Tsukuba Gakuen Church, UCCJ


Worship Service on April 22, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- On the Foundation of Jesus Christ -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 After today's worship service, we are to have the general meeting of this church. This year's general meeting marks the first step toward the next 50 years and 60 years after the commemorative 40 th anniversary of the founding of the church. At the worship service of the Lord's day when such a general meeting is held, it is a great encouragement and comfort to us to have been given today's word, strangely enough, I feel really keenly.
1.2 With regard to this year's church slogan, I proposed 'Step by step with a vision in our hearts.'We have some fear in our hearts, as to whether we will be able to have something like a dream or vision about our church in 10 years or 20 years at this age. Our church, which belongs to the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ), decreases 500 in number every year, I hear. Talking of 500 people, I mean that as many as five churches, each of which is the same size as ours, disappear within one year. Our church has been managing to keep the status quo. However, we sent as many as three church members to heaven last year. Also, due to circumstances beyond their control, one couple moved to Kyushu. This year, another two couples may move out. Furthermore, Sister Hosoi, whom we should call the great senpai, senior of faith, was obliged to move out. At the general meeting, the difficulty of the church budget will be revealed, I think. In terms of real money, it is a fact that our budget lacks tens of thousands of yen. I am afraid that probably this situation will worsen by degrees.
1.3 The number of churches that have a lot of difficulty inviting a pastor has been increasing. Pastor AKIYAMA Tooru, who had been serving as the chairman of the Parish until May last year, became one of the general organizers of the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) but offered to resign last summer. But his church, Kami Ageo Joint Church, could not invite his successor and since April, this year, it has had no pastor. When we think about these situations, it is somewhat difficult to have a bright vision for sure. But today's word gives us a very comforting message, I think.

2.1 The focus of today's word is still Verse 11, I think. It says, 'no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.'The comfort or encouragement that we receive from this word has several points. First, it is an encouragement from the standpoint of a negative sense in that no one can lay any foundation that is not suitable for the one already laid or build standing fixtures on it. If we should lay any foundation which is not suitable for the foundation which is Jesus Christ or try to build any standing fixtures on it, they will collapse someday. They cannot keep standing. The reason why it becomes an encouragement for us is illustrated as follows:
2.2 I have a complete collection of sermons written by Karl BARTH, a theologian who represents the 20 th century and who was a preacher. In it there is one sermon that was used at the dedication ceremony in June, 1939, when a lecture hall of University Basel was built. The word that was quoted on that occasion was the word in Verse 11 that we read today. The beginning of his sermon was a really comforting word, which I am going to mention later again and which says, 'We can surely build.'With regard to the sermon beginning with 'We can surely build,'actually, half of this sermon is full of messages that say'We cannot build ,'which means that God does not allow us to build. In those days, in Germany next to Switzerland where Hitler took power and in September of that year the Second World War started. In that country, the existing churches obeyed the Hitler administration one after another and people who were called 'German Christians ,'came to control them. The foundations of the churches were not the ones of Jesus Christ but the ones that were Germans by nationality and where Hitler was the Savior. If such churches should last for ever, to Barth and people who agree with him, such a thing would be a really terrible thing. Just because of that, it is a hope to Barth that such buildings will surely collapse and that God will never fail to break them.
2.3 The same is true with us too. Just after this word, I am going to tell what it means to build a church which is fit for the foundation which is Jesus Christ. We sometimes go so far as to lay a foundation which is different from the one which is Jesus Christ, as these German Christians did. Just because of anxiety about the future of our church, there is no guarantee that we may build a church that puts the first priority on the number of church members or financial power alone. If such churches should remain and the real church based on the foundation of Jesus Christ should collapse, then we will not have any hope left. But Paul said that such a thing will never take place: 'God never allows it. The church that disregards the foundation of Jesus Christ will surely collapse. It cannot remain.'This is our comfort.

3.1 One more comfort from the word that says 'no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ and that implies that no one can set up a building that is not fit for the foundation which is Jesus Christ,' is found in the perspective that'We can build,'just as Barth told at the beginning of his sermon, which I introduced a minute ago.
3.2 The part that takes our greatest difficulty and requires the largest amount of money and the longest time when we construct a building lies in laying a foundation or cornerstone, just as you know well. Barth also said in his sermon that I introduced a minute ago, as follows: 'It is an infinite comfort for us to know that we are allowed to lay ourselves on the foundation that is already laid lightheartedly, cheerfully and without being worried, right?'The foundation which is Jesus Christ is already laid. Just because of that, we are allowed to omit that part which is the greatest difficulty when we construct a building. There is no need for us to be worried about what kind of foundation or cornerstone on earth we should lay. We don't have to take any pains about that. When we build the community called a church, we don't have to be worried about what kind of foundation or cornerstone on earth we should lay. We don't have to take pains about it. And an additional comfort is that as long as we construct a building on the foundation that is already laid, we'can construct'a strong building automatically that won't collapse. After today's sermon, we will sing a well-known hymn but such a church does not collapse just as a building constructed on a rock. This is the very greatest comfort.
3.3 Now is the time for us to talk about the foundation. When it comes to the material of the building, the end of Verse 12 quotes wood, hay and straw etc. The material of the church that we are going to build in the future, which is of course not the church as the building but as the worship community and faith community, will probably be something like hay or straw. It cannot be the material that our predecessors have used so far. We must be prepared for the smaller number of members and the smaller amount of donation. But even if the material is hay or straw, as long as the building is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, it is strong. However strong the storm may be, it is all right. It won't budge an inch. It is safe.
3.4 Verse 16 and the following saying'Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?'refer to this material. The material that is used for building the church refers to nothing but us. It does not mean that apart from the church or temple that is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, we are God's temple. It does not mean that we, who are quite a long way from the church, are God's temple respectively. We are precious material of the temple, however poor the hay or straw may be, in that we are a part that forms the church or temple. We are precious. We are a treasure for God. God builds the church of us, who are nothing but this poor material. As the strong foundation of Jesus Christ is already laid, even if hay or straw like us becomes the material, the church is built. And it does not collapse. Therefore, we do not have to worry about our future. We are allowed to conjure up a vision of our church proudly which is 10 years ahead.

