written in Chapter 2, when the two Israeli messengers were sent to this town, the woman called Rahab took care of them and as a result of her dedicated work, her family was allowed to escape the trouble, which is written in Verse 22 and the following. The old book with notes that I have shows that the city of Jericho was probably destroyed by an earthquake around 1400 BC, as evidenced by archaeological surveys conducted in the 1930s, and that there was a trace of a great fire following the earthquake. The mysterious phenomenon where the Jordan River was arrested is attributed to the historical fact that it was caused by the fall of the upstream cliff. That is, the city of Jericho was directly destroyed by the earthquake. And at that time the Israeli people were just about to enter the town. Therefore these things probably have been received and passed on orally like today's word.
1.2 Now, today we only have read up to Verse 5, but there is a place that I have to talk about first. It is that in Verse 17 Joshua commanded that "And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord", and that Verse 21 says that ﹉Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword.﹊ I really wonder how I should interpret this. In Deuteronomy 7: 2 that we listened to a long time ago, also Moses stated as a word of God that Israeli people must destroy the Palestinian indigenous people, and I made my own explanation about this word of God﹊s. The scenes where God or the leader orders that the Israeli people must destroy the Palestinian indigenous people appear in Joshua many times.
1.3 The complete Old Testament Commentary published by a publishing company called ﹉The Word of Life﹊ that I have and which is written by people called ﹉the evangelical group ﹊ says the following thing about this place. Incidentally﹉the evangelical group ﹊ refers to the people of the denomination who are going to read the Bible as it is written. I would like to get back to this controversial subject. : ﹉In the battle of the Lord (this battle is the battle of the Lord), the enemy people and possessions must all be destroyed as what belongs to the Lord. There, human sympathy and the attachment to their precious things are unforgivable, ﹊and this total destruction is expressed as﹉sacred destruction.﹊ There is no question here about whether on earth God himself will command like this. Such things are dismissed as human sympathy. Such an understanding is by far the least acceptable to me. If the genocide three thousand several hundred years ago from now is highly praised as sacred destruction, now and in the future, similar destructions and slaughter will be praised as sacred as such commanded by God. Does it mean that what the God we believe commands is good, and that what other gods command is terrorism and slaughter and unforgivable?

2.1 Although we learned in the sermon about Deuteronomy Chapter 7, even if God himself should say﹉destroy completely ,﹊ that will of his never means literally to truly kill with a sword, I am sure. At the root of God's will, I think that the way of life and values ??of the city of Jericho and the Palestinian people, which I will talk about later on, will sometimes engulf the Israeli people. It is rather the Israeli people's side that is to be destroyed completely. In the words of Deuteronomy Chapter 7, the values ??are expressed by the expression ﹉seven nations greater and mightier than yourselves.﹊ It is the Israeli people as refugees who have escaped from Egypt and then wandered the Arabian Desert for as long as 40 years. Compared to the Palestinian people who were described as giants, they are overwhelmingly few. Rather it is the Israeli people who are utterly destroyed. Therefore, it is impossible to confront the Palestinian people hard. As those people cannot be destroyed completely really, it means ﹉to destroy﹊ the way of life and values ??of Jericho and the Palestinian people in the inner meaning or spiritual meaning. In other words, I think that it means that we will deny them firmly so as not to be engulfed by their way of life or values.
2.2 Then what are the way of life and values ??of the people of Jericho and the Palestinian people? They are expressed in today﹊s word, like ﹉Jericho was shut up from within and from without ,﹊ in Verse 1 or ﹉ Jericho, with its king and mighty men of valor. ,﹊ in verse 2, I think. It is a way of life where they build the gate strongly and try to protect their lives with kings and mighty men of valor with weapons. It is a sense of values where it is fortunate that the lives that we have built up so far are protected. Such a way of life and values ??are constantly being criticized by God, which we know when studying the Old Testament. I also talked about it during my last sermon but in Isaiah, Chapter 45, from the second half of Verse1 to Verse 2, we can find the following words. : ﹉says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and _ to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: ﹍ I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut asunder the bars of iron, I will give you the treasure of darkness and the hoards in secret places.﹊ The way we live as kings and armored warriors who build castle gates and protect ourselves is always broken by God. But just being broken is an opportunity to discover treasures and wealth that we did not know until then, says Isaiah.
2.3 From these words, it is not only people of Jericho and Palestinian people who want to build a castle gate and protect their lives by kings and warriors, but also Israeli people. The same is true of all of us. If we had to destroy this literally, we would all have to be destroyed. The way of life that must be destroyed exists deeply in all of us. By no means it applies to only people of Jericho. The Bible interpretation that I introduced earlier is based on the interpretation that we are not destroyed but that only the people of Jericho and Palestinians are to be destroyed. But that is not the case. There is something in our innermost that needs to be destroyed.

