Gist of Sermon

Worship Service on 9 February 2020

The Rev. Mr. Sumio FUKUSHIMA 'Choose the successor to Judas' 1 Since January 19, once every three weeks, we have been listening to the words from the Acts of Apostles. As we learned in the previous sermon, the author of the Acts of Apostles is Luke who wrote the Gospel according to Luke. He wrote this Acts of Apostles as a sequel to the Gospel according to Luke. The reason why he decided to write this sequel was that, though it might sound like a word play, those who believed that Jesus was a savior did not decrease in number.
There were a number of critical problems at that time and because of such difficulties, usually the number of believers could have decreased and perished. The first crisis was, needless to say, that Jesus was crucified and killed on the cross. Nevertheless, overcoming the crisis, people continued to believe that Jesus was the savior to them. Thus, the purpose of the Gospel was to clarify the reason why it happened.
The second crisis is what I am going to tell you today. As it is depicted in Verses 9 to 10 which we learned in the previous sermon, Jesus was taken up to heaven and became invisible to the disciples. As the person who had preached various things and encouraged them was gone, usually the community relying on his presence could have come to an end. Nevertheless, it was not the case. In order to clarify the reason why it did not occur, Luke wrote this as a sequel to the Gospel.
It is very useful for us to learn this point. Above all, we can learn how our churches can survive in the difficult times from now on. We can learn not only how churches can survive but how each of us can individually sustain our belief life. Moreover, we can learn not only how to sustain our belief life but the secret of resilient survival in life itself. 2. Then, how did the disciples overcome the decisive crisis after Jesus was taken up to heaven? Verse 12 depicts that "they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey." I have just realized for the first time that it was the Sabbath day and "they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying," which was probably the house where they had the last dinner. There were the eleven disciples after Judas Iscariot?was gone. They continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. In short, the disciples were giving a prayer together with other believers on the Sabbath's day.
It is in this scene that we can find the essential driving force to overcome the crisis after they could not see Jesus as before any longer. There are the words of Jesus, which we remember again and again that "for where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (Matthew 18-20)." These words might not be the words of Jesus himself, but originated from the experience of the disciples who were gathered together two or three after Jesus was gone and yet, strangely enough, they felt as if Jesus had been together in the midst of them while they were praying. Such experience of the disciples might be depicted as the words of Jesus here.
What I imagine is how the situation would have been, if Jesus after the resurrection could have stayed with the disciples in a mysterious way for long. Jesus after the resurrection said to Mary Magdalene, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father"(John 20- 17). If Jesus after the resurrection could have stayed close with the disciples for long and kept teaching everything directly to them, wouldn't it mean that the disciples kept clinging to Jesus for long? When and in what way Jesus who has resurrected can show up in front of the disciples and us depends on Jesus, It is beyond our capacity, and there is nothing that we can do about that. If we would try to know it, it is what Jesus meant to cling to him, Thus, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene not to cling to Jesus, I think.
In order to avoid making the disciples and us as well cling to Jesus, didn't Jesus ascend to heaven and create on purpose a situation in which he has become invisible? As a consequence, there was nothing left for the disciples but to get together and pray, but because of this, when they got together even just two or three, strangely enough they felt as if Jesus were there together with them. It is great indeed that they felt so when they got together even just two or three. They did not need any gorgeous chapel to pray. Be it in a humble house, or outdoors, in a hospital or in a kind of a detention camp, with a really minimum number of people we can set an opportunity when Jesus can be with us. How encouraging it would be to us.
Without noticing this in particular, we get together and give our worship like this. We usually do not realize how it brings us power and blessing. Last week after the worship service was over I had a chance to chat briefly with a person who came with a wheel chair. When she came to church with a help of her husband, she looked pale and not in a good condition, but after the worship service was over her face looked vivid and fine. Not only myself but other people who are close to her also said the same thing, saying that she looks totally different after attending the worship service from when she is at home. Like this, we know how greatly we are empowered and blessed by getting together to attend the worship service and praise the Lord. It makes us overcome all kinds of difficulties and exercise resilience to get together and worship, even if it may be just two persons only.