4.1 Then what on earth does it mean that the church is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ? This is the very key point of today's word. Here I am reminded of the word that Jesus taught as the most important principle and fundamental truth about the church. It is found in Verse 20, Chapter 20 of the Gospel according to Matthew: Jesus said, 'Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.'
4.2 That a church is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ means that those who come together get together in the name of Jesus. What does it mean to get together in the name of Jesus? The word just before that says, 'if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.'To get together in the name of Jesus means that in the name of Jesus, that is, in terms of his existence, two or three people agree and get together to pray to God in heaven. What do they ask God for? They ask for various things but, talking about what we learned last week, they ask for God's grace.
4.3 I reflect on the word from Verses 1 to 9, Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to John, which was given last Sunday. In Jerusalem, there was a pool called Bethesda, which means the house blessed by God. Around it, a great number of people who wanted to be blessed by God used to lie. Among them, there was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. As there was a pool that was called the house of God's grace nearby, did those people get God's grace? The answer was negative. The reason was that they were prevented from being cured by a legend that when the water is stirred, only the first person to go down is cured. In such a way, we set arbitrary limitations or conditions, this way or that way, on receiving the grace of God. Jesus did away with them. He asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'He thought that it was enough for him to have the urgent desire 'to get well.'Although this person said various conditions for receiving the grace of God, Jesus didn't listen to such things. He only said, 'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.'He meant that 'Use whatever little ability that remains within yourself and whatever little power to get up, and God will use them and he will let you walk.'Such a miracle in which literally this man got well and was able to walk may not take place to us. But if you dare to jump into the existence of Jesus Christ and wish to'get well'wholeheartedly, something good will surely come in one sense or other. You can get up. We come to church to ask for the grace of God. That is a church being built on the foundation of the very Jesus Christ.
4.4 I wonder why Jesus said in the Gospel according to Matthew that I quoted a minute ago, 'if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.'The reason is that they are the minimal unit, with one person talking about Jesus through the word of the Bible and with the other person jumping into Jesus. The church built only by two people is nothing but a building made of hay or straw. It might look as if it would be broken to pieces in an instant. But it IS strong. It is the church built on a rock.
4.5 I want our church to receive the grace of God in that Jesus is talked about and in that God is talked about from the word of the Bible. It should always be based on all visions that we have about the future of our church. If our church is such a church, then whatever storm may come, it will never collapse at all. Even if there were only two members in the church, it would never disappear. But on the contrary, however large the church may be, if it doesn't receive the grace of God, it cannot help collapsing.
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 3 : 10-17

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved?even though only as one escaping through the flames.? 16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on March 18, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- To Serve -

