Rohingya refugees, Cox’s Bazar and the coronavirus

Andrew West, of ABC Radio National (an Australian news organization), recently interviewed Rachel Wolff,  Senior Response Director of the faith-based international aid agency World Vision. The interview concerns the Rohingya refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar and how the coronavirus is affecting their situation there.

For a short recording of that interview with RACHEL, click HERE.

(Rachel is the daughter of Pastor Steve and Betty Luttio.)

The Cross

Luke 23:32-49 (NRSV)

32Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus£ there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[
34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]]£ And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah£ of God, his chosen one!”
36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,
37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
38There was also an inscription over him,£ “This is the King of the Jews.”
39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding£ him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah?£ Save yourself and us!”
40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into£ your kingdom.”
43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
  44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land£ until three in the afternoon,
45while the sun’s light failed;£ and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”£
48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.
49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

ルカ23:32−49(新改訳聖書)

ほかにもふたりの犯罪人が、イエスとともに死刑にされるために、引かれて行った。 「どくろ」と呼ばれている所に来ると、そこで彼らは、イエスと犯罪人とを十字架につけた。犯罪人のひとりは右に、ひとりは左に。そのとき、イエスはこう言われた。「父よ。彼らをお赦しください。彼らは、何をしているのか自分でわからないのです。」彼らは、くじを引いて、イエスの着物を分けた。民衆はそばに立ってながめていた。指導者たちもあざ笑って言った。「あれは他人を救った。もし、神のキリストで、選ばれた者なら、自分を救ってみろ。」兵士たちもイエスをあざけり、そばに寄って来て、酸いぶどう酒を差し出し、「ユダヤ人の王なら、自分を救え」と言った。「これはユダヤ人の王」と書いた札もイエスの頭上に掲げてあった。 十字架にかけられていた犯罪人のひとりはイエスに悪口を言い、「あなたはキリストではないか。自分と私たちを救え」と言った。ところが、もうひとりのほうが答えて、彼をたしなめて言った。「おまえは神をも恐れないのか。おまえも同じ刑罰を受けているではないか。われわれは、自分のしたことの報いを受けているのだからあたりまえだ。だがこの方は、悪いことは何もしなかったのだ。」そして言った。「イエスさま。あなたの御国の位にお着きになるときには、私を思い出してください。」イエスは、彼に言われた。「まことに、あなたに告げます。あなたはきょう、わたしとともにパラダイスにいます。」そのときすでに十二時ごろになっていたが、全地が暗くなって、三時まで続いた。太陽は光を失っていた。また、神殿の幕は真っ二つに裂けた。イエスは大声で叫んで、言われた。「父よ。わが霊を御手にゆだねます。」こう言って、息を引き取られた。この出来事を見た百人隊長は、神をほめたたえ、「ほんとうに、この人は正しい方であった」と言った。また、この光景を見に集まっていた群衆もみな、こういういろいろの出来事を見たので、胸をたたいて悲しみながら帰った。しかし、イエスの知人たちと、ガリラヤからイエスについて来ていた女たちとはみな、遠く離れて立ち、これらのことを見ていた。

Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested. He is first taken to Pilate, who finds him innocent of crimes, and upon hearing that Jesus is from Galilee, sends Jesus off to Herod, the ruler over Galilee, who happened to be in town for the Passover. Jesus refuses to answer any questions or perform any miracles, so Herod sends Him back to Pilate.

Pilate sees no reason to execute Jesus so tries to reason with the people, but to no avail. There was apparently a custom to free one prisoner at Passover, but instead of Jesus, the crowd insists on having Barabbas released. It is interesting to note that “bar” means “son”, and “abba” means “father”. So the innocent Son of the Father is being exchanged for the guilty “son of a father”. This is precisely the meaning of the cross. The Son of God, who was sinless dies so that our sins might be forgiven.