3. Now, the second crisis that the disciples and the first believers were faced with was, as is depicted after Verse 15 in the Scripture of today, what had happened to Judas Iscariot who was one of the 12 disciples. We can imagine how critical the situation was for them. One of the 12 disciples who were selected by Jesus himself sent off Jesus for money.
It makes us doubt the ability of Jesus in selecting persons and give us the impression of the weak power of Jesus in selecting people and above all the extraordinarily tragic death of Judas. It is said that Judas committed suicide. While he was selected by Jesus as one of his 12 disciples, eventually he had such a tragic death. It was not a matter of strangers. It is not a matter of others to us, either.
Peter, too, denied Jesus three times. Would we not do something similar, if not literally in the same way, by denying and selling off Jesus? Everyone has something weak. Would such weak persons like us have eventually such a tragic end even if we are committed with Jesus? Isn't Jesus supposed to bless us whatever happens to us? Verse 19 says that "it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem." It was widely known to the people that if you were committed with Jesus, your life would eventually result in such a tragic death.
In such a critical situation, what was the driving force for them to overcome it? It was what Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples and about 120 people and said. I used to think that the first preach of the newly started church was the sermon of Peter written after Verse14 of Chapter 2, but today I first realized that I was wrong. Peter preached how they could overcome the crisis related to Judas Iscariot, and he preached it quite mercifully based on the Scriptures. I realized again the profound meaning of the scriptures.
Then, what above all does Peter preach about the happening related to Judas? At the end of Verse 16, "this Scripture had to be fulfilled." The original Greek word for the words "have to" is "Dei," which has a special implication of "God." Thus, this special word is often used in the context of the will of God or the plan of God that is necessarily fulfilled. When Jesus implies his suffering, this word, "Dei" was used. Related to the transgression of Judas, who certainly sold off Jesus for money, it was, too, necessarily fulfilled as a will and a plan of God. Jesus himself regarded the suffering in this way, and also mentioned Judas in this way.
Thus, Jesus did not make a mistake in selecting Judas, Jesus was not weak in choosing persons, either. On the contrary, it represented the wide selection of Jesus and his strength. He chose a person who would betray him. The selection of Jesus is much wider than the transgression of Judas. This is what the will of God is represented.

4. In Verse 17, Peter said remarkable words about Judas, saying that "he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry." Perhaps Peter meant that Judas who was selected as one of the 12 disciples and working as a treasurer of the church, according to the Book of John , In such a positive sense, he was a member of them and working a part of the church. However, by far beyond such a positive sense, even the transgression of Judas itself seems to be what he was supposed to do. In this sense, Judas was an indispensable part of them, I think.
Peter, too, was commissioned to deny Jesus three times. Similarly Judas was commissioned to betray Jesus while he was selected by Jesus as one of the 12 disciples. It was because Peter could testify the love of Jesus and Judas could prove through his transgression the broadness of selection of Jesus and his strength.
It is often said that Jesus is cursed forever. But, I do not take in such a way. If Judas, too, was taken in God's will (Dei) or in the wide selection and strength of Jesus, how should he be cursed forever? "Dei" that is God's will and the selection of Jesus with love are much broader and stronger.
Being encouraged by such a preach of Peter, the disciples and bereaves decided to choose the successor to Judas by casting the lots. It might have been better not to choose the successor and keep the 12th disciple as an empty position in order to prevent a Judas-type person from being chosen. Wouldn't it be better not to choose a successor to Judas in order to demonstrate the firm determination of the church not to make the similar thing happen again?