By Rev. Mr. Nobuhisa YAMAKITA

1.1 I congratulate you on the 40 th anniversary of the founding of Tsukuba Gakuen Church and pray for the Lord's blessings and guidance furthermore. The birth of Tsukuba Gakuen Church is attributed to a sheer guidance of the Holy Spirit. Of course, Hijirigaoka Church made a plan to preach the gospel with the Reverend Inagaki Moriomi as the central figure, and they made great efforts to carry out their plan. They considered which area to choose as the place to preach the gospel at and visited candidate areas a lot of times. But the final phase of their decision started when the pastor caught a glimpse of an advertising circular. 'That's right. Let's go to Tsukuba.' The committee took a step further in one direction. It can't be described in any other way but the Holy Spirit.
1.2 But it didn't go as well as they thought. In the area of Tsukuba, estate agents mushroomed one after another and they thrived so much that there were a lot of touters. The committee members visited an estate agent with the advertising circular in their hands and they were shown around the plot of land. Later, they went so far as to pay its deposit. But one day, all of a sudden, the whole estate agent vanished. Later the Chief of the Tsukuba Police Station heard the rumor that they were deceived in the purchase of the plot of land.
1.3 In the meantime, a landowner showed up who got infuriated with the fraud and who was kind enough to give a helping hand to them. They met this landowner named Shibahasi Ken and decided to buy a plot of land (110,000 yen per tsubo x 300 tsubo). This was also attributed to the guidance from above which was beyond human knowledge. With regard to the rest of the story, I would like to talk about it at the lecture meeting this afternoon. Through the Holy Spirit, that is, with God's invisible hand of love, the church which is the Lord's body crystallized into a visible form and it formed Tsukuba Gakuen Church, which is based on an account written by the Reverend Harry Burton Lewis, at the United Methodist Church of the Kanto Division.
1.4 For what on earth is the church built and for what do those who are related to it exist? It is 'to serve.' The page in the Bible that we read just a minute ago says so. It is the lesson for today of our religious group.
1.5 After the Lord Jesus announced in advance his cross and resurrection, to live in response to those heavy facts is to serve. It teaches us that it is to live in order to serve that becomes the purpose of our life in God.
1.6 Although the Lord Jesus proclaimed his cross and resurrection with such a feeling of high tension that his disciples wondered why, there occurred some trouble among his disciples: When James and John said to Jesus,'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory ,'the other 10 disciples got angry, thinking how impudent they were that they should try to get one step ahead of the others. Matthew probably thought that it was not appropriate for such leading disciples as James and John to ask for such a shameful thing, and Verse 20, Chapter 20 of the Gospel According to Matthew says,'the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked for a favor of him.'It could happen to a mother who is overzealous regarding her children's education, he thought, right?
1.7 But it was probably not shameful that James and John asked Jesus to allow them to sit by him just like the Minister of the Right and the Minister of the Left. If they love the Lord Jesus, it is a natural desire for them to sit near him as long as they want to.
1.8 The question is not to try to become great among you in a self-satisfactory way or in an authoritarian way, but whether to become great in order to serve a lot of people far and wide. In Verse 14, Chapter 5, of the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus says,'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden,'which is quite true.
1.9 The Lord said, 'whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.'It makes us understand what kind of person God seeks. It is the person who serves. And it overlaps the way of living a strict life by passing through checkpoints and not by asking for God for your sake but becoming yourself for the sake of God.
2.1 People say, 'If I had more money and time, I could do it. If I had more ability and physical power, I could do it.'But our life isn't made up of 'if, then .' What we do with what is given to us now, does matter. As long as we only say, 'I want to get, I want to acquire,' we cannot expect to grow. What is important is first to give and to try to share what we have within ourselves. The Lord taught us, ' Ask and it will be given to you, ' which is quite true.
2.2 Hijirigaoka Church has been made to grow by establishing Tsukuba Gakuen Church and seeing it grow. The number of Genju communicant members of Hijirigaoka Church who decided to establish Tsukuba Gakuen Church was 183 in 1976 ,whereas the number of those who attended the worship service was 94. And when Tsukuba Gakuen Church celebrated the tenth anniversary of its foundation in 1988, the number of Genju communicant members of Hijirigaoka Church grew to 308, meaning the increase of 125, and the number of those who attended the worship service came to 168, meaning the increase of 74. Since then, stimulated by Tsukuba Gakuen Church, Hijirigaoka Church has been growing and now the membership of the church is about three times as large as it was forty years ago. I think that this is attributed to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2.3 The Lord Jesus proclaimed, 'even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' We praise by saying, 'The Lord has come, and the Lord has come' but the Lord introduces himself and tells us why he has come to us.
2.4 The Lord came ' to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' He came to love this world and us but to love ends up with dying for the loved ones.
2.5 As in Philippians 2, Verse 7 and the following, Jesus 'made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death ? even death on a cross!' God saw his son's figure, that is, how he dedicated his whole life, and said, 'That's right. It was good.' He resurrected Jesus as the first crop offering and made him a reminder of eternal life.
2.6 When we think of the love of God who came to give his life for us and when we think of his will and that he loved this world so much that he gave his only son, in response to his love, we pray that we too will take a step in the direction of serving other people and that we will be given such strength to do so.
2.7 In American churches, we find the following words like a slogan: 'Jesus loves me ? so do I. ' This means that the Lord loves me and that I love the Lord too. This is serving in response to being served, namely, just because the Lord served me, I in turn serve him.
2.8 The original word of 'to serve ,' means 'a rower of the lower part.' It refers to a slave who keeps on rowing at the bottom part of a battle ship.
2.9 Strong men always stand at the bottom. The bottom, and men who stand at the bottom. It is the reality of those who serve the Lord. ' Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.' The church produces such strong men one after another.
2.10 There is a word that we must not use to yourself as well as to other people: It is 'a good-for-nothing.' In the vagrant Tora-san's word, 'That is a taboo. ' There is no one who is useless. Once you think of yourself that way, you end up in becoming that kind of person.
3.1 To live by serving other people sets us free from being useless. Indeed, nothing gives us so much delight and freshness as the real feeling that our own existence is serving someone else. Our life is made up of two parts, namely, for someone to live and to let other people live. Therefore, we interpret serving each other as 'shiawase' in Japanese meaning happy, and we say 'shigoto' to express 'serving other people.' Those are the reasons why we use such words 'shiawase' or 'shigoto.'
3.2 During Lent, in which we think of the Lord Jesus who came to serve and of Jesus Christ who achieved our salvation on the cross, we were able to offer the worship service commemorating the 40 th anniversary of the founding of Tsukuba Gakuen Church with gratitude.
3.3 This number '40' is also symbolical. For forty days and forty nights, it rained and the Flood took place. Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai for forty days and he was given the Ten Commandments. For forty years, Moses and his people wandered in the wilderness and went on with the exodus to glory. The Lord Jesus himself was exposed to Satan's temptations in the wilderness for forty days. And the resurrected Lord talked about the Kingdom of God for forty days.
3.4 If we give such examples, there will be no end to them. Thus the number '40' symbolizes trials and suffering and at the same time it shows the route to glory. Lent is set for forty days so that we can prepare our route of faith from suffering to glory and from the cross to resurrection.
3.5 Tsukuba Gakuen Church advances powerfully, raising the cross high and bravely in commemoration of 40 years after it was established. May God use Tsukuba Gakuen Church that is built to serve!
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to Mark 10:35-45

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
38 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
39 "We can," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,
40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
42 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
(New International Version)


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Worship Service on February 25, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- Your son will live -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1. The verse 46 says, 'Once again he visited Cana-in-Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.' From this it is apparent that the author John was intent on reminding the readers that Cana-in-Galilee was the place where Jesus turned water into wine as written on verse 1 and the following of chapter 2. The verse 11 of chapter 2 says, 'So Jesus performed at Cana-in-Galilee the first of the signs which revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him.' Therefore it seems that the event that took place during the wedding banquet turned out to be a decisive moment for the author John himself to believe Jesus as the savior. I don't think the repeated reference again on verse 46 about what had happened during the wedding festivity at Cana was made simply to underline that the episode of today's Bible passage took place in the same village. I gather the author John wanted to say that today's event overlapped with the earlier episode, don't you? Or it could be a message to suggest that the wondrous event during the banquet at Cana wasn't just a one-time event. He wanted to say that it can happen over and over again. Obviously it is not possible for us, readers of this Gospel, to go to Cana back in the age of Jesus. Yet the event during the wedding banquet at Cana does take place for us all; it is something we can relive, John was saying in order to encourage us.
John took what lay at the core of the event at Cana was that 'Jesus turned the water into wine.' This made me think again about why Jesus told the banquet servants to fill the jars with water instead of directly giving wine to the guests; the point I will come back to later in the course of my sermon. It wasn't the intention of Jesus to give them the best wine immediately. The thing began with water. The important matter then was that the servants filled the jars with water as told by Jesus, although we may wonder what the water had to do with wine. While wine may not be available at anywhere, one can possibly take water from any place around. Jesus would have us do what we can easily. Then it turns gradually into wine of indispensable value. Let us have a taste of the Bible words for today, laying them over the event of festivity at Cana!
2. The first stage of the water turning into wine began with Mary, the mother of Jesus, coming for help and telling him that wine, which was an absolute must for any wedding festivity, was giving out. It goes without saying, that for the water to be turned into wine, the thing had to begin with her coming to know that wine was giving out and coming to ask not anyone else but Jesus to 'do something help.'
An officer in the royal service in today's episode did exactly the same as Mary. Verse 46 tells at its end that he was an officer serving 'the ruler of Capernaum.' As you will find it on a map at the end of the Bible, Capernaum was a town along the Dead Sea, some 30 kilometers east of Cana. That was where the palace of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, was and the officer belonged to him. 'Officer,' in the original Greek suggests he was either a very high-ranking officer or a nobleman. As such it could never be that he would come to be in touch with Jesus, who was only a son of a carpenter. What made the high-ranking officer bother to take a 30-kilometer journey to meet Jesus? His son ? probably the only child ? was about to die due to serious illness. The Bible doesn't say anything as to how his visiting of Jesus affected either his status or position. However, Herod Antipas was such a kind of ruler as to have had John, the Baptist, beheaded for half a sport. And Jesus had deep relationship with John the Baptist. So Herod couldn't have allowed his high-ranking subject to go and visit with Jesus with good grace. Possibly the officer might have gone to see Jesus without taking the leave of absence from his lord. That very decision may have been decisively important for his son to be healed of his illness, I gather; the point I will again come back to later. The visiting with Jesus itself was already the beginning of the process of healing. He was already beginning to put water into the jar. And the visiting with Jesus never ended in vain.
He went home certainly with an empty hand, as I will soon touch on. While believing as written on verse 50, 'The man believed what Jesus said and started for home,' he set to a return journey without the wine he had sought for, i.e. the healing of his sick son, or without having the blessing of Jesus coming to Capernaum with him. It may be said that he couldn't take anything with him, not even water, let alone the wine he wanted on his way home. Yet visiting Jesus for getting wine never ends in vain. The author John was telling, I gather, that this can be true of anyone. That is why John is giving courage to us saying that if we faced with 'short supply of wine,' which cannot be solved by any other means, just go to Jesus and ask him for help. We may not get what we wish, yet visiting with Jesus and asking for help is never going to end in vain, John tells.