Luke alludes to OT passages about the Messiah to emphasize that Jesus is the long-promised savior of the world: Offer of vinegar (v. 36 and Psalm 69:21); Casting lots to divide His clothing (v. 34 and Psalm 22:18); and Jesus’ last words from the cross (v. 46 and Psalm 31:5).

Two thieves are being crucified along with Jesus. One of them derides Jesus, but the other understands that they are guilty of crimes and deserve their punishment, but Jesus is innocent and doesn’t deserve to be crucified. Jesus is still saving people at this stage of His ministry.

In Luke 4, the devil tempted Jesus with an easy route to messiahship, one without having to go to the cross, but failed. Luke told us that the devil departed from Jesus until an opportune time. Apparently, this is the time, since there is a continuation of the devils’ temptations here – “If you are the son of God . . .”, through: the leaders (v. 35); the soldiers (v. 37); and the thief (v. 39). The last temptation is to stop the suffering and come off of the cross, to make them realize that He is the Messiah. Jesus had the power to come down off of the cross, but had He given in to this temptation, there would be no real salvation possible, even though a few more people might have believed that Jesus had God’s power. Without the suffering and death, there would be no forgiveness nor salvation for the world.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the world:

  • It opened up access to God
  • Simply through faith in Jesus, we can obtain: forgiveness for our sins; citizenship in the Kingdom of God; adoption into God’s family as sons and daughters; eternal life; Kingdom occupation
  • We are not qualified nor authorized to do Kingdom work on our own
    • Kingdom work can only be bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, who is God, and who lives within us
    • And doing the Kingdom work as directed, when directed, is what we are to be doing as saved people

Through us, Christ’s followers, is how God is going to show His love to this world. Through our obedient workings, people are going to get a chance to turn their hearts to Jesus and be saved. There is no guarantee that just because we do as commanded, people are going to be saved. However, if we refuse to do as commanded, people are not going to hear the good news about Jesus when they are supposed to hear it.

God the Father did His part in sending His only Son to earth. God the Son did His part in withstanding the enemy’s temptations and giving His life on the cross for us. God the Spirit is doing His part by teaching us, giving us the love and power sufficient, and directing us to the when and how to do Kingdom work – When and how to preach the gospel and be witnesses of God’s love.

In return, we need to do our part in carrying our cross daily and following Jesus.

(the above is a written version of the message shared with us by Shun Takano during our ZOOM worship time last Sunday, May 10th)

 

I’m available Lord!

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a person’s gift is prophesying, let them use it in proportion to their faith. If it is serving, let them serve; if it is teaching, let them teach; if it is encouraging, let them encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let them give generously; if it is leadership, let them govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let them do it cheerfully.                                                                                  Romans 12:3-8

私は、自分に与えられた恵みによって、あなたがたひとりひとりに言います。だれでも、思うべき限度を越えて思い上がってはいけません。いや、むしろ、神がおのおのに分け与えてくださった信仰の量りに応じて、慎み深い考え方をしなさい。一つのからだには多くの器官があって、すべての器官が同じ働きはしないのと同じように、大ぜいいる私たちも、キリストにあって一つのからだであり、ひとりひとり互いに器官なのです。私たちは、与えられた恵みに従って、異なった賜物を持っているので、もしそれが預言であれば、その信仰に応じて預言しなさい。奉仕であれば奉仕し、教える人であれば教えなさい。 勧めをする人であれば勧め、分け与える人は惜しまずに分け与え、指導する人は熱心に指導し、慈善を行う人は喜んでそれをしなさい。                ローマ12:3−8

In our text for this morning, the church is compared to a human body, with many parts, each part having its own function and work to do. As Christ – the head, directs and inspires us – the members, we become a healthy body, living and serving within our context. The question for many of us during this “stay home, stay healthy” time of COVID-19 is…. “How can we function as the hands and feet of Jesus? We’re all stuck in our homes and can’t really reach out to others. How can we fulfill our responsibility and serve as part of the body of Christ?”