Nevertheless, the first church did not do so, and chose the successor to Judas. They did so by choosing from those who had seen the resurrection of Jesus, by a very easy method that by casting lots. Shouldn't they have taken a more appropriate method for selecting the successor? Should they have carefully examined a person who had a diametrically opposite quality? Nevertheless, they did not do so. Above all, it was impossible for them to choose such a person.
Those disciples, too, had no such intention. Nevertheless, the way by which the successor to Judas was selected, figuratively speaking, suggests that a person like Judas can always emerge in Church. Among us, a person like Judas always appears. There is no church where a Judas does not appear. Nevertheless, Church is a community that can overcome it by getting together, praying and listening to the sermon, like us here today, and make up for what Judas fell short of.
(Translated by Motoko Shuto from the gist prepared in Japanese)

Scripture for the day is 'The Acts of Apostles 1: 12-26'

Worship Service on 19 January 2020

The Rev. Mr. Sumio FUKUSHIMA 'Jesus who was taken up into heaven' 1 From today for the time being once every three weeks we will listen to the words from the Acts of Apostles. It is because at the time when I recommended the Acts of Apostles at the joint worship service for the Thanksgiving day last November, I found that there is much we can learn from this for considering how our church should be from now on. Needless to say, the Acts of Apostles depict the situation when Christian churches just started. For all kinds of creatures, the time when they were just born shows what is crucially important for them. The same is true with a church, I think. When we read the Acts of Apostles, we understand what is fundamentally important, in other words, what are unimportant matters, for a church. From now on, not only our church but churches in Japan or in the world as a whole will have to change and face difficulties. Faced to such difficulties, it is important to firmly keep in mind what is crucial for Church and what can sustain Church. Not only to churches but to each of us the Acts of Apostles teach how the solid foundation of our belief should be.
Now, Verses 1 and 2 say, "Theophilu……I made." Here, "the former account I made" means the Gospel of Luke. Luke wrote the Gospel first, and then wrote, "of all that Jesus began both to do and teach" and presented a complimentary gospel to a person named Theophilu. The Gospel according to Luke says (Luke 1:3) "It seems good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus.
It is not known at all who this person, Theophilus, was who was also addressed His Excellency in the older colloquial version of the Bible. Thus, it is said that he might be an official of a considerably high position of the Roman Empire. According to the annotated book there was a legend that Luke a slave and doctor serving under this Theophilus. As Luke cured a heavy illness of Theophilus, he was liberated from being a slave.
Later, it seems that Theophilus either became to learn and believe Christianity through Luke or turned to a truth-seeker by himself. It is reflected in the last part of Luke (1-4)," you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed." In order to make the belief in Jesus more certain, Luke first wrote the Gospel and presented it to him. Nevertheless, he thought it was still not enough and he needed to add more, thus as a sequel to the Gospel he wrote this Acts of Apostles.
2. What matters is what he felt was missing in the Gospel. Verses 2 and 3 of today’s scriptures say that he wrote "of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up. He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." The content written here is first of all the same with what is depicted in the Gospel. Nevertheless, as I just told you, he felt it was not enough and that he had to write a sequel to what was written in the Gospel.
What was missing is, according to the today’s scripture, the event as is written in the margin of Verse 6, that Jesus was taken up to heaven and became invisible to the disciples. And even though Jesus turned invisible, those who believed that He was a savior did not decrease in number. On the contrary, they kept increasing, and in spite of various difficulties churches where the Christians got together were built here and there.
Usually at the time when Jesus was crucified, people would have thought that this person could not be a savior to them but it was not the case. That is why Luke wrote the Gospel to tell the reason to Theophilus. Then, when Jesus was taken up to Heaven and became invisible to the believers, usually such believers would have decreased. But it was not the case. Why was it so? it was the intention of this Acts of Apostles to tell about that. He had to write a sequel to the Gospel because there still remain those people who believed that Jesus was a savior to them. What kept them believing in Jesus? The reason is actually still valid now 2000 years after the Acts of Apostles were written.