3. 1 From such an understanding, today's word teaches us that God will defeat us, no matter how tightly we close the gate and no matter how hard we try to become a king or a worrier and to protect ourselves from intruders, I think. Also, we can understand it this way. The city of Jericho closed the gate tightly, and placed kings and warriors to fight the invasion of God's work. That is why the damage was huge. The walls collapsed and most of the people were sacrificed. As such, if we close the gate tightly, and place kings and warriors to resist the work God is trying to do, the damage will be rather serious. Misery will increase. No matter how hard you set the walls, there is God's work to break it. God always destroys the castle gate. If so, we would like to accept the work of God in return. Rather, we want to accept and believe that there lies happiness in it.
3.2 I think that there may be some people who have suffered a great deal of damage because they are trying to build castle gates firmly and fight as kings and warriors everywhere around us. After the end of last week's prayer meeting, a person who always provides various topics for us told me this story again. A friend in great pain who lost her hair through the treatment of an anti-cancer drug overcame the children's opposition, and made a decision to stop the treatment of the anti-cancer drug. On that day, we learned the word of Isaiah 65:17 to 25. In it, we had the mysterious words ﹉like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.﹊
3.3 The literal meaning is to live long like a tree, but I remembered what I had read before. The reason why trees live for 500 or 1000 years is that it says that many parts of the trees were dead. Therefore, it was very surprising and I remembered it. The dead part becomes hard and supports the tree, or works as a tube and sends water and nutrients. Just because there is a dead part that way, the trees can live long. The work of God is to give us the meaning of "death" in various senses in a metaphorical sense, and it is because of it that we sometimes bloom and bear fruit, right? No matter how strongly we build the gate, 'death' can enter and we cannot stay young and healthy. However, it is when such things come in that we can live like ﹉the life of a tree,﹊ right? She said that she would like to tell this Bible story to the person who has made a decision to stop his anti-cancer treatment.

4.1. Now, what I would like to mention last is the thing that the description of the God's work to destroy the walls of Jericho indicates: that is, Israeli people were led by the seven priests and they carried the ark of the covenant around the walls once on the first day, and on the seventh day they marched around the city seven times. After the event, the collapse of the walls of Jericho happened. We immediately notice that the figure of seven appears a number of times, but the figure of seven is very lucky and blessed, as we were taught in the last week's sermon dealing with the Gospel according to John that Jesus﹊ miracle was recorded seven times. It is a number that announces a visit of God's work that is blessed. Certainly, as a visible reality, the walls of Jericho collapsed and people met with misfortune. We also undergo various ordeals, and many things are lost and collapse. But that is the work of God, which brings us good luck, all under the number seven. It is the work of God that blesses us, just as Jesus performed seven miracles, saved and healed us.
4.2 I feel a very deep meaning in the fact that on the seventh day marching around the city seven times caused the tightly closed walls of Jericho to collapse. Marching around the city on the seventh day seven times apparently refers to the Sabbath symbolically. According to Genesis Chapter 2, Verse 2, ﹉And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.﹊ Walking with the goal of marching around the city seven times on the seventh day while carrying the ark of the covenant means a contradictory thing in a sense, namely, ﹉completion in the repose ,﹊ on the seventh day of God's creation. That very thing destroys the way of life in which not only the people of Jericho but also we try to harden the walls and protect ourselves. What comes in by our breaking down is not a destruction but a work of creation. It is the work of God's creation that blesses us with the number seven.
4.3 It is very important to be able to interpret God's work of breaking the castle gate as a fortunate visit to bless us in this way, right? What is important for that purpose is that it is very important for us to live on the seventh day with the rhythm of seven laps, that is, to walk by offering worship every seventh day. To keep worship every seventh day means to live in response to the rhythm of God's creation. Thus, even if the wall collapses, we will be able to accept it as the really blessed work by God.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

Joshua 6:1-5

1 Now Jericho was shut up from within and from without because of the people of Israel; none went out, and none came in. 2 And the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have given into your hand Jericho, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark: and on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, as soon as you hear the so und of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him."
(New International Version)