I was reminded this past week of a formula that was shared with me by Pastor John Notehelfer during a chapel message back in my seminary days. He said that God often combines the following elements together in order for His body, the church, to function properly:

An available Christian + a needy person + God’s timing = God’s work

You might use other words for the end result such as salvation, mission, miracle, ministry, etc., but the point is that God’s will and work is accomplished when available believers are placed by God in a position to help needy persons.

We don’t always know WHO the needy person is. Sometimes it’s obvious – such as a homeless individual or someone with other visible needs. Sometimes the needs are unseen – spiritual, emotional, or financial. But we know this for certain – needy people are ALL around us!

Scripture promises that God will work. It’s God’s will that NONE should perish, that ALL would come to a knowledge of salvation. It’s also clear that God cares about our physical needs and emotional and financial concerns as well.

So the only question left in this formula is: “Am I available to be used by God?” The question is not: “Am I talented?” or “Am I trained well enough…?” or “Am I suitable for this service?” but instead…. “Am I available?”  If you are, God will surely put you to use. But be careful when you tell God that you’re available… you may be called into service!

So back to COVID-19. How can this work NOW? It’s true, we can’t function in all the ways that we are accustomed to. We aren’t able to reach out in all the familiar ways. But let’s tell the Lord, “I’m still available during this ‘stay home, stay healthy’ period. How can I serve you and others today?” You might just be surprised by God’s timing… and by the ways that God leads you to help those that are needy. A phone call? A note? An errand run? You’ll know when it happens!

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(the above is a summary of the message shared via our ZOOM worship time this past Sunday, May 3rd, by Pastor Tim)

Be Imitators of God

Be Imitators of God

「神にならう者となりなさい。」

Ephesians 5: 1-7

When you were younger, who did you want to become, or be like?

だれになりたかったでしょうか。

Athlete, Actor, Musician、Bill Gates, Bruce Lee, etc. We often had an idol we wanted to imitate. Even now, who do you want to become like? Who influences you in the way you live? Who do you want to imitate?

Unfortunately, in our hearts, we want to become like God, though we may not realize it. When we insist on doing things our way instead of Gods. Paul calls it idolatry. We are actually worshipping ourselves.

We want to be on top. Therefore, we make “gods” to fit our needs. But if we are the ones making gods in our own image, who is on top? We are.

And in the end, the Bible says we become fools.

Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.   (Romans 1:22)

彼らは、自分では知者であると言いながら、愚かな者となり、 23不滅の神の御栄えを、滅ぶべき人間や、鳥、獣、はうもののかたちに似た物と代えてしまいました。(ローマ1:22)

Why do we do this? So that we can be on top, #1, in control of our own lives. Ultimately, it leads to our destruction. When we make ourselves the focus, the Bible calls it idolatry. Christ came to save us from the penalty of sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

罪から来る報酬は死です。しかし、神の下さる賜物は、私たちの主キリスト・イエスにある永遠のいのちです。(ローマ 6:23)

This news is why Paul brought the Gospel to Ephesus. Ephesus was known for Diana/Artemis worship, magic, prostitution, banking, and wealth..   魔法、売春、銀行業

Immorality was a way of life.  People came from around the world to enjoy it pleasures. Paul went there to share the love of God and bring hope. And people responded to the Good News of the Gospel. There was a better way! They knew their sin. They knew they needed a Savior. A great revival happened.

After salvation, Paul gave instructions to the Ephesians as to how to live. Without Scripture, we will not know what God defines as sin, what pleases Him, how to live, etc.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  (II Timothy 3:16-17)

聖書はすべて、神の霊感によるもので、教えと戒めと矯正と義の訓練とのために有益です。 17それは、神の人が、すべての良い働きのためにふさわしい十分に整えられた者となるためです。(IIテモテ3:16−17)

Scripture challenges our former way of thinking and life. It causes us to react. Do we follow or not. But as we humble and submit ourselves to His Word, God blesses and uses us.

