“Take care” “I’m back” “Welcome Home”

I moved to Niigata from Nagano at the end of March.  As of April 6, I am unpacking my belongings and settling in here at the rectory in Niigata St. Paul’s Church.  I will be living in Niigata, and have jurisdiction over Sanjo St. Mary’s Church and Nagaoka St. Luke’s Church.  I am also involved as a chaplain to Sei Ko Kai St. Mary’s Children’s Center. 

It has been ten years since I have been in this church in Niigata.  “That’s right.  I used to use this room as an office and there were such and such things placed in this spot;” such memories are coming back to me.  In certain places you can tell that I had been there, and it struck me as a surprise.  I will get to see those from Niigata and am looking forward to it.

We offered a resurrection service on the first Sunday in April in Sanjo, and I offered a sermon on the story about the women who were talking in front of Jesus’ tomb about who is going to roll the big stone.  I talked about the possibility of this story being not just a simple chat but a prayer saying, “Lord, please open the stone door.  Please rise from the grave and lead a life full of freedom as you have taught us and make us be able to live freely as well.”  I relayed a message that it meant that the members of the congregation, who shared hearts in their everyday lifestyle, are working together by praying together.   Everyone must have some kind of problem, so when you hear someone hollering, “please move the stone,” let us be prepared to be able to help each other.

I am planning to go to Nagaoka St. Luke’s Church next Sunday.  I usually keep in touch with Mr. Masaaki Higuchi to talk about the how the congregation is doing, the condition of the rectory, and about the repair of the vestry roof.  I am hoping for a service at Nagaoka where people’s troubles are shared with everyone through the prayers that Nagaoka church people have been giving until now.  

In the gathering room at Sanjo St. Mary’s Church, there is a painting on the wall drawn by one of our congregation members, Ms. Aiko Nishihara.  A young girl is alone sitting in a vast prairie, setting free the birds from its cage.  The girl is sitting in the prairie full of clover not just simple green but with white and pink flowers, and other plants are also drawn in detail.  The expression of the girl in the picture, not only depicts happiness from setting free the birds, but also sadness from parting.  Maybe from the regret of separating from the girl, there are birds on the girl’s shoulder and on her palm.

However, the birds will probably soon fly away into the sky, and farewell with the young girl is inevitable.

The goodbyes I received when I left from Nagano were meant as “see you soon.”  The girl, who is trying to set free the birds must be full of sorrow, on top of wanting to cheer on their setting out on journey.  Upon arriving in Niigata with that in mind, I will say in front of the Niigata congregation who have become my brothers and sisters, “I’m home!”  You can see the top part of the church in the picture, but I feel as though I can hear the “welcome back” voices.

Energy of Life

Ever since I was installed into the holy order, I have gained experience through working many years in academic institutions.  Being a little different from ordinary churches, I feel I have been “trained” to tell and explain about Christianity without having to use any church terminologies to those around me who are mostly non-Christians.  This was for me to “find God in many places around the world.”

Among them, I have the impression that the concept of “resurrection” is very misunderstood.  In a word, “the dead comes back to life” and that’s it.  However, this is different from Christ’s teachings of “resurrection” and “the resurrection of life.”  What I feel at many funerals is that even if the dead does not “come back to life,” there is, for sure, a “resurrection of life.”  It is not the biological “life” that lives in the body, but “life” given to us by God and our belief in the “resurrection of life.”  As a means to explain this, I would like to entrust the image of the word “the energy of life” without being afraid of misunderstandings. 

During my time as a theological student, I visited the Taize Community and had the chance to meet many people.  The one which left a great impression on me was at a community center for the disabled, supported by our brothers and currently accepts workers from JOCS (Japan Overseas Christian Medical Cooperative Service).

One day, I accompanied Ms. Naomi Iwamoto, a dispatched worker, to a home whose child related to the Center.  The boy had a severe mental disability and was able to hold any kind of conversation.  However, it was even hard for me, who had only visited once, to leave.  It made me sad, and I ran outside and cried.  I am cheered up by this “energy of life” in him every time I remember that day.

A group, whose members have some kind of disability, had just started at this center.  A woman, who was engaged during her college years, became unable to walk after developing a tuberculosis of bone.  Her engagement was broken off, dropped out of school, and confined herself in her home.  She got herself involved with the center as a user, but when Ms. Iwamoto and the other staff saw her, they felt the woman had a gift of being a counselor.  The woman became a counselor and appointed her as leader of the group.  The other day, when I saw the woman’s name as a group leader on the information for gathering which supports this women’s group, I thanked the Lord from my heart to the staff who have seen the “energy of life” within her and continued supporting her. “To have a share in the resurrection of life” means that God’s “energy of life” fills all parts of the world.  These people have taught me to realize and believe that God gives us this “energy of life” that is within us.