3.Then, in today’s scriptures, according to Verse 4, Jesus commanded the disciples "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father" which, He said,"you have heard from Me." When I read these words of Jesus, I was attracted by that Jesus commanded them to wait. Why didn’t they disappear who believed in Jesus, and why has Church survived a great number of difficulties after that? It is because they were to wait for the promise of the Father and they were from a community who wait for that.
What is a decisive difference between waiting and not waiting? Waiting means that there is something decisively missing in the current situation and thus looking forward to being fulfilled. In other words, waiting means that we are open to the future. Those who wait open the way to the future. Thus they can accept a change. On the other hand, those who do not wait are satisfied with what they are now, and they try to keep what they have with them now. Thus, they are not open to the future.
Jesus commanded the disciples to wait first of all, not by keeping the current situation but by opening themselves to the future. When they are open to the future, as Jesus continued after that, they will know "the Promise of the Father"come to them. If we try to keep only what we have now, we will not see that the Promise of the Father is given to us. We will not see that something good that is unknown to us now is given by the Lord from the future. As I tell you shortly after this, the promise of the Lord is the Holy Spirit, Jesus said.
The Holy Spirit literally means the "wind". Having the Holy Spirit upon you is realistically something like being blown by the strong wind as a matter of phenomenon. Thus, as a visible matter it is what is not very welcome for us as it is like a trial or hardship. What come from the future to us are for our age mostly uninvited matters. Nevertheless, if we are open to the future, we can find something good in it. We can accept it as something good from the Father. Those newly born believers at that time were the people who could wait. It might be fortunate for them that they did not have anything that they had to keep with themselves.
3.Well. what Jesus meant by "the Promise of the Father" was, as I said earlier, was having the Holy Spirit upon us. I will tell about this later soon. Hearing this word of Jesus, the response of the disciples was asking Jesus, saying "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Then, Jesus answered to them saying that, "it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority."
From this dialogue, when we wait, we learn what we should wait as a belief community and what we should not wait. that question and answer, What the disciples were expecting and waiting for was the restoration of the kingdom for Israel by the Lord. The kingdom meant the state of Israel in this world. Once the disciples expected Jesus to build the kingdom and appoint them to a position of Minister (for instance, Mark after Verses35 of Chapter 10). Nevertheless, Jesus taught those disciples not to wait for the kingdom on the earth. Of course, we are not waiting for such Kingdom to be built. Nevertheless, as we are always taught, the state means a sphere in which we can behave as if we were a king. Aren’t we waiting for the time when the church can behave in such a way in the secular management? Also, are we not looking forward to behaving like a king?
Nevertheless, Jesus told us that if we wait for such a kingdom, we cannot find the promise of the Father. Jesus said "it is not for you to know times or seasons." To know means to govern, and it implies that there is something that we should neither pursue nor know. There is something that, as a church and a believer, we should not pursue to know, because it is above all to govern. If we wish to wait for that, we as well as church cannot continue.
4. Then, what should we wait for as the promise of the Father? It is, as I told you again and again, to have the Holy Spirit upon us. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, we will receive power and we will become "witnesses to Jesus till the end of the earth." I am impressed to find how diametrically different what Jesus told us here from what is told earlier about building a state.
When the Holy Spirit comes, we as well as the disciples receive power. But the power is not for building a kingdom and keeping it in this world. On the contrary, it is like being blown away till the end of the world, as the Holy Spirit comes like the wind. Thus, when the Holy Spirit comes upon, we will be blown by the wind, against our own will, to unexpected situations and eventually till the end of the world to bear witness of Jesus.
I am always encouraged with the verse that "you shall be witnesses to Me." A witness can tell simply what he saw, without telling a lie. It is sufficient. There is no need for a witness to tell anything special. It is just like the moon which shines when they reflect the sunbeam. The moon itself does not have any beams but when at the time of the full moon it shines in such a way. though at the time of the new moon it is entirely dark without light. There is a time of the full moon and the new moon. It is actually the image of us as the witnesses.