Today’s verse:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;  and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God [b]as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

ですから、愛されている子どもらしく、神にならう者となりなさい。 2また、愛のうちに歩みなさい。キリストもあなたがたを愛して、私たちのために、ご自身を神へのささげ物、また供え物とし、香ばしいかおりをおささげになりました。(エペソ5:1−2)

We are to be imitators of God.   What does that mean?

As we read Scripture, we get to know Him, His love, grace, holiness, justice, etc. We begin to understand true love, which is unselfish, others-focused.

1 John 4:19 – We love, because He first loved us.

私たちは愛しています。神がまず私たちを愛してくださったからです。

We cannot walk in Christ’s love unless we understand how he loves us.

Good Friday – I watched “The Passion” (I watch it every year). I cried again. A glimpse of His love for me. The sufferings should have been mine, but Jesus took my place.

I want to love like Jesus. Paul calls us to be imitators of God.

Be imitators of God also means living in Holiness.

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;

あなたがたの間では、聖徒にふさわしく、不品行も、どんな汚れも、またむさぼりも、口にすることさえいけません。

These are the very issues that plagued Ephesus. Immoral lifestyle. We have to humble ourselves and let God be the standard, not the world. The word immoral comes from the word Porneia. Which is where we get pornography. Any sexual expression outside of Biblical marriage is wrong (sex before marriage, gay-sex, incest, animals, etc). It does not fit with the character and holiness of God. But God’s standard goes against our culture today, just like it did in Ephesus.  The immorality today is not fitting to holiness. It does not match being “Imitators of God”.

Christ is Holy. Love is holy. Love is not immoral.   God calls us out to be holy. The world/Satan wants the church to conform to its standards.  God wants the church to conform to His standards.   Spiritual Battle.

And Paul also addresses Greed. Ephesus was the banking center of that area. Money was their God.   Money gave them power, material goods and ….sex.

1 Tim.6:10   For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Money is neutral. It is neither good or bad. The LOVE of money is the problem. We are to love the LORD.

Matt.22:37, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

Have you learned to be content with what you have? Can you trust Him even with little?

Phil 4:11, Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

To be imitators of Christ means also…

… no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

また、みだらなことや、愚かな話や、下品な冗談を避けなさい。そのようなことは良くないことです。むしろ、感謝しなさい。

Is your speech full of thankfulness? Or is it filled with swearing, crude jokes, gossip, or tearing someone down?   I remember God used my brother’s speech to influence me. He used to swear a lot. But after becoming a Christian, the way he talked changed. He stopped swearing. Others are full of complaints. We should rather be known for words of thanks.

A warning is given. Not because God is mean. But because God is love, holy, and just.

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them;

あなたがたがよく見て知っているとおり、不品行な者や、汚れた者や、むさぼる者――これが偶像礼拝者です、――こういう人はだれも、キリストと神との御国を相続することができません。6むなしいことばに、だまされてはいけません。こういう行ないのゆえに、神の怒りは不従順な子らに下るのです。7ですから、彼らの仲間になってはいけません。

God says a similar thing in 1 Corinthians 6

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

あなたがたは、正しくない者は神の国を相続できないことを、知らないのですか。だまされてはいけません。不品行な者、偶像を礼拝する者、姦淫をする者、男娼となる者、男色をする者、10盗む者、貪欲な者、酒に酔う者、そしる者、略奪する者はみな、神の国を相続することができません。

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  (Heb.10:31)

生ける神の手の中に陥ることは恐ろしいことです。

But once you know God and his love and forgiveness, our grateful hearts should want to become more like Jesus. Jesus came to rescue us from this terrifying judgment.

God wants us to turn the other direction and become more like Jesus. But we can’t do it on our own strength. We need his grace and forgiveness. We need the Holy Spirit to help us. As we believe and trust in Him, He will transform our hearts as we walk with Him.

Praise the Lord!