Back

Worship Service on March 3, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- Put off Your Shoes from Your Feet -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 We will listen to the words of Joshua Chapter 5, Verse 13 and the following. Today's word describes a very strange event where God's messenger with a drawn sword in his hand (which means that the sword is pulled out of its sheath) meets Joshua. For what purpose on earth did God do this kind of thing to Joshua? Although it is shown in the Bible with a reference part, in fact the Old Testament says that in addition to today's word, God's messenger appeared in another two places with a drawn sword in his hand respectively. I will not mention the other two places today, but God's appearing three times means that it was relatively common for God to contact people in such a figure, I think.
1.2 With what kind of intention on earth did God show up in the presence of Joshua? A hint for thinking about it is that at the beginning of Verse 13 we find the word 'When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked.' Imagine with what kind of intention on earth Joshua, who was by Jericho, stayed there lifting up his eyes and what he was looking at. As we were taught before, according to the archaeological survey, the town called Jericho is known to have already been built for quite a long time, since 7000 B.C. Once broken, it was built again and it was the biggest and strongest fortified city in Palestine after it had accumulated such history, right? Chapter 6, Verse 1 says, 'Now Jericho was shut up from within and from without because of the people of Israel; none went out, and none came in.' Joshua was looking at such a big and strong fortress-like town every day lifting up his eyes. That feeling of his was dark, right? How on earth can he attack the towering strongly fortified city? The more he looks up at the town, the more he becomes aware of his own smallness and helplessness in stark contrast. We are often struck by such a feeling. When looking up at too big and strong an object, we will only notice how helpless we are and we tend to get depressed.

2.1 We understand that it is in order to get such Joshua out of this state that God appeared to him in the form of a man with a drawn sword. Joshua always watches only the walls of Jericho lifting up his eyes, but at this time, what came in his sight was the figure of the eerie man who tried to pull out the sword from its sheath and try to kill him. If he tried to show his back and escape, he might be cut down from behind. Therefore, it was absolutely impossible for him to escape. He came up to the other party and asked, 'Are you a friend or an enemy? ' Anyway, whether he liked it or not, he did face the other man. God might have tried to make Joshua find a means of escape now by making him do so.
2.2 As was also indicated earlier, if we look up at too much difficulty, we will only turn our eyes to our own smallness and helplessness as compared to it. But now what appeared before Joshua 's eyes was nothing but a man, although he was brandishing a drawn sword. Of course, it is a very dangerous opponent, but if he compares it with Jericho's wall, it is the opponent whom he will be able to fight. Rather, it is the opponent who Joshua has no choice but to fight now. I will repeat it many times, but if he shows his back without fighting, he might be killed. Through letting Joshua face such an enemy, God separated him from looking up at Jericho, that is, a tremendously large wall, and from depression and God guided Joshua to face one difficulty standing in front of him. The steps of our life are not shaped by our looking up at a tremendously large wall and breaking it. If we think that way, we have nothing but to get depressed. Instead, by trying to face minor difficulties that appear right in front of us, and by dealing with these kinds of things one by one, before we know it, we have ended up overcoming tremendous difficulties like Jericho, right?
2.3 Therefore, if the difficulties and sufferings should appear before our eyes in a figure with a drawn sword and if we should never be allowed to run away, we have only to receive it as a gift that God sends us. Actually, I myself, have felt extraordinarily thirsty for the past two weeks after having breakfast. I borrowed a kit for measuring the blood glucose level from a certain person who came to the Bible Study Prayer Meeting. When I measured my blood glucose level with it, it turned out to be clearly in the area of ??diabetes. As my mother also has diabetes, I went to a special hospital immediately on Saturday last week. I thought that just at the right time this was the very figure of God that appeared to me with the drawn sword in his hand. Although I hate hospitals, truly I cannot get away from this reality now. If I turn away from it and run away, I will be cut down. Joshua asks, "Are you a friend or an enemy?", As God's angel answers it, it is 'commander of the army of the Lord .' Even if an event that looks extraordinarily terrible should occur, it is on our side. However, I will repeat it many times. If you escape from it, then it will become your enemy.

3.1 At last week's Bible Study Prayer Meeting, we listened to the words of Isaiah Chapter 60, Verses 1 to 7. The word'Arise, shine ' in Verse 1 is often read as an invitation to Christmas worship. What struck me as particularly impressive was the word in verse 5 'Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice.' Just at the prayer meeting of that day, I heard that a certain family member who was present at it was declared to have got some disease. There is work of God that makes us fear and frightens us. In today's word, it is a figure of God's messenger opposing us, holding a drawn sword that never allows us to escape. When we face it, we shudder with fear. However, the word of this Verse 5 tells us that strangely enough, there lies joy that shines right there , and that brightens our hearts. Shuddering with fear and brightening with joy are usually contradictory to one another. But for God that is the case. In the face of the messenger of God with his drawn sword, there is joy for us, and there is something that makes our hearts radiant. We are to meet God in events where we have nothing but to shudder with fear. And, as is mentioned in Isaiah Verses 1 and 2, God's light shines on us, and makes us shine and wakes us up. I hear that their families have come to help one another in the way that they have never thought of at all, because they were told of the disease.

