Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sep.16 Respect for the Aged Service
Psalms 146: 1~10
           Title:[I will Praise the Lord all my life]
We observe today’s worship service as “Respect-for-the-Aged worship service”. Tomorrow, September 17 is called “Respect-for-the-Aged Day” and is a national holiday in Japan.
 
 We will have a recognition time for those of 70 years old and above after the worship service. Let us then offer thanksgiving and praise to the Lord God as we give thanks for those that are aging whose lives have been protected by the Lord God, have lived so far and the blessing that we could worship together today as this.
From Psalms 145 prior to today’s Psalms 146 until Psalms 150 are called “Hallelujah Psalms”. That is because each psalms begins and ends with the word “hallelujah”. 
In the Japanese orally translated bible is translated as [Praise the Lord]. And in the New International Version is “Praise the Lord” as well. 
The “Hallelu” of hallelujah means “Exalt. Praise” in the Hebrew language. “Yah” is the contracted form of “YHWH Yahweh”, letters that are found in the Old Testament that stand for God. Therefore, “hallelujah” means “Praise the Lord” in Hebrew language. 
If I shout and pray the original Hebrew language “Hallelujah!” (Praise the Lord!) as is, just like saying “amen”, I feel like my heart extremely burns and my faith is lifted up. How about everyone? 
Verse 5 is written as follows.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
If we praise with “hallelujah”, similar word that Jacob of the Old Testament used to praise, “our faith is one that had been inherited from the ancient generation” and the thought that “ even us, are connected with ancient believers” becomes strong.
Which means that the God that was made known to us is not just an idol that we have made by imagination. As written in the bible, we believe God that revealed Himself to Moses and Jacob, and saved them, the God that created heaven and earth.
In verse 2, this Psalmist (Psalms 146 writer) says “I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live”.
 “What do I want to do?”, “For what purpose man is born into this world?”, I believe that there are times when anyone of us has such a question. Particularly the young people, I believe that they are troubled on “What do I really want to do?” when making job decision.
A life where one finds his own interest, be enthusiastic and dedicated to it is said to be a life of great happiness.
 
 At that point, today’s hallelujah psalms give us great hope. That is because it conveys that anyone of us can have such “a thing where we can dedicate to throughout our life”, “a thing where we can be enthusiastic and continue all our life”.
That is “to praise the Lord”. To praise our Lord God, to worship the Lord is something that anyone of us can do as long as we live. And the bible teaches that that is the purpose that man is born in to this world.
 We can praise the Lord anytime. There is nothing that can take away from us the grace to praise the Lord. If we open our heart and turn our mind upon the Lord, the Lord God is present all the time. God is One who constantly listens to our praise.
 “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul.” (v.1) This poet turns to his soul and instructs it. It seems like he summons himself “not to praise just by words but to praise the Lord from his soul”.
He seems to persuade himself and tries to make strong determination “Praise the Lord, my soul”, “I praise the Lord!”
However, I can imagine that this poet says such as this because the truth is (I’ve mentioned earlier, “We can praise anytime” but...) isn’t it that he also experienced and had thoughts “I cannot praise the Lord”, “Though I want to praise the Lord, there are times that I can’t”? 
The truth is, the more we say “Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!”, the more we find our self unable to do it... Isn’t this poet confronted such limitation of his own faith, even his weakness amid his life?
There must be times when we are also in trying moments, depressed or dispirited that “we can’t praise God” or “can’t even pray”. What should we do in such times?
To tell you the answer to that question, the hint is written in verse 3.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,  in human beings, who cannot save.
 We are not to depend our praise or prayer on our own strength or emotion (happiness, sadness). If we do so, we will certainly be on a deadlock.
If we cannot praise nor pray, it is important that even such thoughts be completely “ entrusted to the Lord and ask Him to resolve it”. For it cannot be settled by man.
We believe that although at times we cannot praise nor pray, the Lord God knows all our mind, and He listens to our unexpressed voice.
 