We are being challenged today, much like the Ephesian Church was then. Turn to Jesus and become imitators of Him.   Allow Christ to shine in you!

Think of ways to share the good news of the Gospel to your family and friends who need love and forgiveness; who need hope and a new life.

God Bless each one of you.   If you have questions, feel free to email me here: rich@send.jp

Benediction:

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.     Ephesians 3:20-21

どうか、私たちのうちに働く力によって、私たちの願うところ、思うところのすべてを越(こ)えて豊かに施(ほどこ)すことのできる方に、教会により、またキリスト・イエスにより、栄光が、世々にわたって、とこしえまでありますように。アーメン。

(this message is a written version of the words shared with us by Rich Nakamura during our ZOOM worship session last Sunday, April 26, 2020)

Remember me…

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

 Luke 22:14-23(NRSV)
14When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.
15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
16for I tell you, I will not eat it£ until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves;
18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.£
21But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.
22For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!”
23Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

ルカによる福音書22:14-23

さて時間になって、イエスは食卓に着かれ、使途たちもイエスといっしょに席に着いた。イエスは言われた。「私は、苦しみを受ける前に、あなたがたといっしょに、この過ぎこしの食事をすることをどんなに望んでいたことか。あなたがたに言いますが、過ぎ越しが神の国において成就するまでは、わたしはもはや二度と過ぎ越しの食事をすることはありません。」  そしてイエスは、杯を取り、感謝をささげて後、言われた。「これを取って、互いに分けて飲みなさい。あなたがたに言いますが、今から、神の国が来る時までは、わたしはもはや、ぶどうの実で造った物を飲むことはありません。」  それから、パンを取り、感謝をささげてから、裂いて、弟子たちに与えて言われた。「これは、あなたがたのために与える、わはしのからだです。わたしを覚えてこれを行いなさい。」 食事の後、杯も同じようにして言われた。「この杯は、あなたがたのために流されるわたしの血による新しい契約です。しかし、見なさい。わたしを裏切る者の手が、わたしとともに食卓にあります。人の子は、定められたとおりに去って行きます。しかし、人の子を裏切るような人間はのろわれます。」そこで弟子たちは、そんなことをしようとしている者は、いったいこの中のだれなのかと、互いに議論を始めた。

So Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper in this account by Luke. I’m certain that the Twelve didn’t fully understand what Jesus was doing at this moment, since this was prior to Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. But now, long after our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, we are waiting for Him to return to inaugurate the final chapter of God’s plan, where a new heaven and a new earth are created (Revelations 21), subsequent to the eradication of the sin problem for good.

Through partaking of the communion elements, we are to do so in remembrance of Jesus. But what does this mean? The broken bread is supposed to remind us of the sacrifice He made for us. And the wine is supposed to remind us of not just the blood that he bled for us, but of the new covenant that was sealed by His blood. The new covenant replaces the old one that was established during the original Passover, when God freed His people from bondage to Egypt. The new covenant frees us from the bondage of sin. The first required the blood of the paschal lamb, while the latter required the blood of the Lamb, the Son of God.

It is not sufficient to remember Jesus and be thankful for what He did for us. We are to remember these things, and recommit our lives to Jesus. We need to remember what Jesus was about to do soon after the original communion – Jesus went willingly to unjustly be sentenced to death, tortured and crucified.

Each time we partake of communion, we too, should recommit to pick up our cross daily and follow Him.

It is interesting that entwined with this beautiful gesture by Jesus, is the reminder that there is a traitor that is partaking of this ritual – Judas, who would betray Him for 30 pieces of silver.

Judas was chosen by Jesus to be one of the Twelve after a night of prayer. Judas was taught and then sent to minister with apostolic authority. He enjoyed the same success as the others on those missions to preach, to heal, and to cast out demons. He was in every sense of the word, an apostle. What happened to him? Why did Judas betray Jesus?