3. During the festivity at Cana, Jesus replied to Mary in really a cold manner that makes ones, who read the passage on its surface, wonder if that was the kind of attitude a son should take toward his biological mother when he said, 'Woman, that is no concern of mine.' Likewise, when the officer begged Jesus to go down and cure his son before he dies, he answered saying, 'Will none of you ever believe without seeing signs and portents?' and only gave words and said, 'Return home. Your son will live,' and refused to go with him. This is the very point where we find Jesus making people, who come to him seeking for wine, draw water first instead of wine immediately.
I hinted about what was in the mind of Jesus when he reacted to plea of the officer. By saying, 'Will none of you ever believe without seeing signs and portents?' Jesus pointed out that a man would seek for wine. Signs and portents are the wine which will men seek for. Men would believe when the wine is given, Jesus was pointing out. However, there are few who will get the wine they seek in their hands as they wish. If they will believe when given what they wanted from God and Jesus, they will never come to be able to believe God and Jesus. The walk of faith begins with drawing water first, which is far different from wine. If water, one can draw it with ease. Because it was water, the servants at Cana festivity could fill as many as 6 empty jars to the full brim. While there's no filling of jars with wine from the beginning, one can do so if it's water. And the water turns into wine, says Jesus.
I think the author John intended also to say the following in the form of a discourse between Jesus and the officer. We readers of the Gospel can neither go to Cana nor take Jesus to our place. We also cannot have Jesus touch his hand on us or on our family in illness we wish cured. I guess John had us readers in such conditions in his mind; John is giving courage to us meaning to say, 'You don't need to have Jesus directly come to you and do wondrous performance. It is good if you don't go to Cana or have Jesus come to you. Good if you don't get him to cure you. Good enough if you just draw water.' He encourages us saying if we don't have wondrous works performed or the wine given us by Jesus which we wish and seek after, in so far as we can draw water it will at some time turn into wine which we need.
4. What then does it mean to draw water? It is, as on verse 50, 'to return home believing the words Jesus spoke.' While the officer pleaded with Jesus to come with him to his son and cure him, the only thing given was just the words, 'Your son will live.' The officer could have burst into anger at it. The officer could take it that Jesus was talking irresponsibly to get him return home because he could not cure his son after all. Yet he believed what were just words of Jesus. With the words he headed for home. That was the act of drawing water. Then the water turned into wine. Wondrously the fever left the son just at the time when Jesus had said to him, 'Your son will live.'
This makes me think again what it means for us to draw water. I am taught that it is to receive and accept the words of God and Jesus given through the Bible. The water we draw begins with just a drop of it at the outset. It dries out in a matter of seconds because it is just a drop. Yet the drawn water gets abundant a bit by bit as we repeat attending the worship services over and again and reading the Bible. It strikes me home to recollect that I've been drawing water for more than 60 years now. It hits me home that the water I have drawn through the words of the Bible has gotten increasingly more abundant as I advance in age. And the water is turned into wine within us.
Perhaps there may be some among us who bemoan that while the officer was given the wine, i.e. his son on the brink of death cured, no wine has been given me; the water remains as water; there is no change in that someone so dearly valuable for me still stays at the point of death as far as I am concerned. What does it mean that the water given through the Bible turns into wine? If someone on sick bed we love is not cured and doesn't get back to strength literally, does it mean the water has not turned into wine?
When Jesus said, 'Your son will live,' I don't think he meant a life in the sense of a physical being. Of course it could be that wine is given in the form of our sick body being cured up to a certain point in time. Yet when the time comes we must leave from our physical being and set to our journey towards wearing a new instrument of life. We cannot remain in instruments made of soil forever. The wine God and Jesus give us is what makes us go in joy and celebration when we graduate from the instrument made of soil into spiritual instrument, i.e. when we die, isn't it?
At the Bible Study & Prayers Meeting we are beginning to learn from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah after an interval of 10 years for me. The words of Isaiah are giving me much richer water than it used to at earlier times. And certainly the water is turning into wine within me. At the study of last week I was struck by the word, 'the survivors,' which struck me deep in my heart. I didn't feel it as strong as at this time when I was in my forties and fifties, which I take to mean that the word is giving me richer water as I gradually approach the end of my life on earth. The word 'the survivors,' carries a message that God will leave survivors without fail when the Last Day comes which he causes to come ? it comes to the whole world and it also comes to each one of us as well. We may think that the end of our life as a physical being means the end of all and nothing remains. But God says he will show us that which does not end, never disappears on the Last Day. What a joy it is to learn that there is such a thing as that at the final time!
The word, 'The survivors,' has an implication to suggest 'the remnant.' By this we get to know that what we left uncared, what we regarded as unnecessary and leftover during our heydays are what will definitely survive. The water given through such words as those turn into wine within me. The water given will have changed into wine with which we can well wish the steps in that direction and be pleased with, even though we are heading towards the time when our life in physical being will end,
The last point I wanted to make was the reason why the sick son was cured physically. As I touched on it earlier, it may well be that the officer went to Jesus for the sake of his son, even abandoning the high position he held under Herod Antipas. It may have been that the father of the son serving as a high-ranking officer of Herod was possibly casting dark shadow on the family, especially on the son. Yet the father left Herod for the sake of his son. He may have continued to serve Herod thereafter. But he became one to serve Jesus in his heart. He exposed his weak self, pleading with God and Jesus for help, and that was for the sake of his son. Can we not say that such a figure of the father saved his son and made him live afresh? I think we can say he saved his entire family that way.
(Translated by Hiroshi NISHIDO from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 4: 43 - 54