It is written in the New Testament, Romans 8:26~27.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
This means that the Spirit of Jesus Christ knows whatever thoughts we have, He takes all even our unexpressed prayer or “I can’t praise” thoughts, and intercedes for us to the heavenly Father God. 
 To praise or even to pray is a matter that we basically can’t do by our own strength nor thoughts. It is God who saved us, and it is also Him who gave us the heart to praise and pray to Him.
And in times when we cannot pray or we seem unable to praise, let us entrust such thought completely to the Lord and ask Him for comfort. And to confess our own thoughts to our brothers and sisters in faith of the same church, and pray together also becomes our great strength.
How great strength it is for us to have brothers and sisters in faith whom we can say “Pray for me for I cannot pray.” 
We are grateful indeed that we are given “such a place of faith that is the church and partners in faith”. I hope that it would be well to become more partners in faith that pray for one another. 
 
Today is Respect-for-the-Aged worship service. As I was preparing today’s sermon, I prayed and pondered on how we should consider the matter of “getting old” or “aging”.
We say “Keirou (respect for the aged), however, what in the world should we actually respect? We are supported by the work and existence of the aged, those that have lived longer than us . Therefore, we are to remember and demonstrate honor for the hardships of the elders until then. 
However, I think that the Christian is to demonstrate the best thanksgiving and honor to “the fact that the God of Jesus Christ who is the Lord of life had protected and guided each one of the elders’ life so far”.
And “aging” is eventually a result of piling up each day. I think that though it seems to be long years, it is just a pile up of each day for us to live, also the period of each moment in a day.
The pastor of my mother church will soon be 60 years of pastor’s life. I tend to feel like saying”Thank you for those long years of hard work” but the pastor always said “ I don’t feel like I have been working that long.” Isn’t it our life similar to that as well?
Let us be thankful that the Lord God makes us live every moment each day, and I hope that we faithfully work on the matter that we are suppose to face presently. Actually, we just have to do each thing one after another. We cannot do all at once.
There are various unexpected matters that happen amid each of our days, and we are also driven by things that we must do. Even in that time, I would like us to walk each day within that given period as we prioritize in order things that we must do as much as possible.
 In today’s verses 7~9, this poet’s confession about who the Lord is, is written.
In there, the Lord judges for the persecuted, and gives bread to the hungry.
He sets the captives free, opens the eyes of the blind and raises the crouched. He loves those that obey Him. He protects the stranger, and comforts the orphan and the widow.
However, how about our reality? There is inadequate food supply in the present world and numerous people starve. Strangers, particularly at present, there are also innumerable people that are deprived of their housing and have become refugees. Also many people who suffer from illness. Amid such world of reality, why can we say that these words of this Psalms are true, particularly the words of verses 7~9?   
I once had an opportunity to come in contact with a believer who was close to death due to serious illness with that figure facing the end of his life through his faith to the Lord. 
I have also heard a testimony of faith where the Lord’s love, mercy and joy was found even in great sorrow.
There is also the reality of miserable sorrow around us. However, we are given the certain hope as well that is given through the Word of God and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
When we read God’s Word of the bible and His Word speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, when we are strengthened by His Word and face reality, we are given the conviction that “the Lord is able to do no matter what it is.”, “The Lord loves us.”
The word of the bible teaches that “faith is not merely words or ideals within our mind”. The word of the bible urges us “that we may face the reality around us.”
To have faith in Jesus Christ is to have an intimate personal relationship with Him, and through that our way of life is changed. It’s a way of life where we face up to the reality around us and get involved with other people.
God became man and lived together with human being. God took the form of Jesus Christ and became our neighbor or friend.
God became man and shouldered our suffering and sorrow, He considered even man’s limitation as His own and took everything upon Himself. He had exchanged His own eternal life with our human life that is bound to die if it remains as is.
Respect-for-the-Aged is to honor our life, to give importance to our daily life. And to give our reverence for the Lord God who gave us life.
Let us be thankful to the Lord God who had given us life, and the heart and words to praise the Lord. Let us continue to be a church that keeps on praising the Lord even from now on.
 
Today is the “Respect-for-the-Aged” worship service, let us then all together with the elders, the young people and even the children praise the Lord “Hallelujah!” from our heart, from our soul. And let us encourage one another our brothers and sisters of the same church and pray for each other even from now on.