4.1 Now when Joshua finds that the person he met is the messenger of God, he falls on his face to the earth and says, 'What does my lord bid his servant? ' I was struck by the change in Joshua's attitude very much. So far, looking up at the big and strong wall of Jericho, he has been deeply discouraged by his own smallness and helplessness. He cannot accept his own smallness and helplessness at all. But what about Joshua's attitude here? He fell on his face to the ground and he is not looking up at Jericho anymore. He is able to accept his smallness towards his master with willingness by calling himself his 'servant.' He is no longer trying to be a big person. He just thinks that he, the servant, has only to do what God, who is his master, is trying to make him do.
4.2 'Rejoicing of our heart, ' which was shown earlier in Isaiah, is exactly like this. Through shuddering with fear and, through meeting God with a drawn sword, we are able to just fall on our face to the earth as a small person in front of this God and say, 'What does my lord bid his servant?' To put it in extreme terms, it does not matter to invade Jericho anymore. He has been set free from where he was possessed by the thought. He has been able to accept how small he is. I think that right here is the joy of meeting God. I will repeat it many times, it is given only through shuddering with fear and, through meeting God with a drawn sword.
4.3 When I was preparing for the teaching of Isaiah that I mentioned a minute ago, I found the manuscript for the sermon that I had given in May, 1995, at Koriyama Church, and I was reading it. There, the Reverend Sakae Miura of the Asaka Missionary Station in Koriyama city, which belonged to the United Church of Christ in Japan, was mentioned. I associated with him so closely that we cohosted the CS summer camp. His predecessor served as a clerk at the Tokyo High Court for a long time and he became a pastor afterwards. He was very excellent both as the pastor and the preacher. The Reverend Miura was hurt and worried very much because he was compared with his predecessor, and I listened to that problem of his a lot. Under such circumstances, The Reverend Miura complained about his poor physical condition during the summer camp. When he took a physical checkup, he was diagnosed as a terminal liver cancer patient. He was declared to be unable to undergo any surgery. I think that he left the hospital shortly after being hospitalized for a short time and he went on standing on the pulpit and preaching until about two weeks before he was called by Heaven. There was no sign about him yet that was reminiscent of his being worried about comparing himself with his predecessor. Indeed, just like this Joshua, I found in him how obediently he was accepting his own smallness, trying to do his job as the pastor whom God wanted to do. That is the figure of the Reverend Miura who was still shining, and who still now remains in my heart.

5.1 To Joshua who asked, 'What does my lord bid his servant? ' God said, 'Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy.' Needless to say, this is exactly the same as the word that God said to Moses who tried to approach trying to see the mysterious Sheba tree, which does not disappear, however much it burns. God said exactly the same words to both Moses, who must lead his brethren, slaves, to face the King of Egypt, and to Joshua, who must also head towards the huge and strongly fortified city Jericho. That is what really impresses me. Although I cannot understand such important words fully, God did not provide them with strategies to hold out against the King of Egypt or measures to capture Jericho. Rather it is a much more fundamental thing that God told them. Regardless of what difficulties we will face in the future, the most important thing for us is the feeling that the place where we are kept standing is holy. The place where Joshua is now kept standing is the one where he is stuck in front of Jericho. But that very place is holy. It means 'Even if the place where you are now kept standing is where you are in front of an eerie existence with a drawn sword in its hand, take off your shoes from your feet, and touch the sacredness of the place. Draw up the sacredness from your feet. ' Only those who have noticed the sacredness of the place where they are now put will be able to overcome even Jericho someday.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

Joshua 5:13-15

13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him with his drawn sword in his hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" 14 And he said, "No; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshipped, and said to him, "What does my lord bid his servant?" 15 And the commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so.
(New International Version)


