“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.