43 When the two days were over Jesus left for Galilee; 44 for he himself had declared that a prophet is without honour in his own country. 45 On his arrival the Galileans made him welcome, because they had seen all he did at the festival in Jerusalem; they had been at the festival themselves. 46 Once again he visited Cana-in-Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. An officer in the royal service was there, whose son was lying ill at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judaea into Galilee, he went to him and begged him to go down and cure his son, who was at the point of death. 48 Jesus said to him, 'Will none of you ever believe without seeing signs and portents?' 49 The officer pleaded with him, 'Sir, come down before my boy dies.' 50 'Return home,' said Jesus; 'your son will live.' The man believed what Jesus said and started for home. 51 While he was on his way down his servants met him with the news that his child was going to live. 52 So he asked them at what time he had begun to recover, and they told him, 'It was at one o'clock yesterday afternoon that the fever left him.' 53 The father realized that this was the time at which Jesus had said to him, 'Your son will live,' and he and all his household became believers. 54 This was the second sign which Jesus performed after coming from Judaea to Galilee.
(The Revised English Bible Version)


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Worship Service on February 11, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- As special possession of God -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1. As we finished learning from the Book of Numbers, beginning today I should like us to start learning from Deuteronomy at a pace of once in three weeks. Today being the first of our learning from the book of Deuteronomy, I should like to share with you about what kind of scripture it is.
Shinmei-ki (of which a direct translation in Japanese language means a record of God's instructions) is Deuteronomy in English. This is a straight English translation of a Greek word Deutro-nomion. Deutro means the second and nomion is derived from the word Nomos, which means law or rules. God said to Moses, 'You did not trust me; therefore you will not lead this assembly into the land I am giving them.' So Moses left his will, so to say, to the Israelites who were about to enter the land of Palestine soon in the coming days. He gave the words of God or instructions (carefully, or yet again) for the second time. So the book is titled Deuteronomy, i.e. God's words given for the second time.
That having been said, though, a widely accepted view today is that it is utterly impossible to say that it is true to the fact. There may certainly be such words in Deuteronomy as Moses received from God and relayed to the Israelites. It is thought that the words so passed on by mouth were put in letters since after some time and in that way what constituted the basis of Deuteronomy was written. Verse 8 and the following of chapter 22 of the Second Book of Kings say that what came to be known as 'the scroll of the law,' was found in the house of the LORD when the king Josiah was having the Temple of Jerusalem repaired. This is said to be the source document of what is Deuteronomy of the present days. Yet, it contains just a part of today's Deuteronomy. Many other factors were added to the source document, and it is considered that it might probably be that the book was written and edited in its present form by the people with priests at its center in the midst of the Babylonian Captivity.
The point here is that the book was edited in the midst of their Babylonian Captivity. As verse 4 of today's Bible passage says, 'Then the anger of the LORD will be roused against you and he will soon destroy you,' Deuteronomy was written in the midst of what God said would take place became a reality in fact. As such the position of their faith was one to inquire why it was that they were drawn into such a situation; why God got angry with them and destroyed them. The inquiry led them to go back in history to arrive at an answer that their ancestor way back in early age had not done what they should have. The answer to the question was compiled in the form of God's words as having been given as his instruction through the mouth of Moses.

2. Coming to know of such a background, we get to be able also to understand what God meant when he told the Israelites with such horrible words as 'you must exterminate them.' This order of God to say, 'you must exterminate them,' appear time and again in Deuteronomy and also in the Book of Joshua. We have to struggle indeed asking how best we should understand this. You'll remember the Reverend Dr. Satoshi Ootomo, whom we invited to address at the meeting of general assembly and the retreat for church women's associations in our district last year. On a certain occasion, I asked him this question; how we shall understand this instruction of God. It is a very tough question for him as well, he said.
Some people take it literally as the order of God. People who took it for an absolute order of God even justified stretching their legs to Africa and Americas and expelling or even destroying the aboriginal, indigenous people already dwelling there. Also the Israel of today uses the series of these Bible words as the ground for expelling Palestinians. However, these words were never spoken by God in the literal sense of the term.
As taught just a while ago, these were the words which the Israelites, having their kingdom destroyed and having themselves taken as captives under the Babylonian Captivity, heard through inquiring how their ancestor should have done. Behind the inquiry was the primary posture in their mind that they shouldn't have lost their sovereignty or their fatherland. How did they fall in such a situation? And they thought the answer was that they invited anger of God because they established marital relationship with other people around them and came to serve gods before they knew it, which those other people served. Therefore, in the anger of God they heard his words saying that they should have exterminated other nations in the first place, and they shouldn't have come into marriage relationship with them, and further that they shouldn't have made various contracts with them. They took the words of God passed on them by mouth to mean the above said messages. The words of God they heard were words they took standing on their position that they shouldn't have lost their sovereignty or their fatherland. But I have doubt as to whether these were indeed truly the words from God.
There is a fundamental question that applies to all throughout the Old Testament Bible, which is that while God repeated his promise to Abraham and his descendants time and again to give the land to the Israelites, what did it really mean? On verse 1 of chapter 7 there is a phrase to say, 'the land to possess.' A Biblical scholar Mr. Masao Sekine, referring to the word 'inheritance,' as it appeared in the Book of Numbers, translated it as 'the land for inherited occupancy,' in place of the land to possess, which I think is pertinent translation.
God surely gave this land to the Israelites. But it was just that they were given a place for dwelling only by chance as a result of drawing a lot; to talk about ownership of the land, it was in the hands of God. In terms of a form, the Israelites were not in possession of the land. The land inhabited by the Israelites never came to be possessed by them as a result of expelling the previously inhabiting people or of literally exterminating them. The state of the fact was that it was the land where the Israelites and other people co-existed. In reality those other people were more likely to be such as couldn't ever be exterminated as we'll learn it later on. It was because the Israelites would fight with them for possession of the land so that they were drawn into having to make contracts and marrying with these people with the result that it was the Israelites who were drawn to their gods and came to be stained with their values, ultimately leading to be perished. How they should have done to keep their sovereignty of a nation and the land under their occupation from the hands of Babylonians, and thereby to hold on to the ownership of the land? If the Israelites couldn't hear the words of God on other stance than the one by which they only pursued the above question, I think the words they heard cannot be said to be really the words of God.