Back

Worship Service on February 24, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- At the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1. The words of Today depict the episode called the Feast of Dedication. This feast was also called "the Feast of Purifying Temple"in the older Bible of 1954. In the words of Today, it is depicted that the conflict between the Jews and Jesus had got deeper and eventually it got critically deep.
The most crucial point of the conflict was, as it is said in Verse 33, Jesus blasphemed against God because he made himself God, while he was a man. This part is depicted as a conflict between Jesus and the Jews. Such kind of conflict as this must be continuously seen in the Asia Minor region and by the author John during the past fifty years as a Christian. at the time of 100 AD when this Gospel was written, as we learned repeatedly before,
Today, I would like to start by telling what kind of event the Feast of Dedication was. As we learned in a class of world history at school, after the death of the Alexander the Great, his empire was torn apart. One of the countries that emerged after this,called Syria,ruled Palestine for long. In 175 BC, the king called Antiochos IV was the ruler and he named himself Epiphanes. The word "Epiphany" in Greek has a special meaning. It means that God clearly shows up. Thus, Antiochos named himself as Epiphanes because he intentionally declared to the people that he himself was God.
Moreover, they forced the Israelites to believe in the Greek Gods they blieved in. Naturally the Jews strongly resisted against them, thus eventually Antiochos Epiphanes attacked Jerusalem in 170 BC. According to the annotation of Prof. Berkely, more than 80,000 Jews were killed and a great number of people were made slaves. Antiochos Epiphanes prohibited performing a circumcision on a baby boy. It is said that mothers who broke this prohibition were crucifised with thier boys hanging on the neck. Also, the temple of Jerusalem was changed to the temple of Zeus and on the alter the offering presented as a sacrifice was a pig which the Jews strongly disliked. The Jews got angry at this and kept strongly resisting for three years, under the leadership of the five sons of the Maccabifamily who were the great priests at that time.
At last they defeated the Syirian army in 164 BC and restored the temple of Jesusalem as it used to be. To celebrate it, for 8 consecutive days from the 25th day of the month called Kislev in the Jewish calendar, the Jewsih people hold the Feast of Dedication, or Temple Purification,which is like the period for us in Japan from December 25th to the new year holidays,
Also, this Feast is callsed the Feast of Light, because when they regained the temple from Syria, they found a small bottel of oil which remained unopened. The oil, which would usually keep a candle lightning for a day acutally kept it lightning for eight consecutive days, thus the people could light a candle each day during the Feast. Until now, the Israelites observe this Feast called Hanukkah for eight nights and days. In Verse 12 of Chapter 8, Jesus said to the people,"I am the light of the world". Though nothing else is said here, it might be the day when this Hanukkah feast just started and the people had just lighted the first candle when Jesus said this.
2. Now when we understand the origin and meanings of this Feast, we feel that we can somehow understand why the Jews, Jesus and Christians were having the debates as depicted in the Verses that we read today. Above all this Feast is to celebrate the victory of battle for three years against the King who had forced the Jews to believe in and worship their God. after having tens of thousands of losses and the injured.
Because of such hardship, the people got extremely nervous about those who tend to force them to believe in their God and they careflly checked if signs of such intentions have been brought to their temple. Thus, at the time of this Feast every year there might be repeated debates between those who believed in Jesus as God and those who denied it.
At the end of Verse 22 is a phrase;"it was winter. "It seems to be a symbolic phrase to represent John﹊s state of mind at that time. Even to John, he must be proud of the victory of 250 years earlier with enormous sacrifices against the King who had forced them to believe in their God.
At the end of the New Testament is the Revelation of Jesus Christ by John. This author, John, was persecuted by the 11th Roman Emperor, Domitianus, and confined in an island, called Patmos. The period when this Gospel was written wasexactly overlapping with this time. For John, the author of this Gospel, the memory of the victory against the King must be a solid support to his mind. For him, however, being the Jew, it must be hard to believe that Jesus was God and the savior (Messiah), and he could do nothing but strongly rejecting the idea. It must be painful for John who was Jewish to have heated debates with the same Jews, while he wished to join the Feast to celebrate the victory together with the same countrymen. John might feel such harsh reality as the cold "winter".
Moreover, because of the Feast of such purpose, the Jews pressed Jesus, as is depicted in Verse 24, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly. "This Feast is to commemorate the victory, under the leadership of the sons of the great Priest of the Maccabi family, over the King of this world. For the Jews the leader who could beat the King of this world was the Messiah, Christ at any times.
At first I mentioned the word Epiphanes. The time when the Jews beated and expelled the King Antiochos Epiphanes from the temple was taken as the time of Epiphany when the Messia sent by God should clearly show up. Because of this, the people urged Jesus to tell them if he was the Christ, if Jesus was truly the Messiah.