As the believers, we have a variety of images how we can reflect the rays of Jesus. There is a time like the shining full moon and there is a time like the new moon that is totally dark. Nevertheless, that is our way as the witnesses, Jesus says.
At the end of today’s scriptures, Verse 9 depicts that "He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." The picture of these disciples is our fundamental figure, I think. Here is a man we are waiting for. That is Jesus. And we are those who cannot see him clearly. We are those who cannot see Jesus who is decisively important for us. Thus, we are always waiting for him. What does it mean? It means that all that we do is done in the context that we are waiting for him who is invisible to us. It is done in the context that we cannot see Him who is the most important person for us. Thus, everything is imperfect and it is like the moon not the sun. Ours are the steps of those who are imperfect. As such human beings it is crucial for us to move forward, says Jesus. it is great encouragement and comfort for us.
(Translated by Motoko Shuto from the gist prepared in Japanese)

Scripture for the day is 'The Acts of Apostles 1:1-9'

Worship Service on January 5, 2020

The Rev. Mr. Sumio FUKUSHIMA 'Samson and Delilah' 1.1 There appear 12 people called Judges in The Book of Judges. Of the twelve judges, we were able to read only two in the worship service: They were Gideon and Samson. As for Samson, we read a passage that described his birth in the first half of Chapter 13 last time. Today we listen to the words that describe how he breathed his last. The middle part of Samson's life is completely gone, but today we want to finish listening to The Book of Judges.
1.2 Well, that's what I said last time. I'm not sure when it was, but when I was in elementary school, I watched a movie about how Samson lived on TV. Samson, who was deceived by Delilah and ended up being captured by the Philistines and enslaved by them with his eyes gouged out and with himself chained, regained his marvelous physical strength at the very last minute and destroyed the palace. What he did remains clearly in my mind. I remember that my mother, who saw me moved greatly, told me that this story was written in the Bible. This was the only time I heard about the Bible from my mother.
1.3 What of Samson's figure attracted me so much when I was a child? To put it simply, I may have been excited that Samson, who had been badly treated by the Philistines, took revenge on them finally. Last time, I introduced the explanation of a book with notes. Israeli people have long been excited and inspired by this story of Samson's, like me when I was a child. What was it like?
1.4 That is what I told you at the Christmas Eve worship service last December. Last year, there remained the word 'resilience,' strongly in my heart. I heard it for the first time on a program for the elderly that was broadcast around May last year. Recently, many books on resilience have been published, and lectures and seminars about it have been popular, I hear. According to the TV program that I saw, the word 'resilience,' means the power to endure even if a person is put in adversity or to push aside his adversity and continue to survive it tenaciously. In the feature of the radio at the end of last year, one commentator was repeatedly referring to this resilience as an important pillar in surviving the society of the future. I feel that this resilience is what Samson's figure is showing. At the very end, Samson dies himself in the form of revenge on the Philistines. However, even if he is deceived, his eyes are gouged out, he is used as a slave, and he is made fun of, the very power which has not been lost is resilience, right? Including these points, I would like to give the message of encouragement provided for me through today's words.
2.1 First, what remains in my mind was that the Bible made me feel that the figure of Samson, who was a judge, was described as it was. As we close the text from Chapter 13 that described his life, the words in Verse 31, Chapter 16 are as follows: 'He had judged Israel twenty years.' That means that he played the role of an Israeli leader for 20 years. Then, what on earth did he play such a role?
2.2 We have not seen all of Samson's life starting with Chapter 13. However, regarding what is written here anyway, the point is that Samson falls in love at first sight with the women who belong to the Philistines, one after another, and the trouble occurs between the Philistine people and him, an innumerable number of times. The first woman whom he fell in love with at first sight was a woman at Timnah, who belonged to the Philistines. There occurs trouble with Samson's parents and next with the Philistines over his marriage. As soon as it is over, again he falls in love at first sight with a prostitute in Gaza, who belongs to the same Philistine, and trouble arises again. Still, again he falls in love with Delilah this time. And this time, it leads to a terrible disaster on his own.
