Timothy and Mari McKenzie are ELCA missionaries in Tokyo. To support them, or another of the ELCA's more than 240 missionaries in the global church, click here.
Season after Pentecost, July 2014
Dear Friends in Christ,
We send you greetings in the name of Christ Jesus from Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary and Japan Lutheran College in Mitaka City, Tokyo. We thank you for your sponsorship and support of our work in Japan and of the wider Global Mission of the ELCA. We are currently journeying through the season after Pentecost, giving thanks for the work of the Holy Spirit in the church.
Related to this, one of the responsibilities of my work in theological education at the seminary in Tokyo is preaching and teaching at local congregations throughout Japan. The seminary has a program named "kodan hoshi," which in translation means "service through teaching." One way that seminary faculty serve the Lutheran church in Japan is through preaching and lecturing in local churches. This creates a sense of ongoing theological dialog between local congregations and the seminary.
On Pentecost 4 (July 6th) I traveled to Kurume City on the southern island of Kyushu to preach and
teach at Kurume Lutheran Church. Kurume Lutheran Church was founded in 1901, eight years after American Lutheran missionaries began mission work in Japan in 1892. This work was supported by predecessor bodies of the ELCA, the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as well as the United Lutheran Church in America. The current sanctuary was built in 1918, and was designed by William Merrell Vories, an American architect and missionary who worked in prewar Japan. The beautiful red brick church building survived the US bombing of Kurume on 11 August 1945, and is still in use today.
In the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC), the appointed Gospel text for July 6th , Pentecost 4, was Matthew 9:35-10:10, which recounts Jesus' healing of many and sending out his disciples to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. As familiar hymns were sung and heavy rains fell on the church during worship, I thought about Kurume Lutheran Church and its 113 years of proclaiming this Gospel of God's love for all people no matter the season or era. I thought about Kurume Lutheran's surviving the rain of bombs during the war, and its role in becoming a place of God's healing message after the war. In Matthew's text, Jesus instructs his disciples to greet any home that they enter with words of peace. The disciples are sent out with only Jesus' authority and the peaceful Gospel message of God's Kingdom alive now for all people. Kurume Lutheran Church has preached this message for over a century, and Lutheran churches in the US have been a part of Kurume Lutheran Church's mission through prayers, gifts and the missionaries who have served there.
Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tokyo participates in the JELC's mission through equipping seminarians to become pastors
sent out with Jesus' authority and the peaceful Gospel message of God's love for all people. On July 13th (Pentecost 5), our 3rd year seminary class will begin internship in local congregations. Like Jesus' disciples, every year seminarians are sent out after a Service of Holy Communion & Sending, and begin to experience the mission of the church outside of the classroom in local churches.
In our seminary chapel there is a large wooden relief in the front of the sanctuary titled "Sending" (派遣). This relief depicts the resurrected Christ sending out the church of every age to serve in the world, offering food and drink, as signs of forgiveness, hope and healing to a world broken by the reality of sin that separates humanity from itself and from God. When I sit in chapel I often think about the gift of freedom that Christ offers to all people through faith, and that freed, we are finally able to love and serve our neighbors. We thank you for your faithful service and accompaniment of the JELC through sponsoring the Global Mission of the ELCA. Your prayerful sponsorship continues to help the JELC proclaim Christ's gospel message of peace, forgiveness and healing for all people.
Sincerely in Christ,
Timothy & Mari McKenzie
ELCA missionaries to Japan