3. From the episode above, what is a message to us?Just like it was hard for the Israelites at that time to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Lord, it is difficult for us particularly the Japanese, I think. Again when we note Verse 24, the Jews urged Jesus, "How long do You keep us in doubt?If You are the Christ, tell us plainly. "Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe". And then Jesus also said that they did not believe the works he did.
What does this discussion mean?In short, it means that we tend to be kept in doubt if Jesus is the Christ, the savior, and even if we saw the works done by Jesus we cannot entirely believe so. While Jesus was alive on the earth with a physical body, he opened the eyes of a man who was blind from birth as is depicted in Chapter 9, and the dead man, Lazarus, came forth from the tomb, as is depicted in Chapter 11. However, at the time when John wrote this Gospel, it was impossible for John to see such experience of miracles done by Jesus, much less for us who live at present. How easily we could convince the people around us, if we could tell such miracles would happen and/or such benefits would be given to them if they believe in Jesus.
There is a person who always gives us various topics in our prayers meeting. The other day, she talked us that her friend who had lost hair due to the cancer treatment said to her, "You do not get cancer because you believe in God, but why should I suffer from such pains of cancer?" and cried. She could not find words to say, she said.
We, Japanese, tend to have a view of belief in this way, that if you believe in God and Jesus we would not get cancer and no trouble would happen. At any times we tend to wait for a savior who could show up, in a way of Epiphany, and bring forth a miracle for us in a dramatic way. However, if we ask Jesus in this way, then we would have to be kept in doubt for long. If we ask Jesus to say so plainly, the answer will never be given.

4. As there is no clear Epiphany that Jesus was the savior, it is difficult for us, particularly for Japanese to believe that Jesus is the savior. The words of Today make it more difficult to believe that Jesus is God, even if Jesus as a man told that he is God. In Verse 29 Jesus said that "I and My Father are one. " This is the most serious problem for the Jews to accept. Likewise it is hard for us, I think.
A savior who could bring forth marvelous miracles might be God, but as I said again and again Jesus did not have such Epiphany. Though it is not said in the Verses we read today, Jesus was a man who was crucified and killed. He was not a savior who could beat the King but, on the contrary, he was crucified and brutally killed by the king. How could we believe in such a man as a Messiah, much less God?Perhaps, this is the point for many people around us.
Unlike the Jews, we Japanese accept stones, trees, animals and even humans as Gods and worship them as Gods. However, even for us, it is impossible to accept a man who was crucified as God and believe that we could gain benefits from the man. They doubt how they could expect any benefits from a man who was crucified and killed. I remember even a renowned scholar of Buddhism, Mr. Masutani,writing that he could not understand why Christians could accept a man who was crucified as God and believe in him as the savior, though I cannot reproduce his remarks accurately as I lent the book, thus I do not have it with me at present. I still remember being shocked to find that such a famous scholar of Buddhism who has an excellent sense of religion and belief could have an understanding of crucified Jesus in such a way.
The Jews do not accept Jesus, who they think was nothing but a man, as the savior, much less as God. Of course, obviously the Muslims do not accept Jesus. At the registered nursery school of the YMCA, just next to our Church, several Muslim families leave their kids. They did not come on the Christmas day and even when the Church members were practicing for the Christmas, they were waiting at the lobby. This much they are strict in their belief. They can never accept the idea that a man could be God.
Then, why can we believe this? It is not because the disciples of Jesus could argue back to the Jews, prove theoretically that Jesus as a man could be God, so thatwe could accept it. Conceptually, it is impossible to insist that the man who was crucified was actually God and the savior. Nevertheless, however impossible it might be to prove it conceptually and no matter what conflicts of arguments we might have on this point between us and the Jews or Muslims, there was something to be told and to be believed in this way.
In Verse 29 Jesus said, "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. "In this Verse, the essence of what John thought about Jesus who was crucified is expressed, I think. Jesus who was killed on the Cross appeared to be on the extremely opposite to being glorious. Nevertheless, John saw the glory of Jesus there. In that situation, the God almighty and the messiah sent by God showed up through the tiny existence that was diametrically opposite to the great and glorious existence.
Following Verse 7 of Chapter 10, and in Verse 28 Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice. " In order to lead us who are struggling to walk in the valley of death, Jesus needed to walk on the valley of death being crucified.
(Translated by Motoko Shuto from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 10:22-33

preparing.