2.3 What kind of woman she was is described in Verse 4 and the following of Chapter 16. In short, she was such a woman as was blinded by money and tried to sell Samson to her Philistines. She tries to find out the secret of the marvelous physical strength from Samson three times, but it doesn't work. So we are at the place where we have read today. At last, for a fourth time, she has succeeded in finding out the secret perfectly. We are stunned at Samson's stupidity. You may normally be aware out of what motive she is trying to find out his secret. However, prompted by feelings, Samson behaved as Verse 16 says, 'when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death.' He was so foolish that he felt obliged to reveal the secret of his marvelous physical strength finally, and he was nicely caught by the Philistines. His eyes were gouged out, and he ended up being made a slave.
2.4 What on earth can this personality of Samson's be called 'judge'? Where can we find a figure suitable as a leader in him? There is only one or two books with notes and explanations about The Book of Judges. In those books, every author mentions that Samson was a real Don Juan, and they said that he was not suitable as a leader. They explain that because he repented on his behavior, he regained his marvelous physical strength. I think that would be a normal interpretation. However, I cannot help feeling that that is not the case with such an intention in the description of The Book of Judges. Rather, I learn that such a really ugly and foolish figure of Samson's is also an essential thing that God used as a judge. Samson is a judge in demonstrating with the example of himself that he was used by God, right?
2.5 What drew my attention was the words of Verse 14, Chapter 4. As I summarized the chapter earlier, regarding the woman with whom he fell in love at first sight at Timnah, Samson first asked his parents to allow him to marry the Philistine daughter. His parents object to his plea as a matter of course. However, regarding the response of these parents, the word of Verse 4, Chapter 14, says the following: 'His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord; for he was seeking an occasion against the Philistines.' Astonishingly, the Bible says that Samson's foolish love for the Philistine women whom he loved at first sight one after another was God's plan to make the Philistines, who ruled the Israelites at the time, and Samson involved. As a result, various troubles arise, but as Samson put forth his marvelous physical strength, he ended up protecting the Israelites from the Philistines. The above mentioned word says that that was God's plan. If that is the case, it would be possible to say that he was deceived by Delilah, and captured by the Philistines, he had his eyes gouged out, and he was enslaved. It was God's will, right?
3.1, There is a word that I would like to introduce in the recent worship service. We have learned that there were mysterious words'Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin' (Daniel 5:25) that Daniel read and interpreted, and through them, we were taught that it is what we cannot count, what we cannot measure, and what we cannot separate that we have to depend upon for living. For Samson, who served as the leader to protect the Israelites from the Philistines, that is to say, Samson, whom God entrusted with a mission to serve as a place of dependence for the Israelites, his love for the woman, his foolishness, and his roughness cannot be separated from his precious work as the judge, I think. As we have seen earlier, we immediately decide that Samson's attitude toward women is stupid and unworthy as a believer. They try to separate this as if it were garbage and to throw it away. So did his parents. They tried to abandon their son's desire to get married to a Philistine woman as unfit for an Israeli. But that was not the case with God's plan.
3.2 Verse 28 contains the following words as Samson's last prayer, 'I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be avenged upon the Philistines for one of my two eyes.' We understand well that it was a desire to retaliate that pushed the judge named Samson until the last minute. Verse 30 shows that the dead whom he slew at his death were more than those whom he had slain during his life ,' and that his work as a judge was exclusively to kill the Philistines out of revenge. Everyone thinks that such a thing is not suitable as the driving force or as the work to move the chosen person as God's leader at all. But for Samson, a desire to retaliate was also indispensable in order to make him fulfill his duties as a judge, even if he is deceived, has his eyes gouged out, and he is enslaved, right? We are taught that regarding Samson's resilience, in fact, love for the woman, stupidity, and even a desire to retaliate were indispensable. The thoughts that arise very naturally in our hearts, and sometimes really stupid steps, are also necessary so that God may use us. In order to demonstrate our resilience, we sometimes need stupidity and even something like a desire to retaliate.
