Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sermon: Christmas 1B

I rang the doorbell and a young woman answered.

“Hello I’m Pastor Kevin,” I said.

She let me in and we sat down on the couch. The baby was asleep in the crib by the window.

I got straight to the point.

“So, why a baptism?” I asked.

“Well, I think it’s important to have God in my child’s life,” she said.

“What’s the baby’s name?” I asked looking over the crib.

She muttered something I didn’t recognize.

“That’s an interesting name, “ I said. “What’s the story behind that? Is it a family name?” I asked because I hadn’t heard that name before.

“No, it’s not a family name,” she answered.

“Do you know what it means?” I asked.

“No, it doesn’t have any meaning. It’s just...(whole thing here) 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sermon: Christmas Day

Most of the travel guide books I’ve read before coming to Japan say that most people under the age of 40 will understand and speak at least a little bit of English. Especially in Tokyo, they say. So, an English speaker shouldn’t have any trouble getting his or her point across.

Having been here for almost two months I can now say without equivocation that this is absolutely NOT true!

I may have told you this story before, but bear with me. About a month ago I was at a Tully’s Coffee shop and I tried to order a large decaf coffee. The young university-aged barista looked at me puzzled and pointed to the small cup. I shook my head “No” and pointed to the large cup. She looked at me with the same puzzled gaze and help up the small cup. I again, shook my head “No” and tapped the large cup. She shrugged her shoulders and made my coffee.

She said something to the other barista who then looked in my direction with the same puzzled look her co-worker had, but with a glint of amusement in her eye. The barista smiled as she handed me my coffee. I peeled off the lid to smell the coffee like I usually do (the aroma is half the coffee experience).

And I noticed a little foam floating on the dark liquid. I smelled it, tasted it, and realized that she TOTALLY misunderstood what I was looking for. Instead of a large decaf, she made me a triple espresso! Pretty much the OPPOSITE of what I was looking for!

I had to laugh because I realized that I hadn’t communicated my order well enough. It wasn’t the barista’s fault that I couldn’t order in Japanese in a Japanese coffee shop. The language created a gulf that no amount of hand signals or slow english nouns could bridge.

And when I talk with some Japanese people they often say “Sorry” for their limited English. And what I always want to say back is “No, you’re not the one who should apologize for your limited English. I should apologize to YOU for my infinitesimally small amount of Japanese. After all, I’m in YOUR country! I should be adjusting to YOU. You shouldn’t have to accommodate ME!”

Which is why, in the...(whole thing here)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sermon: Christmas Eve

This being my first Christmas in Japan, one of the things I’ve found refreshing is that I don’t have to worry about people whining about the so-called “War on Christmas.”

If you follow the western news you might notice that every December a few commentators, pundits, bloggers, and blowhards decry the fact that some people offer the seasonal greeting by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of the more traditional “Merry Christmas.”

This makes some people’s heads explode. They’re worried that by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” Christ is being taken out of Christmas, thereby being denied his rightful place in our December celebrations.

But I won’t comment on the fact that Christmas doesn’t start when Costco decides to put up their decorations, or when the radio stations start playing Christmas muzak.

I won’t point out that Christmas actually starts tomorrow, December 25, the day when we actually celebrate Jesus’ birth.

I won’t mention that the song The 12 Days of Christmas alludes to the fact that Christmas runs from December 25 to January 5.

What I WILL say is that demanding that people bow down to the cultic consumer idol that Christmas has become, they are pushing people further away from what gives the Christmas story -the story of Jesus’ birth - it’s power.

They want Jesus at the centre of society. But they forget that...(whole thing here)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sermon: Advent 3B

To prepare for my ministry with and among you I read a series of books on small churches, and how they’re different from large churches. Many of the authors noted that many small churches function like they’re large churches. Especially if they’re part of a denomination that requires them to have certain core programming. They rightly note that when small churches mimic the programming, staffing, and worship of larger churches, resources are stressed to the snapping point. Members burn out. Bank accounts get emptied. And morale plummets.

And that’s true.

So, one guy - a small church pastor - in an effort to combat this phenomenon used a...(whole thing here)

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Sermon: Advent 2B

“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make the Lord’s path straight!” says John the Baptist.

I know what he means. In my first week here in Tokyo I decided to go for a walk, to get to know the area a little bit better. It’s hard to get to know a place from a subway car or from a seat on a train.

Still in Alberta mode, where the streets are a grid, I wandered from the office to, what I assumed was the area of the Tokyo Dome. It didn’t look that far on the map, so I charted my route, thinking that it was just a quick north east from the front door of the church.

Well, I kept walking, and walking, and walking, and walking. And walking. And no Tokyo Dome anywhere in sight. I looked on my map and none of the street names were listed.

Since I had a general idea of where I was I tapped on the compass on my iPhone, and I knew I had to go south west to get to where I wanted to be. So I followed the compass for quite a few blocks.

After walking for another hour or so, I thought to myself, “This is crazy. I really gotta figure out where I am.”

So I stepped into a 7-11 and asked the clerk, “Tokyo Dome?”

She looked at me funny as if to say, “Really?”

So I asked again, “Tokyo Dome”?

She looked at me quizzically and pointed. I looked in the direction she was pointing, and THERE it was staring down at me! I didn’t see it because I was concentrating on the streets and not the buildings.

I tried to figure out how I could have gotten so far from my mark. After all I had stayed on one street. But then I realized that the streets weren’t straight. And apparently they weren’t MEANT to be straight. I’ve been told that the streets here in Tokyo were built in such a way as to confuse the enemy.

And I say, Job well done! While I hope I’m not the enemy, the streets sufficiently confused me. And still do. I still get lost trying to find places. And it doesn’t help that the streets were designed for people to get lost in them.

You have to be from here to really get the streets. Or at least you have to be here a long time to understand how to get around without getting lost.

I wonder if that’s what it’s like to be Christian here in Japan. After all, Christians are a VERY small part of the population. Christianity isn’t indigenous to Japan and hasn’t been here very long historically. Christianity is still trying to find its way around the streets, and not get lost searching for its final destination.

“Prepare the way of the Lord,” the John the Baptist says, “Make the Lord’s path straight.”

The people of God known as Israel knew what it was like to try to navigate the streets in a strange land.

Some have said that the...(whole thing here)