Back

Worship Service on February 3, 2019

Gist of Sermon

- I Am the Good Shepherd -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today I asked you to read Verses 10 to 18 of Chapter 10 in The Gospel According to John. The word 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep ' in Verse 11 was the motto of Ishikawa Kindergarten attached to Kooriyama Church where I used to take care of the congregation of it. Ishikawa Kindergarten is located in Iwaki Ishikawa Machi a little far away from Kooriyama City. I fondly remember the children at the kindergarten reciting that phrase in loud voices every time they had the worship service.
1.2 The word 'I am the good shepherd' that Jesus said is recorded in only this gospel according to John. The well-known parable of the shepherd's going out to look for his lost sheep, and which can be found in the gospels according to Luke (Luke 15:1~7) and according to Matthew (Matthew 18:12~14). Verse 34 of Chapter 6 Mark says that Jesus had compassion on a large crowd, 'because they were like sheep without a shepherd.' Like this, Jesus might have talked by comparing himself to a shepherd.
1.3 Now what makes us think first is why the author of the gospel John put this word of Jesus's here. Verse 10 talks about jhya thief who steals, kills and destroys. And Verse 12 talks about the hired hand who is not the shepherd and who abandons the sheep and runs away when he sees the wolf coming. When it comes to who these things refer to concretely, judging from the context, they refer to people called the Pharisees. Verse 6 of Chapter 10 says, 'Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.' Chapter 9 described how a heated argument took place between Pharisees and Jesus because he healed a man born blind on a Sabbath. Verse 21 of Chapter 10 says, 'Again the Jews picked up stones to stone them.' Judging from the aforementioned context, the thief in today's word and the bad shepherd who is nothing but a hired hand clearly refer to Pharisees.

2.1 As we have been told very often, John is believed to have written this gospel, because he wanted mainly Jewish people living in Asia Minor in A.D. about 100 to believe that Jesus is the Savior, in today's word, the good shepherd. That is, the shepherd was the religious leader of Jewish society in those days, who was actually Pharisees. The controversy and argument between Jesus and Pharisees which are described in Chapters 9 and 10 are said to depict what took place between Christians and Pharisees in Asia Minor in A.D. about 100. While depicting such a controversy, John asks people 'Which is the true shepherd, Pharisees or Jesus?' and 'Which is the good shepherd who nurtures us?' I think.
2.2 In January, a new book entitled Jewish people and Judaism was published as a shinsho-size edition of Iwanami Publishing Company. Soon I bought it and read it. At the beginning of the book, the author Ichikawa Hiroshi, a professor at the University of Tokyo, wrote like this: ' The battle that took place in A.D. 70 ended up in bringing about a lot of people's death, the collapse of the Temple, the devastation of their land and the fall of their capital. It was at this time that rabbis were given birth to in Jewish society. They are not clergymen but scholars in law who have professional knowledge about God's teaching. They were wise men who showed a new way of living to Jewish people who had lost their homeland. Rabbis' job specifications are varied depending on the age during which they live but to this day they have kept an important position as leaders in Jewish society. Jewish people have depended upon rabbis for the solution of a problem that their parents or brothers or sisters or friends cannot solve and have solved the problem by sometimes accompanying rabbis and by asking them to teach them. '(p. 12) All through his book, Dr. Ichikawa highly esteems scholars in law called 'rabbis ,' and it is rabbis given birth to in the midst of the collapse of Jerusalem that were Pharisees who appeared in Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 today. It was they that were the shepherds who took care of Jewish society in AD about 100 after the fall of Jerusalem. Taking this situation well into consideration, still John could not help asking people the following question, I think. : 'Which on earth is the true shepherd, Jesus or they?'

3.1 John regarded shepherds of Pharisees as bad shepherds who steal sheep and destroy them and also such shepherds as hired hands who abandon sheep as soon as they see the wolf coming. But judging from the aforementioned Dr. Ichikawa's passage, John's way of thinking is a too one-sided viewpoint, right? If they, who are specialists in law, did not have an aspect as a proper shepherd, they would not have obtained their present position as shepherds who take care of Jewish people who have roamed the whole world as sojourners and have suffered. Nevertheless, John could not help calling Pharisees bad shepherds like thieves, right? The very concrete evidence for that was what happened to the woman caught in adultery in Chapter 8 and what happened to the man born blind in Chapter 9, right?
3.2 When it comes to a shepherd, we are reminded of Psalm 23 in the Old Testament as follows right away, right? There the poet sings, 'The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.' The person who appeared in Chapter 9 was the one who was born blind and who was disowned as their son by their parents because of that and who had nothing but to live as a beggar. He was the very sheep that had to be led to green pastures, guided to still waters and had to restore his soul by the shepherd, right? Contrary to our expectations, how did the Pharisees deal with this sheep? They said to him, 'You were steeped in sin at birth.' Likewise, Jesus' disciples asked Jesus, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? ' The Pharisees thought in just the same way as Jesus' disciples. They thought that 'To be steeped in sin at birth leads to a disability in being born blind .' When they get down to it, to them God is the person who accuses us of our sin, gets infuriated and punishes us for it.
3.3 As we were told repeatedly, a disability in being born blind symbolizes illness or a disability that we human beings can never get rid of. Everyone of us suffers from such a negative thing some day. Pharisees' faith is the one where they have nothing to do but regard it as God's wrath, accusation or punishment against us. If God is really such a person, there is no way for us, who are burdened with such an illness or suffering, to escape from it. For us, who are burdened with such a negative thing that we cannot get rid of at all, green pastures or water or the restoration of our soul are indispensable. A guide when we cross the valley of death or the very table before suffering is indispensable. Were the Pharisees described in Chapter 9 able to provide the person who was born blind with such food and water? No, never. Rather, they deprived him of food. They labeled him as an'unforgivable sinner,' and destroyed him. He fell prey to the wolf. The wolf is an existence that deprives us of our wish to live or our joy.

