2014年8月1日金曜日

For Little Ones (Matt 13:31-33, 44-52, Rom 8:26-39)



For Little Ones

1. 
 There is a poem titled “Sardines.”

 A sardine is so weak that the Kanji for it consists of “fish” and “weakness.”
 It is easily caught by human beings.
 Other fish and animals are watching for it.
 It is armless and unable to resist.
 So it lays many eggs.
 It has no way to survive except proliferation.
 Can it really survive?
 Weak ones’ power to survive to the last may be strongest.
  (From “Floor cloth (Zō Kin)” by Susumu Kawano, published by GENTÔSHA)

This poem may surprise you. Because we live in an environment in which strong is better than weak, and powerful is favorable. So we are likely to think that we could never become happy, unless we can enjoy the survival of the fittest. The idea of “winners and losers” is closely related to such an environment. And competition is justified in society, including schools and business companies.

But the principle of the survival of the fittest does not necessarily apply to the natural world. We are likely to think that zebras, as weak animals, may be eaten by lions, the strongest. But zebras and lions do not compete. Without grass-eating animals like zebras, lions could not survive. And lions help to curb the numbers of grass-eating animals, so that their excessive increase does not cause a food shortage for them. Namely, the natural world presupposes coexistence, not the survival of the strongest. Some zebras may be eaten by some lions, but zebras as a species will never perish. Please remember the poem. Though sardines are weak, they preserve their species through increasing numbers. Solidarity among weak beings helps to support coexistence.


2.
We human beings are weak in the realm of the natural world. We could never exist without the lions and the zebras. We now live all over the world, because we recognize our weakness, and have tried to build up the system to live together. But we are likely to forget weakness and forget our position as members of the globe, and try to put ourselves in the position of the strongest. And we try to become stronger through competition, and we try to evaluate weak and little ones negatively. We are likely to attack weak and little ones to be proud of our strength. In addition, the idea of the survival of the strongest justifies such attacks. So now we compete with others, and have created a gap between the strong and the small.

Now tragic wars are repeated in Palestinian and Israel, which are closely related to the world of the Bible. We know that wars are not only among the soldiers but also they have produced a tremendous number of weak and little victims. Neighboring countries, including Japan, have not yet shown compassion toward them. It is regrettable that what we can do is only prayer. Jesus’ words in today’s text seem to be sharper as criticism toward the present situation rather than the situation in Jesus’ age.


3.
Jesus tells about the kingdom of heaven using the parables of a mustard seed and yeast. He tells that they are very small, but they grow so big: a mustard seed becomes a big tree, and yeast works all through the dough, producing big bread.

The volume of the flour in his parable is three satas, equal to 38.4 liters. 200 grams of flour, namely 0.4 liters are used for making bread for the Holy Communion of our church. Three big loaves are produced. Then 38.4 liters of flour would produce 288 pieces of bread. This number is very big. They would be used not only for one family, but also for many people.

We know, through the parables, a mustard seed and yeast are very small but they are used for many people. According to the Greek text, “mixed into a large amount of flour” connotes “hide.” It means that something hidden has a great meaning. Though a mustard seed and yeast are very small, no place of rest nor food to eat would be possible without them.

Jesus tells us that small beings are necessary for us. We are likely to think less of something small, and prefer the survival of the strongest to coexistence. But Jesus tells us that small beings are necessary for God’s work. God wants us to recognize His work in smallness that we are apt to overlook, not in strength or in bigness.

4.
Jesus continuously tells us about the kingdom of heaven and God’s work. Palestinians and Israelites were repeatedly attacked by foreign powers in the history of the Bible. So people often tried to hide their treasures in the ground. But sometimes they went out and did not come back. So no one knew where the treasures were hidden. An employee at a farm happened to find a hidden treasure in a field. Then he tried to buy the field with the money that he could acquire by selling all that he had. It did not guarantee that he could gain more wealth than before, but it brought about the joy of having the hidden treasure. Jesus also says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Hidden treasure and fine pearls bring about a change in one’s life, giving up what he has built in his life without hesitation. Knowing God’s work changes one’s view of life from the survival of the strongest to the principle of live-and-let-live. God wants us to experience such a change and new life.

5.
Let us regard ourselves as hidden treasure or valuable pearls in order to think about ourselves! People are likely to think less of us. Or we are likely to be proud of ourselves, or put on a bold front, or shut our hearts to the world. But when God finds us, He throws away what He has, and tries to own us. Paul says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”(Rom 8:32) Jesus showed us his love through the crucifixion, symbolizing extreme weakness. This love will change us to live a new life. Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Rom 8:35) Then he firmly says, “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39) God saves us by giving up Jesus, and finding us, and giving us the meaning of our life. God finds weak and little beings as they are. And He blesses us, and gives us fellowship to eat and live with God. This fellowship takes place when we, little ones, support one another with faith in God.

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