3. Then what was the true will of God that lay at the bottom of the Bible words for today? What God was saying was revealed to me that while the Israelites were going to dwell on, but not possess, the land of Palestine, there were certain things which they should keep in their mind. As can be expected, it was about nothing else but the relationship they would come to have with the people already living there. When the Israelites began dwelling there, it was inevitable that they came to make contracts with those other people on various fronts and also to have marital relationship with them. It wasn't out of mishap that the deeper the relationship with them got, the more the Israelites were drawn into serving their gods, and so invited their own ruin. Hence the warning: they should never serve gods of other people; they shouldn't be stained by the value and the way of living of other people, and sunk under their influence even if the Israelites might come to have relationship with them.
What were then the sense of values and the ways of life of the people already living on the land? As written on the latter part of verse 1, at the core of the problem lay 'seven nations more numerous and powerful than the Israelites.' Seven being a perfect number, the ramification was that these people were perfect in terms of numbers and strength so that the Israelites were no match with them on these terms. Some 40 years before then, men were sent out from the place called Kadesh, a place of encampment, to explore the land of Canaan. Men reported back saying, 'its inhabitants are formidable, and the towns are fortified.' (Numbers chapter 13, verses from 28). It was that kind of people who were waiting ready for your coming with their hands loosely bound to bows. They were waiting to take you in and ruin you. Therefore they were to fight a battle with them. The will of God was not that they should exterminate the enemies. It was the contrary to it. God was concerned lest the Israelites should be exterminated; that they should not lose out.
Then how the Israelites were to wage the battle? They were destined to be defeated if they fought on the battle field of the enemies by competing with them in numbers and strength. Therefore they had to fight on the field other than that of numbers and forces, and battle with other kind of weapons. That was the only way for winning. This, as on the phrase of the Bible passage for today, was expressed as winning by 'terminating them,' not literally though. It didn't mean literally to exterminate them based on numbers and forces; it meant to win the battle with the people who were already dwelling on that land in terms of the values, the ways of living and of religious faith, and to keep the Israelites themselves from being swallowed and so hold independence.
It was impossible to literally expel and exterminate the people already dwelling; should they have tried, they would have been involved in a battle with numbers and forces. What today's Israel and supporters of her are doing is to try to be superior by numbers and forces. That is never what God is willing. If they are winning, it is fundamentally nothing else but foreshadowing of their figure that will have been destroyed by the numbers and forces they are deploying.

4. Then what sort of weapons will God give us other than numbers and forces for this difficult battle faced? That is what verses from 6 to 8 elaborate. We find the especially well-known words here among all other known phrases on Deuteronomy: 'God has chosen you out of all peoples on earth to be his special possession.' Why the Israelites? It was not 'because they were more numerous than any other nation that the LORD cared for you and chose you, for you were the smallest of all nations.' What was the weapon given? It was this choice of them made by God; God chose them to be his possession for they were smaller and feebler than any other people, and the fact that God chose them as such was the weapon for them. With this weapon in their hands, they were to face up with the battle charged by the seven perfect people with their numbers and forces.
They would provoke us with the yardstick of numbers and forces, and say in mockery to us how small you are, how worthless, and that you will find no meaning in life. They say that those without numbers and affluence based on forces have no value. My wife borrowed a monthly magazine 'Friends of Tomorrow,' from a library which had an article of conversation between the chaplain of Yodogawa Christian Hospital and a lecturer of a course for operators of Kansai Inochi-no-Denwa (Life Telephone for Kansai Area). In that conversation, the Chaplain Fujii said that 'the words I hear most frequently at the hospice are "I cannot find a meaning to live any longer. It will be much better if I died as there's no meaning in it that I continue to live just giving troubles and burdens on my family." Very many patients staying in the hospice say these words. Prepossessed by the idea that one would do well to avoid being a cause of trouble to kin and others, they refuse to accept themselves as they are, I gather.'
As the chaplain Fujii says, we are indeed prepossessed. What keeps us prepossessed is the value we have of wishing to live in vigor, in good health without being a cause of trouble to kin to the end; a way of life supported by our vigor, sound health and strength. It is the value to live as a winner by being 'a perfect man,' without illness, and without weakness. But all of us will be 'the smallest and the most enfeebled in the world,' sooner or later. When the time comes, murmur comes out of our mouth to say that one has no meaning to live exactly because one is prepossessed by the value to win by numbers and strength. That is ruinous. The only weapon for us with which to avoid falling in that situation is the choice made by God. That God chooses us, the smallest and the most enfeebled on earth, to be his possession is our weapon.
Why would God make such a choice? The phrase on verse 7 which says that 'the LORD cared for you (by the Japanese translation, "affected by you) and chose you,' is really a unique expression. 'The LORD pined for you,' says other translation; a phrase commonly meant to express the feeling of love toward a person of other sex. God pines for the smallest and the most enfeebled rather than the ones with superior numbers and strength. What a solace it is for us to be able to think that God pines for us and chooses us as his special possession when we become the smallest and the most enfeebled. In this way God beats seven people eyeing to ruin us. It is not that we win but God who wins for us.
The way by which God wins is not by numbers and forces but by choosing us, the small and the enfeebled. And this choice finally led to the choice of Jesus who was scorned on the cross as the smallest and weakest and was spat on his face as a useless being. This Jesus God declared his greatest possession. That was why it was only Jesus, the greatest possession of God, who was given eternal life. Just as the people who would win by numbers and forces killed Jesus on the cross, they will win over us in the same way for a time. Yet that Jesus, who was put on the cross, was resurrected and is alive now, tells us that the vulnerability of him on the cross and us with our weakness will be chosen to be the possession of God, and that we will continue to exist eternally. The fact that God chose Jesus on the cross as his greatest possession is our support and encouragement for us. That works as a weapon for us to live without being ruined by the seven peoples of earth and by their way of life to try to win based on numbers and forces.
(Translated by Hiroshi NISHIDO from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