4.1 It is shown anew that this kind of Pharisees are never unrelated to us. To be sure, there are no such people as Pharisees literally in front of us, but in each of us there is such an existence as Pharisees, I think.
4.2 Now we are learning Chapter 56 and the following of the Book of Isaiah at the Bible Study Prayer Meeting. A common view says that Chapters 40 to 55 in the Book of Isaiah were told to Israelites in the Babylonian captivity, and Chapters 56 to 66 dealt with what happened after they were allowed to return to their hometown by Cyrus of Persia in 538 BC. After they returned home, some people who became shepherds of Israeli people such as Ezra and Nehemia turned into Pharisees and rabbis or scholars in law later. In rebuilding the faith community which turned into a mountain of rubble, there was a certain principle. It was the principle of eliminating the Gentiles who got married after the Babylonian captivity. Also there were some people who were forced to be 'castrated' in order to serve the harem of the Babylonian Palace during the Babylonian Captivity and they were called eunuchs. These people were excluded as being dirty people. The original phrase of the Phariseeism means separation or exclusion. With regard to the way of rebuilding this way, God declared, 'The Gentiles who gathered under the Lord, do not say, 'The Lord distinguishes between me and his people (faris.) ' ,' and also 'Eunuchs, I am a dead tree ' (Isaiah 56:3). Although God does not distinguish or eliminate us, we human beings distinguish or eliminate other people by saying that it is God's will. We try to exclude a blind person by saying that it was so because he was born in sin. We exclude such negative things.
4.3 We have this kind of Phariseeism within ourselves, right? A bad shepherd who is a thief and nothing but a hired hand to sheep is really ourselves. I abandon myself carrying a heavy handicap or a negative thing which is symbolized by illness that causes us to be blind at birth. The other day I watched a program that had been recorded on the video and which explained the contents of the two books entitled A Complete History of Sapiens and Homodieus. The author of them is a Jew who lives in Israel, Yuval Noah Harari. He says that human beings (Homo) are trying to be Deus, or God. He goes on to say that AI, the human brain and AI will be connected directly, and that in a sense human beings will get immortality and omnipotence. But what we do as a shepherd who has become a god is, if we get down to it, exclusion and isolation, right? We go on eliminating disgusting weaknesses, defects and diseases for ourselves, for example, by manipulating genes. But such a shepherd can only destroy his sheep. He cannot protect his sheep from the wolf. He is a shepherd who can never give himself green grass or water who is placed in the shadow of Death Valley.

5.1 Just because of that, John tells us that it is Jesus who throws away his life for his sheep that is the good shepherd. Verse 16 says that only when the sheep are kept by this person, 'there shall be one flock.' Jesus also says,'I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.' Through what I was taught earlier, I was able to understand the meaning of this word of Jesus'. The fact that Jesus abandoned his life for the sheep does not indicate that just a shepherd abandoning his life for the sheep is a good shepherd just simply because he sacrificed his life for the sheep. It does not mean so but Jesus is a good shepherd in that only the shepherd Jesus accepted the cross --- which ordinary people would eliminate and separate from them as a matter of course. As Jesus himself went on the shadow of Death Valley, he found green grass, water and the restoration of his soul from God. We can see that there is a dining table that God gives us right before the crucifixion of the cross. We must keep in mind that he is the good shepherd with that very figure. Jesus shows us that suffering and death are precious steps for us that we should not separate or eliminate from our lives. A sheep that is not in the sheep pen means what we have eliminated as a bad shepherd. Jesus is trying to integrate this as part of the life that is indispensable. The word'and there shall be one flock and one shepherd' means that what we have separated and eliminated will finally become one thanks to Jesus. We are not trying to part with our life at all. When such people as us become our own shepherd, we, who are sheep, fall prey to the wolf. And we will be killed by the thief. When Jesus, who was able to part with his life, becomes our shepherd, we are protected.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

We welcome any questions about or comments/advice for better English translation,
please click here.


Scripture for the day

The Gospel According to John 10:10-18

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me? 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father ?and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life ?only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.
(New International Version)


Back

Sermon 2018


Copyright © 2003 Tsukuba Gakuen Church, UCCJ All Rights Reserved.