Luke tells us in v.3 that Satan entered Judas. Satan has been waiting to tempt Jesus and His followers, ever since he tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness at the start of Jesus’ ministry. He found an opening in Judas. Judas’ betrayal has been called an act of greed, disappointment, an attempt to force Jesus to take action against Rome – Whatever it was, Satan was successful in turning Judas.

This should be a warning to us that any one of us can betray Jesus. Satan is waiting to enter us, and he will, if we let him. This is why it is so easy to keep on sinning once we start. This is why it is so hard to stop once we start going down the wrong path.

Along with the righteous nature that God gives us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our sinful nature still coexists within us. It comes out in different ways in us. It might be enjoying being on top and being admired by others. It might be enjoying being served. It might be enjoying luxuries without giving thought or aid to those in need. It might be holding grudges. It might be in extracting retribution or revenge. It might be spending time and/or money in selfish or sinful pleasures.

But Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper so that we can be reminded of: The sacrifice He made for us; the covenant we have with Him; the need to follow Him in the path He took for the Kingdom of God; the expectation of us to serve each other and the church; and to be watchful of our nature to betray Him.

If we do remember these things each time we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we will be able to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. People will see in us, as individuals and as a church, the preview of the Kingdom to come. And some may even be led to be saved through what we do.

The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the great sacrifice that God has made for us and it should inspire us to live lives that God expects us to live.

(the above is a summary of the message shared during our ZOOM worship time last Sunday, April 19th, by Shun Takano.)

Correct Orientation

John 20:1-2, 11-16

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

…but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

ヨハネ20:1−2、11−16

さて、週の初めの日に、マグダラのマリヤは、朝早くまだ暗いうちに墓に来た。そして、墓から石が取りのけてあるのを見た。それで、走って、シモン・ペテロと、イエスが愛された、もうひとりの弟子とのところに来て、言った。「だれかが墓から主を取って行きました。主をどこに置いたのか、私たちにはわかりません。」しかし、マリヤは外で墓のところにたたずんで泣いていた。そして、泣きながら、からだをかがめて墓の中をのぞき込んだ。

すると、ふたりの御使いが、イエスのからだが置かれていた場所に、ひとりは頭のところに、ひとりは足のところに、白い衣をまとってすわっているのが見えた。 彼らは彼女に言った。「なぜ泣いているのですか。」彼女は言った。「だれかが私の主を取って行きました。どこに置いたのか、私にはわからないのです。」彼女はこう言ってから、うしろを振り向いた。すると、イエスが立っておられるのを見た。しかし、彼女にはイエスであることがわからなかった。イエスは彼女に言われた。「なぜ泣いているのですか。だれを捜しているのですか。」彼女は、それを園の管理人だと思って言った。「あなたが、あの方を運んだのでしたら、どこに置いたのか言ってください。そうすれば私が引き取ります。」イエスは彼女に言われた。「マリヤ。」彼女は振り向いて、ヘブル語で、「ラボニ(すなわち、先生) とイエスに言った。

Several years ago at a pastors’ meeting in Japan,  someone asked me about the word “orientation”.  At the time, it was becoming commonly used in Japanese as well – in its transliterated form – and had a similar meaning to our English use of it. His question, though, was more about the word’s origin than about its present meaning.

After a bit of digging I found that in Latin, “oriens” referred to the sun, rising in the sky. Since that was in the eastern sky, the word then took on the directional meaning of EAST. From a European perspective, the Asian continent was also located in the East and so Asia began to be referred to as the Orient. Later, the term orient (and orientation) referred to any object, such as a building – that was constructed in such a fashion that it was facing east. In the case of a church – built with its main altar – or front of the church – facing east, and the entrance to the sanctuary facing west. Such a structure was thought to be properly oriented. The opposite of correct orientation, or disorientation, as it came to be commonly used in English, was a state in which direction and centeredness were lost. Confusion and lack of clear direction described this state.