Deuteronomy 7 : 1 - 8

1 When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are about to enter to occupy it, when he drives out many nations before you -- Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you - 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them into your power for you to defeat, you must exterminate them. You must not make an alliance with them or spare them. 3 You must not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 because if you do, they will draw your children away from the LORD to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD will be roused against you and he will soon destroy you. 5 But this is what you must do to them: pull down their altars, break their sacred pillars, hack down their sacred poles, and burn their idols, 6 for you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you out of all peoples on earth to be his special possession. 7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other nation that the LORD cared for you and chose you, for you were the smallest of all nations; 8 it was because the LORD loved you and stood by his oath to your forefathers, that he brought you out with his strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
(The Revised English Bible)


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Worship Service on January 14, 2018

Gist of Sermon

- Will you Give me a Drink? -

By Reverend Sumio Fukushima

1.1 Today's word describes the scene where by the well near Sychar in a town in Samaria, Jesus met a Samaritan woman and he talked with her. Mr. Tadao Yanaibara, the Former President of University of Tokyo and economist, says at the beginning of his commentary on today's word as follows: Here we happen to find a conversation which is deeper than that of Jacob's well between the Savior of the world and a foreign woman. That account is filled with the most literary touch in the Gospel according to John. But when we are asked how much we can draw the water that is likened to 'the spring that is deeper than Jacob's well ,' and how much we can drink it, we wonder how difficult it will be. Still we hope that we will get that water from this word and that it will turn into 'a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'
1.2 Now, let me talk about the lexical knowledge that is essential for understanding today's word. First, I would like to talk about why the well at Sychar in Samaria was called Jacob's well. If you have the Bible with references, with regard to Verse 5, Genesis, Chapter 33, Verse18 and Chapter 48, Verses 21 and 22 and Joshua Chapter 24, Verse32 are cited as references, I think. Genesis, Chapter 33 says that Jacob who under his uncle Laban experienced 20 years' labor and toil came back to his hometown and it describes what happened immediately after Jacob managed to meet his brother Esau again and to be reconciled with him. It says that Jacob who parted from his brother Esau bought a plot of land that local people called Shechem with 100 qesitah, whose monetary value we are not sure of but which was probably very expensive. Genesis Chapter 33 doesn't say anything about the well but probably this place came to be called Jacob's well, before they knew it. In Genesis Chapter 48, on his deathbed Jacob said that he would give this land to Joseph, while Joshua Chapter 24 Verse 32 says that the bones of Joseph who died in Egypt were buried here.
1.3 For reference, let me quote a part of the book Hearts and Thoughts of the Gospel according to John (2) 'written by Dr. Kiyoshi Tsuchido, the leading researcher of the Gospel according to John in Japan. The doctor, who visited this place on his way back from the international society held in Tel Aviv in August, 2000, says the following: 'A town in Samaria has a mountain called Mt. Gerizim ….At the north eastern foot of this mountain lies the town of Sychar. It is located 400 meters to the south east of the ancient town Shechem. It was an important place in traffic in those days and at the place where two ancient highways crossed, there used to be a vertical well that was 32 meters deep. It is the place that even now tourists and pilgrims visit. One thousand years ago those who took part in a campaign of the crusaders built a church on this well in commemoration of their visit. But actually that church collapsed in the past 1000 years and only the ossuary of it remains as if it were closing the well. Even now you can see it. ' I am not sure of whether the well had not dried up when Dr. Tsuchido visited it but in the days of Jesus it had not dried up as a well. It was already 1700 years since Jacob's days but in the meantime this well had been continuing to provide people who lived there with water without drying up.
1.4 Next, I would like to talk about people called 'Samaritans. 'The woman who was spoken to by Jesus, who said, 'Will you give me a drink? ', is described as saying 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? ,'and after that, the author John added the explanation' For Jews do not associate with Samaritans ,'in parentheses. They are the people who often appear in the New Testament as 'Samaritans ,'but the problem dates back to the 8 th Century BC: The Kingdom which David built was divided into two countries, the North and South Kingdoms, after his son King Solomon died and the capital of the Kingdom of the North was placed in Samaria. But the North Kingdom was destroyed by Assyria in 722 B.C. or so. Of the twelve tribes who were derived from Jacob's twelve children, ten tribes, except two tribes who stayed mainly in the South Kingdom, were dispersed thanks to it. We are not sure of the exact numbers of them but their descendants are said to have followed a road in the Asian Continent and to have reached as far as Japan. It prompted a racial and religious mixture with those who migrated from Assyria. But still some people of those who lived in Samaria were proud that they were true Jacob's descendants, that they had this well of Jacob's as their mark and that they had drawn water from it from generation to generation. This woman's word in Verses 11 and 12 reveals part of their pride strongly. They built a temple on Mt. Gerizim which Dr. Tsuchido quoted in his passage a minute ago and they believed only five books from Genesis to Deuteronomy as their Bible. These Samaritans had a strong sense of rivalry against the Israeli people who were captured by Babylonia in the sixth Century B.C. and who returned home, and both Samaritans and Israeli people were always at odds with each other.

