The Voice with Love (John 10:1-10)
1. We are always put in a situation in which we have to choose “life or death.” To tell the truth, no one can avoid the death on earth. So the choice is not persuasive. To say more exactly, we have to choose “share life together,” or “deprive life.”
The Bible calls to us consistently, “Live,” and “Share life together.” But this calling is not a unilateral order to us. The Bible is called God’s love letter. “Love me” in the Bible, if it were an order, might be not “a love letter,” but “a bill” to us. A love letter should be written to tell about the love in our hearts to others. So “Live” means “I want you to live,” or “let’s live together.” And “Share life together” means “I want you to receive life.” In this way God continues to speak to us with love. The people who listened to these words from God with joy edited it into the Bible.
2. At the beginning the Bible tells us about God’s creation of the world. “God said, ’Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Likewise, God created “day” and “night,” “the stars,” “sea,” “land,” “animals,” “plants,” and “human beings.” As far as human beings are concerned, God made them elaborately. God must have made them with all His heart. God made human beings so that they might receive life from God, or that they might live together with God. He must have taken it into consideration that people should help each other. The Bible tells us, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” But when we look back at the history of mankind, it is difficult for us to say that God’s thought has come true. “Share life together” or “I want you to receive life” is not easy.
3. Last week an interview was printed in the newspaper. It was an interview of a ventriloquist. By the way, today we have a ventriloquism program at the Hongo Festa, which we are looking forward to seeing. The ventriloquist in the interview is named “IKKOKU-DO.” When he was five years old, he moved to Okinawa with his parents, who were originally from Okinawa. Okinawa was under American occupation at that time. The parents ran a restaurant. Most customers were Americans. They all were kind and friendly. But anti-American feelings grew in connection with the handling of a traffic accident caused by an American soldier. The adults threw stones and empty bottles at the base. He followed their behavior without any reason. He was a first-grade pupil. After the tumult, a curfew was imposed on the soldiers. His parents’ restaurant fell into financial difficulties, and it closed. Then they had a difficult time. One year later, Okinawa was returned to Japan. Though the restoration was celebrated, unfavorable situations took place: there was an order that the Okinawan language should not be used in school; the currency was changed from dollars to yen; demonstrations against the many military bases often happened. IKKOKU-DO said, “I was not sure whether restoration was desirable or not.”
Now he is making a spectacular showing as a popular ventriloquist in Tokyo. His parents live in Nago City. He worries about the deployment of many Osprey helicopters by American forces, and other unresolved burdens imposed on Okinawans. He also worries about his friends, and worries about the relationship with surrounding countries. He is irritated by unsolved matters. He says, ”As far as we do not sincerely seek a world with no war, Okinawa’s negative history will not end, and we must not forget this ideal.” The idea that “Okinawa with no military bases will not be possible until the wars all over the world disappear” goes through his mind.
4. Here we have difficulty to “share life together,” or “receiving God’s life.” Policemen in Okinawa regulate Okinawan people who are engaged in anti-base activities. It has been long pointed out that there is difficulty living together in terms of protection of the natural environment. In this situation, powerful people’s work and ideas prevail, and powerless people’s suffering and sorrow increase. Making war is designed to be more effective, e.g. bombarding by remote control. It is “contrived” so that citizens as well as soldiers men might not be involved in the sorrow caused by wars.
It is difficult for us to discuss this matter fully within a limited time. Anyway I think it difficult for us to respond to God’s calling even when we think about Okinawa alone. Here and there in the world, the strong people are depriving the weak people’s life. Therefore I also think that we “should not forget the ideal.” We should not forget about God calling to us with love.
5. Today Jesus talks about a parable concerning the sheep and the shepherd. It is based on the severe reality I have referred to. The sheep eat grass, and the shepherd leads them. This is familiar in the world of the Bible. At night the shepherd made a sheep pen to let them rest and to protect them from invaders. It is said that several shepherds were engaged in managing a sheep pen. But there were invaders who tried to take the sheep out while the shepherds were sleeping. Jesus pointed out that the invaders were religious and social leaders at the time. They were powerful. They were indifferent to people’s joy and sorrow in life. They tried to rule people by force. Jesus told them that a life of sharing together was more important than depriving life from others. Jesus said that the shepherd knew each sheep individually. “Know” in the Bible means “love.” Jesus said such a relationship was necessary for “living together.”
6. I would like to talk about my own experience, though I might have spoken about it before. I had an idea for a program to be the main event at my college festival. It was to wring a chicken’s neck and eat it to express gratitude to God for being given life. One friend came back to school, after finishing training at a farm. He helped me to carry out the program. I asked another friend of mine who was breeding a few chickens at his house to give me one of them. I explained about the program to him. He said sadly, “Each one has a name.” I was ashamed. I wanted to accentuate the importance of life, but I was very much insensitive to “life,” and hurt his heart. I thought a chicken was insignificant. But, to him, it was precious, with no substitute. I was very insensitive to little ones. I would have deprived the life of a chicken, and deprived my friend’s heart.
7. God gives life to us, and invites us to lead a life of sharing. It leads us to share life together with joy, not deprive life from others for our own prosperity. God calls each of our names, saying “Let’s live together.” He takes care of us. His voice echoes in our hearts, and fills us with God’s love. Let’s play the role of a shepherd, and call to our neighbors, saying, “Live together.”
(This is the English translation of Rev Nobuo Yasui’s sermon which is to be preached at Hongo Church on May 11, 2014)
(Translated by Toshiyuki Masujima)