Our text for this Easter morning tells of Mary Magdalene and several of Jesus’ disciples in a state of great disorientation. After Mary finds the tomb empty and the body of Jesus gone, she assumes that someone has broken into the tomb and stolen the body. After hearing the report from Mary, Peter and John run to the tomb to check for themselves.

Three years of following Jesus, hearing his teachings, being personally healed and touched by the Lord, and witnessing the excitement and crowds around Jesus’ ministry – all lead to this darkness; the death of Jesus on a cross, his burial in a tomb, and now …. the disappearance of his body. For Mary and the other disciples, it represented the loss of hope, loss of direction, loss of meaning for their lives.

But on that Easter morning, something changes all of that. Jesus, who Mary thought was simply a gardener, calls her name…. and with that – Mary’s darkness is suddenly changed to light. Yes, it would take many days, weeks, and probably months, before Mary and the other disciples began to understand the truth and impact of Jesus’ resurrection. But hearing her name, recognizing Jesus’ voice, and turning to face him… meant a return to a correct orientation.

Just as a church building is correctly oriented when facing the rising sun, Mary and the other disciples became correctly oriented once again through their encounter with the risen Son.

The past few weeks have represented a period of intense disorientation for many in our city, state, country, and around the world as we’ve attempted to understand this COVID-19 situation. Could it be that one step we can take in seeking a correct orientation – centeredness in this confusion – would be to hear Jesus calling our name…. and to turn and face him?

(The above is a summary of the message that was shared during our ZOOM worship gathering last Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.)

News from Anna in Japan…

Anna Screenshot.

This morning I woke up with the above verse on my mind and in my heart. Undoubtedly, this newsletter might find you at home, self-quarantined–depending on where you live–working from home, streaming your church services, possibly doing school, etc all online! What a day and age we live in where there’s even the possibility to do those things if there’s capacity. It’s easy, during this time with what we’re facing in the world right now, to fear. Fear can grip us and cause us to be anxious and worried over things within our control, but then we fret over very many things outside our control as well. Fear causes us to seize control, rely on our own strength and power, which eventually leads to bitterness and hardness of heart. Love asks us to release our worries/anxieties on the One who is Love, and to trust and lean on him. Love invites us to rest in the One who is above all, in all and through all. When we tap into the love that God as for us we are able to live in wisdom and discernment, we are able to reach out to those living in fear and hopelessness and show them the love of God, meeting them where they’re at. In the midst of your possible quarantine, I pray you can have sweet, intimate times with our Savior. How is he inviting you to tap further into his all abiding love?

Read the rest of Anna’s newsletter…

Triumphal Parade

odawara castleFrom 1981 until 1984 I lived in the city of Odawara, a famous “castle town” west of what is today Tokyo, Japan. During the “warring period” in Japanese history (1467-1615), the feudal lord, or daimyo, of the Odawara Castle ruled most of this area (1495-1592). Each year in May the history of this ruling family and it’s importance to the city of Odawara and surrounding areas are celebrated in a 3-day festival, the highlight of which is a parade called the “Daimyo Gyoretsu” or Daimyo Parade that happens on May 3rd.

paradeThe parade is meant to be an historic enactment of a real military parade in which 1,700 samurai warriors in their armor, along with various other courtesans and members of the daimyo family march through the city in full regalia, wearing costumes and garb from that historic period, many riding war horses and brandishing traditional weapons.

Since it usually coincides with sounthe blooming of the castle cherry and wisteria trees, it can be a colorful and cultural feast for the eyes and ears. Famous actors are usually hired to play the roles of the daimyo and his family while local people are encouraged to audition and participate in the parade.

