2014年6月16日月曜日

Love by Word and Act (Matt 28:16-20)


Love by Word and Act (Matt 28:16-20)

1. Last week with a pinwheel in hand we celebrated Pentecost, when God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples. And we are thankful that the Holy Spirit is also given to each of us, and it is working through us to help others. Needless to say, it is given to us not only at Pentecost but also anytime and anywhere, and it works through each of us to tell God’s words to others.

2. I am going to visit churches in Finland and Germany. In Finland, the Lutheran church is the state church. Several missionary associations belong to it. The Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland (LEAF) has engaged in missionary work in Japan for more than one hundred years. It holds its general meeting at the end of every June. One of the aims of our visit is to participate in its meeting, and study how it is managed. The population of Finland numbers half a million, but the participants of the meeting numbers ten thousand. I received an e-mail from a Finnish church, which said, “Let's pray for blessings of God and the presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit during every moment of your visit and at the “Taikai” for all people.” The word “every moment of your visit” gives me the image of the Holy Spirit. God always supports us anytime and anywhere.

3. God gives us the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy, in which God continues to say to us, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) In addition, we adults must behave suitably for the commandments so that we may teach children anytime and anywhere. The Holy Spirit always gives us life in whatever situation we are put.

4. However, it is difficult for us to have a clear understanding of the Holy Spirit, which works anywhere and anytime. It is impossible for us to comprehend the width of God’s existence and work. It is very difficult for us to explain the Holy Spirit. So people are likely to think, “The Holy Spirit is hard to understand.”

5. In the class “Introduction to Christianity” held very Thursday evening, we use Mr. Toshiyuki Masujima’s book titled “Let Me Share the World of the Bible” (published by Kyobunkwan) as a text. In it there is an article called “What is ‘the Holy Spirit?’” Mr. Masujima refers to a theologian’s explanation; “The Holy Spirit is God at work. The most important fruit of that work is to remind us of God’s words.” Jesus says, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you.” (John 14:26) Mr. Masujima says in the article, “When we look back on our lives, there may be many times that were tough or bitter. When pressed to our lowest point, we remember the words of God and a light is shone on the solution to our troubles. At this point, truly, God has sent us the Holy Spirit.”
The work of the Holy Spirit is really important.

6. In addition, I would like to focus on ten items concerning the work of the Holy Spirit. I think it may be permitted to mention them, though they might make it more difficult for you to understand the Holy Spirit.

(1) Give birth to life
“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) The breath is the Holy Spirit. By it we all became living beings, just like a new born baby who breathes air for the first time, and breathes out, screaming for the first time.

(2) Baptize
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (Matt 3:16) Jesus said to his disciples, “In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5) And Pentecost took place.

(3) Speak what should be spoken
Jesus tells in Mark chapter 13 that Christians are going to be persecuted. This description reflects the experience of Mark in his community. We should not be worried, when we are going to be judged in court. “Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11)

(4) Make us speak about the gospel
In Pentecost the Holy Spirit was shared among the disciples. In addition, they talked about the “the wonders of God,” and Peter said, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) The disciples talked about good news. The good news is that Jesus is the Savior and forgiveness has been realized for all people, including each of you.

(5) Remind you of Jesus’ words
As Mr. Masujima says in his book, the Holy Spirit continues to remind us of Jesus’ words, even when Jesus is not here.

(6) Send us out Love by Word and Act (Matt 28:16-20)
Jesus spent forty days in the desert, being tempted by Satan. Jesus went there not by his will, but was sent there by the Holy Spirit. “At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert.”(Mark 1:12) The Holy Spirit sends us out into the unknown world and makes us tackle new challenges. Of course, you are not alone.

(7) Live in us
The Holy Spirit exists next to us, behind us, below us, above us and in front of us. Paul says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor 3:16) Paul knew that human beings were very weak, based on his own experience, and he knew that the Corinthians in their churches were also weak like him. But he says, “You yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you.” The Holy Spirit needs a weak and fragile vessel like us, and he lives in us.

(8) Make us confess our faith
Paul says, “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1Co 12:3) It is by the work of the Holy Spirit beyond our will that we seek God and walk in faith. 172 people have been baptized since Hongo Church started in 1956. We have now people who were baptized at other churches, people who want to be baptized, and people who are interested in the worship or fellowship at Hongo. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings about trust in God in their hearts.

(9) Groan together
We sometimes experience extreme sufferings that we cannot express well. Even when we seek answers concerning them, we cannot get them. Sometimes we fall into crisis, and we are likely to forget our prayers, even though we are in faith. Paul must have experienced such a crisis. He says, “We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” We cannot do anything except groan, but the Holy Spirit groans together with us.

(10) 
We are now thinking about the sudden parting from a friend. Many people in Hongo church are now in sadness which we cannot express well. One of them has introduced a novel for us. It is written in English. In one scene in the novel, a father, who suffers from terminal cancer, is asked by his young daughter, “What is your favorite passage in the Bible?” He mentions “Galatians 5:22” with the Bible in hand, and explains its content. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” A friend, who introduced the book to me, said that the message was very important for him too. When we think about the friend who was called to heaven, we cannot help thinking about the fruit of the Spirit. God’s spirit was breathed into her while she was alive. She was glad for it. Though we cannot see her again on earth, I always remember “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” when I think about her.

7. Jesus said to his disciples, when he sent them out. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20) God always is with us as the Holy Spirit.
I have already mentioned many works of the Holy Spirit. To make a long story short, God is always with us anytime and anywhere, and gives us his love through his words and acts. We, who receive the Holy Spirit, are led to know God’s love through our words and acts, and to get the fruit of the Spirit.

(Translated by Toshiyuki Masujima)

(This is the English translation of Rev Nobuo Yasui’s sermon which is to be preached at Hongo Church on June 15, 2014)