Remember the Love
We just gave thanks for the new altar that graces our space, and then we read the very famous 1 Cor 13 passage on love. Reflecting on what I would say this morning, what came to me is simply this: It’s all about love.
We have a new altar because of love, because of a daughter’s love. But the love, as great as that is, is small, when we step back, and look at the love that George had for this church, and that he had for his daughter and family, and the love that the community had for him.
It is love that holds a community together in the midst of great trauma, and there was great love in the face of the great injustice visited on so many of this community by our government and those who were afraid of people who looked different than their parents.
It was love that drew people back here, and continues to draw people back, not just here, but to other communities of faith, places where we learn to love by being loved, places where we remember the love God has for us, the love Jesus showed, even though they killed him.
Today is also the day we celebrate the Martyrs of Japan. The Catholics brought Christianity to Japan in the mid 1500s. The monks were initially supported by the shogunate, but then, increasingly wary of colonialism, and seeing what happened in the Philippines, those in power turned against the church, and made it illegal to be Christian. In the early 1600s, hundreds of people were executed by the government. All of the leadership was brutally killed. However, Christianity went underground, and when Christians were allowed into the country in the 19th century, they found people who were still practicing some forms of Christianity secretly.
Why would they do this? Why would men, and women too, willingly die, some with their children, when all they had to say was that they would quit being Christian? It is because of the love. It was the love of God that they heard about and were not willing to let go of, even if that meant they would be killed. They had felt the love of God in Christ, and it was enough.
Many more, apparently thousands, of people were not killed, but their lands were confiscated and they were reduced to begging because of their faith. But the accounts we hear of them is that they were content, not distraught, as one might expect. They too had felt the love of God through this Jesus, and decided that they had to follow him, and be labeled Kirishitan. It was because of the love.
Persecution for being Christian has not stopped. I get a magazine called Martyrs for the Faith that talks about people being killed today for being Christians. Obviously that is not happening in this country, but it is still happening in other countries. In this country, we have perhaps the opposite problem – it is too easy to be Christian. Therefore it does not mean anything. People are very worried that the church will simply become totally irrelevant and disappear. I am not so worried. I am pretty sure that the church of the 1950s will disappear. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I can explain more of that later, but if you want to help do something, we have an idea. Here is the deal!
We are offering a new program, totally voluntary, and you don’t have to belong to this church, or any church. You can simply log into http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/new-resources-for-the-bible-challenge/ and download the Read the New Testament pdf, and put in about 15 minutes a day reading the Bible. The program is called the Bible Challenge, and we are starting by reading the New Testament, Proverbs and Psalms. If that is too much, then skip the Proverbs and Psalms. If you have not read the Bible through like a book before, now is the time, and reading the New Testament is the best place to start. The paper gives you the schedule of what to read each day. We will start tomorrow, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. You can start any Monday. Just start!
Feb. 13 is Ash Wednesday, so Sunday Feb 17 is the first Sunday of Lent. We will have Bible study here on Sundays after church based on the readings from the NT during the week. Everyone is welcome to join in these discussions.
Why should we read the NT like this? Because we need to remember the love. This is the love that gave us life, that gave our parents the strength to do what they did, and that will give us strength when we need it. This is important stuff, central stuff, not something we get around to when we have extra time – which never happens.
So we give thanks to Valerie, and to George, and to all of the ancestors that have loved us, and to God who loved us first and Jesus who taught us how to love. Our gift in return is to remember the love, and to extend that love to those who need it, now, and in the days to come. Amen!