In our text for today (Matthew 21:1-11) the author makes a point of interpreting the entrance of Jesus into the capital city of Jerusalem – riding on a donkey – as a fulfilling of the old testament prophecy from Zehariah 9:9.

traditional 2“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

For some reason, whenever I read this text of Jesus, the king, entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, I think of the Daimyo Gyoretsu in Odawara. One is filled with flair and pageantry – while the other is decidedly simple and unimpressive. Many scholars believe that, in fact, Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem in this humble fashion was meant to contrast with the way in which the Roman rulers of this time would often appear. It was thought that Pilate, the governor of Judea, would surely have chosen this largest of all Jerusalem festivals – Passover – to make a grand entrance into the city, most likely on a warhorse, with the full strength of a Roman battalion behind him. I’m guessing it would be an image closer to my memory of the Daimyo Gyoretsu than the picture conjured up by Matthew’s description of King Jesus.

In the end it begs the question of us – which kingdom are we impressed by? To which kingdom will we tie our futures? What model will we choose to follow? A kingdom where wealth, political power, and societal influence still manage to sway us and form our decisions…. or a kingdom where gentleness, humility, and service (even unto death) are the identifying characteristics? The contrast couldn’t be more stark – and it’s hard to believe that Jesus wouldn’t have meant it to be. Unfortunately, the Daimyo Gyoretsu in Odawara has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. But the choice of which parade we’ll join is still before us.

As we walk with Jesus toward the cross this week, are we able to consider following him in his footsteps? Can we serve each other – wash each other’s feet – as he commanded?

(the above is a summary of the message shared during our ZOOM worship time on April 5, 2020.)

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

主よ。深い淵から、私はあなたを呼び求めます。主よ。私の声を聞いてください。私の願いの声に耳を傾けてください。主よ。あなたがもし、不義に目を留められるなら、主よ、だれが御前に立ちえましょう。しかし、あなたが赦してくださるからこそあなたは人に恐れられます。私は主を待ち望みます。私のたましいは、待ち望みます。私は主のみことばを待ちます。私のたましいは、夜回りが夜明けを待つのにまさり、まことに、夜回りが夜明けを待つのにまさって、主を待ちます。イスラエルよ。主を待て。主には恵みがあり、豊かな贖いがある。主は、すべての不義からイスラエルを贖い出される。詩篇130

This ancient song is well-known for its opening line: “out of the depths…”

Sometimes it is from the depths of anxiety, fear, or sadness that we offer our most earnest prayers. On this Sunday morning (our first to ever worship via the internet!) we are reminded of the depth of anxiety and fear from which many in our state, country, and world are crying out. Those who have actually become sick and are dying from Covid-19; the health care workers who are attempting to care for them even as they recognize that they, too, become dangerously exposed to the virus; those who are most economically affected by losing their work and income – the list could go on. The Psalmist cries out here as well, but not without hope. Three words that stand out to me as I read and pray Psalm 130 this morning:

CRY

Psalm 130 falls into the category of a lament. A lament in scripture is where complaint and petition are combined. Lament = Complaint + Petition. When was the last time you complained to God? Do you consider that a good thing to do? Scripture is filled with complaints to God by the way… so it must surely be allowed in a person’s prayer life. Last week we considered the question asked by the Israelites in the desert when they were without water: “Is God with us… or not!?” They were certainly complaining. But as we learned, complaint, too, can be a form of faithful prayer. Hear my voice O Lord!

WAIT

I love the image of the watchman here, standing on the wall, wondering if the enemy will attack in the dark, waiting for the sun to rise in order to bring light and more safety to the situation. Waiting is also part of our faith, and part of our praying.

HOPE

“Put your hope in the Lord… In His word and promises I put my hope… for in the Lord is unfailing love and full redemption. ”  Yes, we cry out from the depths, and yes, we wait for God to answer, but our crying and waiting is NOT without hope. We have experienced God’s miracles in our lives before, we have seen God do great things for us in the past. We do not forget those…. and we lean on those experiences to give us hope for tomorrow.

Take these three words with you this week:  CRY … WAIT … HOPE  Let these be the words that move us toward deeper and more earnest prayer.

(the above thoughts are a summary of the message shared via our ZOOM meeting last Sunday…)