4.1,There is one more point that impresses me strongly about today's words. There is a motif running through the entire story of Samson about whether hair should be cut or not. If he is moved by the foolish feelings toward Delilah, and he reveals the secret of the marvelous physical strength, his hair is cut off, and as a result, his marvelous physical strength is lost. Samson had his eyes gouged out and he was fettered and he ground at the mill in the prison day after day. However, even in these days, as is said in Verse 22, the hair of his head is beginning to grow before he knows it. Without the awareness of both Samson himself and the Philistines, the lost power is restored. We can't help feeling something like the resilience that is hidden within ourselves.
4.2 I think that the source of the marvelous physical strength given to Samson in the first place derives from his being dedicated to God from the time he was in his mother's womb, as Verse 17 says. We literally don't have such marvelous physical strength, but I think that we are dedicated to God, that is, we are God's treasure, which actually brings tremendous power to us. The phrase 'from the time in mother's womb ' means congenital, and not acquired. It means that it is not influenced at all by what we do in the society or in the human relations or what kind of person we are. No matter how people and society look down on us, we never lose our so-called self-esteem by thinking that we are God's treasure. That is a great power for us.
4.3 The fact that Samson revealed the secret of his hair to Delilah means, when you get down to it, that he made nothing of the innate value of God's treasure and sold it in an acquired relationship - even if it's a relationship with a loved one, right? I think that in the very relationships between parents and children and loved ones, we sometimes make the treasure that we have in our relationship with God invisible or throw it away. The events between Samson and Delilah feel like that way. Samson gave Delilah the treasure that he had been given before he was born, and as a result he lost his marvelous physical strength.
4.4 But that wasn't completely lost. No acquired relationship can deprive us of the power that God gave to us before we are born. It only temporarily causes us to lose our power. It is only temporarily covered by the relationships with, and the events of, the world. I think that it appears in the phrase 'the hair of his head began to grow again.' I think it's a really symbolic and meaningful word. The power of the Philistines, the wicked feelings of Delilah, and all the acquired power cannot prevent Samson's hair from growing. I've heard that hair grows even after we die. It's really trivial for the hair to grow. I think it's an everyday thing that doesn't make any sense to us. However, it is a crucial meaning for Samson's resilience that his hair is cut and that it grows again. Even if we are placed in Samson's position, our hair will grow. There is resilience there.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

Scripture for the day is 'The Book of Judges 16:15-31' 15 And she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me wherein your great strength lies." 16 And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17 And he told her all his mind, and said to her, "A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If I be shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man." 18 When Deli'lah saw that he had told her all his mind, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, "Come up this once, for he has told me all his mind." Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands. 19 She made him sleep upon her knees; and she called a man, and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20 And she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" And he awoke from his sleep, and said, "I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free." And he did not know that the Lord had left him. 21 And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with bronze fetters; and he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. 23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice; for they said, "Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand." 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god; for they said, "Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has slain many of us." 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, "Call Samson, that he may make sport for us." So they called Samson out of the prison, and he made sport before them. They made him stand between the pillars; 26 and Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand, "Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them." 27 Now the house was full of men and women; all the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about three thousand men and women, who looked on while Samson made sport. 28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, "O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be avenged upon the Philistines for one of my two eyes." 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars upon which the house rested, and he leaned his weight upon them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines." Then he bowed with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people that were in it. So the dead whom he slew at his death were more than those whom he had slain during his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Esh'ta-ol in the tomb of Mano′ah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.
(Revised Standard Version)

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日本キリスト教団 筑波学園教会
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