Celebrating the Prince of Peace
It was our honor and privilege to host Rev. Yashuhiro Tateno and his wife Terumi for Thanksgiving this year. Rev. Tateno is the Executive Director of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church and was here on a cross-cultural exchange visit, looking especially at schools and preschools at Lutheran churches.
We had them over for Thanksgiving dinner, and it was interesting on a couple of levels. “Thanksgiving” isn’t a holiday in Japan - it’s a uniquely American day - but the concept of Thanksgiving and gratitude to God is, of course, very much connected with our faith. So, we had all the traditional foods for the meal, to give them a taste (so to speak) of the way Americans celebrate the day. It was amusing to hear them talk about all things American as being so BIG, so when they saw the turkey (which they had never before seen), their eyes got very wide! Our cat seemed to startle them as well…
Since they were visiting, we asked Rev. Tateno to bring a message on Thanksgiving Eve. It was his first sermon in English, and he was quite nervous about it. His message was clear, recalling the horrendous events of a war which took place before he was born, but focusing on the only truly Christian response to war in a broken world: reconciliation and peace.
Blessings and peace to you all, in the name of the Prince of Peace,
(Sermon delivered at Trinity during the Thanksgiving Eve Service on November 26th)
The Peace of Jesus Christ is with us.
Thank you for inviting me to this wonderful worship today. I thank you for this opportunity to be here with you.
This is my first Thanksgiving experience. I am thankful for this day and EVERYthing.
The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hiroshima where I serve is a 500 member congregation. Worship service attendance averages 80 people in 7 different services a week. The church runs a nursery school and kindergarten. The two hundred children attend the nursery and kindergarten are infants to age 6, and they are not Christian. It means the church is dedicated to serve a non-Christian population (but it is our hope that these non-Christians are the future Christians). Only 0.8% of the population of Japan is Christian.
I am currently the pastor at the Hiroshima Church. I, as a pastor, have many duties and responsibilities. We have 7 services a week. I am also the director of the kindergarten and nursery school. On top of all that, I was appointed to be the General Secretary of Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church in June this year. The office is located in Tokyo.
As many of you may know, Hiroshima was the city on which the first atomic bomb was dropped 63 years ago. It happened before I was born. But, living in the very city, I think about peace, war and the atomic bomb every day!
The church has a 100 year history, but the first 40 years were wiped out by the bomb. Many Japanese prefer not to think about the bomb. They don’t want to dwell on the past - they just want to go forward. But I believe that we must learn from the past before we can move forward. By acknowledging past mistakes, crime, and sin, we can learn, repent, reform and go toward hope and peace.
There is an old woman in our church. On the day, the morning of the bomb drop - august 6 - she saw her children age 6 and 10, off to school. They haven’t come home. She has been waiting for her children’s return day and night. She never locks the door, fearing they might come home at any time. She has been waiting 63 years.
She says, “War is murder, war is evil, God prohibits murder. It is written in The Ten Commandments. We must not kill. We must hold our hands and forgive one another. Then peace and hope will come to us. We must teach our children to have a hope.”
This woman did not only suffer the atomic bomb and loss of her children, she also was a victim of racial discrimination, She is a Korean, and many Koreans were treated very badly.
What I am trying to say is that Japanese are not blameless. We cannot speak as though we were the victims. We were also perpetrators. Japan also caused unspeakable damage. So, when we teach our children, we must teach what we have done, as well as what was done to us. From there, we will seek and teach God’s love and his forgiveness and hope.
I thank you all for giving me the chance to tell my story. Japan Evangelical Church and Hiroshima Lutheran Church will welcome all of you. Your church and Hiroshima Church are to be sister churches, today bonded by Christ’s love, peace and hope.
In the Bible when the Prince of Peace, Jesus, was born, there was no room in the inn. But do not worry - there will be a place to rest in comfort when you visit our Hiroshima Church. You may have to without a manger. Sorry! I will - we wilt - look forward to having you in Hiroshima. Thank you for this day.
I thank God for being here with you today. I pray God’s blessing on us. Amen.
Rev. Yashuhiro Tateno.