2.1 I have just told a rather long story but against this kind of historical background the Samaritan and Jesus met and they talked a lot. As a result, although we didn't read it today, she spread what Jesus said, as Verse 29 says, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?' Finally thanks to her testimony as in Verse 39, many Samaritans in the town of Sychar came to believe in Jesus. First, it seemed that here was a part of the message that the author John wanted to give us.
2.2 The Samaritans who were at odds with Israeli people for a long time, who believed the first five books of the Old Testament and who didn't even pay a visit to Jerusalem Temple came to believe in Jesus as the Christ. And its beginning was that, as will be told soon, the only woman who was ostracized by those Samaritans, met Jesus and believed in him. The author John was going to tell this as a strong encouragement to people in and around Ephesus, right? In and around Ephesus in about A.D. 100, we are not sure how many Samaritan people there were or how many people overlapped with this woman. However, among them, there were some people who could not help being at odds with traditional Israeli people and who were thought to be totally unable to believe Jesus as the Savior, right? But John felt that it was such people that could meet Jesus and believe him as the Savior. In order to give such encouragement to readers, the author John must have written this event.

3.1 We have to think that there are essential factors in the fact that this Samaritan woman met Jesus and came to believe him as the Christ: They are both a factor on the woman's side and a factor on Jesus's side. First, I would like to consider the factor on the woman's side.
3.2The beginning of the encounter was, as in Verse 7, that' a Samaritan woman came to draw water.' Usually they never drew water at such an early time. It was probably usual to draw water early in the morning or in the evening and to come with her friend, not alone. There are some reasons why she had to do this: The first reason is that she told the whole truth as is seen in Verse 18. She had as many as five husbands one after another and what on earth has happened to her, now that she has the sixth husband? For these reasons, there was nobody who came together with her to the well. She had nothing but to come to the well alone in broad daylight so that she would not meet anybody.
3.3 What is meant by the word, 'came to draw water' is not just to come to the well just simply because she wanted water. She had very deep thirst, and such deep thirst that she had to have so many love affairs so far. But probably it was not just physical or sexual thirst. It must have been religious thirst. Just because of that, suddenly, probably suddenly, in Verse 19, she turned to the subject about faith and prayer. Since early times, there has been an interpretation to the effect that in order to avoid talking about her innumerable number of love affairs with men, she started to talk about prayers. But I cannot agree with it. The fundamental reason why she had to change her partners this way was just that she lacked spiritual partner, that is, partnership with God. To put Jesus' word in Verse 10, it is to 'know the gift of God .'As long as that thirst is not satisfied, no matter how many men she may have love affairs, her thirst is not satisfied. It might not be possible to say that all women in the whole world are seeking a spiritual connection with God, but some women seek such a thing from the bottom of their hearts. Such thirst was never satisfied, through connections with men or no matter how much water she might drink from Jacob's well that ancestors had used from generation to generation, and even if she made a visit to the temple at the top of Mt. Gerizim. To have such thirst makes her unhappy? Indeed, it made her live like this and made her ostracized. But it made it possible for her to have an encounter with Jesus.
3.4 We are the ones who are sure to have such thirst, right? It makes us go first, toward the well. The well means a church. It was fortunate that even this woman had the well that she could come to alone. The reason was that she was able to meet Jesus there. I really hope that the church will be such a well.

4.1Now how did Jesus meet this kind of woman? The beginning was, as is shown in Verse 6, that 'Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.' And it was that to a Samaritan woman who came to the well ? probably Jesus at a glance would have known that there was something wrong with her --- , he said, 'Will you give me a drink? ,'regardless of the difference between a Samaritan woman and an Israeli man. Since early times, it has been interpreted that today's word to the effect that Jesus felt thirsty as he was tired from the journey and said, 'Will you give me a drink? 'at about noon overlaps with the scene where Jesus was put on the cross at about noon and he said, 'I am thirsty' (The Gospel according to John, Chapter 19, Verse 28). I think so, too. Of course, it is impossible for this woman from Samaria to know the figure of Jesus on the cross, but anyway in her presence, Jesus, tired from the journey, sat down by the well and was able to say 'Will you give me a drink?' to such a woman as her, without putting barriers around him. Jesus appeared as such a person. Not as a person who is not tired or a person who is not thirsty, but as a person who is more tired and thirstier than this Samaritan woman, and as a person who asks, 'Will you give me a drink?', he met this Samaritan woman.
4.2 Jesus kindly meets us too, as a person who is thirstier than us and more tired than us in this world. Just because Jesus is such a person, we are able to meet him, I think. In Verse 11, the Samaritan woman said to Jesus, 'Sir, you have nothing to draw with .' Dr. Berkley's book with notes says that Jesus had nothing to draw with, unlike people who traveled in this region carrying something like a long leather strap with a bag at its end. It says that because of that, Jesus could not drink any water although there was a well and that all that he could do was to lick the water that was spilled by the person who drew water before him. That Jesus 'had nothing to draw with 'implies Jesus, who had nothing unlike ordinary people who had something to draw with in this world, and it suggests the figure of Jesus who was put on the cross. Jesus who was thirsty on the earth and who said on the cross, 'I am thirsty , 'taught us by his own action that in the midst of his thirst we are able to get inexhaustible water, right? That revelation is his resurrection. In the midst of thirst of the cross, a spring of inexhaustible eternal life does appear. We, who were drawn to Jesus who is thirsty and who were privileged to meet him, turn out to know this inexhaustible gift of God's.
4.3Water flows from a higher place to a lower one. On the basis of the principle called osmotic pressure, if water touches something that is drier or thirstier than ourselves, it flows toward it by itself, I think. Just because Jesus, who was thirstier than she was, met her this way, something started to flow from her, who was thirsty.She believed in Jesus, who caused such a flow within herself, as the Savior, right?
(Translated by Akihiko MOCHIZUKI, Ph. D. from the gist prepared in Japanese)

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Scripture for the day

The Gospel according to John 4: 5 - 26

5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." 11 "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?" 13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." 15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." 16 He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back." 17 "I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." 19 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." 21 Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." 25 The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) " is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." 26 Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."
(New International Version)


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Sermon 2017


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