2014年5月2日金曜日

Receiving Life through believing (John 20:19-31)



Receiving Life through believing (John 20:19-31)

1.
 A sad accident took place recently. A single mother in her twenties with a two-year old and an eight-month old asked a baby–sitter to look after the children a few days. She used a matching web site to find the babysitter. The baby sitter used her apartment in Saitama for her work. But, in the apartment, the two-year old child was found dead and the eight-month old baby became very sick. The baby was taken into custody. Many people harshly criticized that mother. They said that it was very unreasonable for her to leave her children with such an unknown babysitter more than two nights. The criticism was directed at her idea that work would be more important than taking care of her children.

There was another report that a high school teacher in charge of first-year high school students was absent from the entrance ceremony of his school, and attended the entrance ceremony for his own child. The criticism that he lacked responsibility was raised by the prefectural assembly. The Prefectural Education Committee had to get involved in It. People discussed hotly which should be more important, work or home.

2.
 People now can express their own opinions anonymously because of the remarkable development of the Internet. So many criticisms were aired concerning these two incidents. Many of them lost their presence of mind. They criticized the mother as thoughtless, not considering the severe social situation of single mothers, or their situation of depending on using the Internet. They criticized the high school teacher as irresponsible, not considering his parent-child relationship. They think that he should not use his leave for his child, and his priority should be on work, not on his home, because he is a public servant.

Our life style is changing and becoming multifarious. But we are likely to force our conventional ideas on others. We are likely to think that there should be parents at home, and they are healthy, and fathers should take care of work outside, and mothers should look after housework and childcare. They criticized the mother concerning the babysitting incident. They thought that she neglected her home. They criticized the high school teacher for not attending his school entrance ceremony. They thought that he should focus on his work more than his own child. I think our society as a whole is troubled. I am a little bit relieved to hear the different opinions found in a pole covering more than 350 thousand people are equally divided concerning the case of high school teacher.

3.
 I myself was rather critical of the high school teacher. I would never do such a thing. But I have found that I did not take the following things into consideration: Public support for single parents’ childcare is insufficient; the high school teacher’s child might have had difficulty attending school; the teacher might be a single parent; so the teacher might have wanted to attend the entrance ceremony for his child.

4. 
 Today’s text from John tells us about the night of Easter and the story of Jesus and Thomas the next week. Jesus Christ, who died, appeared among his disciples, who felt small because of fear. The Bible tells about his appearance in even tones. Though we know the resurrection well, and accept Jesus coolly, the disciples might have been shocked at seeing Jesus resurrected. They must have felt sorrow and anger because of his crucifixion, and repentance for their betrayal. Jesus greeted them gently as usual, but they could not rejoice at once. Jesus repeatedly spoke to them. And their fear and repentance were gradually eased, and they came to firmly believe in Jesus. He breathed on them. It means that they were given the mission to tell about peace and forgiveness. The mission made them rise up. They were given life, though they were like the dead. Here a small resurrection took place. The disciples, who were in low spirits, resumed breathing. This is the resurrection. Those who were glad at their roles began to tell with joy that Jesus who was crucified was the Savior (Christ).

5. 
 But one disciple did not accept it. He was Thomas. He was not with them on Easter night. Then he could not meet Jesus. The more they insisted that they had met Jesus, the more strongly he said that “he would not believe in it.” He said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my hand in his side, I will not believe it.” The incident is described as “Thomas’ Doubt.” But was he in disbelief? Were the other disciples devout and was Thomas not? Eight days after Easter, Thomas finally met Jesus at night. He confirmed that it was Jesus body, and believed in him. At that time Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus told about the importance of believing. But the other disciples could not believe until they saw Jesus. They were also people who could not believe without seeing. So I am sorry for him that he alone was regarded as doubtful.

6. 
 When do we say “I don’t believe?” We use the words often in the following cases:

When we see children write graffiti with mud on the wall of the Church; when the snack which we looked forward to eating later was eaten by someone else; when we saw, a few times, dogs’ dung left in front of the church. Those often happen in our daily lives, though they are not serious. We have other cases like: when we saw the image of the Tsunami after the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake; when we hear politicians propose unbelievably unsuitable things; when we see the authority that should protect the weak people forcefully expel them. In other words, we express “I don’t believe,” when we find it difficult to accept what we see in front of us. We express “I don’t believe,” even when we see some incident with extreme joy.

7.
 Thomas said, “I don’t believe it,” when he experienced what he had not met before. In addition, he found it difficult to believe in spite of the fact that he recognized it firmly. Why did he find it so, then? Because Thomas felt he left was alone out of the other disciples’ joy. The other disciples talked about meeting Jesus with joy, and they were given the mission, and were glad at the forgiveness given to them, experiencing a small resurrection. But Thomas did not experience those things at all. So he said, “ I don’t believe it.” When we think about Thomas, we have to recognize the disciples’ indifference to him, and our lack of sympathy toward him, instead of Thomas’s disbelief.

8. 
 Thomas followed Jesus with the other disciples, shared joy and suffering with them, and he got angry together, and betrayed together. However, Thomas felt sad, because the other disciples did not notice his sorrow and loneliness at all. But Jesus did not leave Thomas alone. Jesus understood his loneliness and sorrow. Jesus called to him, “Believe. You are not forgotten. You may believe that Christ is for you. You are never left alone.” His words are directed toward us too. He supports single parents who are helplessly tired. He supports people who feel that work and childcare are seldom compatible. He encourages people who have lost their important things because of any disaster. Jesus gives them life, saying “I do not forget you.”

9. 
 Peter was one of those who were given life by Jesus. Peter told about his joy and belief. Peter, who had run away from Jesus, was forgiven by Jesus. He was freed from fear, in which he confined himself in his room, and said to the people who drove Jesus to death, “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” ( Acts 2:27)

Christ will never leave us alone, and will never see you decay. Christ sees us alive and gives us life.

(This is the English translation of Rev Nobuo Yasui’s sermon which is to be preached at Hongo Church on April 27, 2014)

(Translated by Toshiyuki Masujima)