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SILENCE

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Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence, first published in 1966, endures as one of the greatest works of twentieth-century Japanese literature. Its narrative of the persecution of Christians in seventeenth-century Japan raises uncomfortable questions about God and the ambiguity of faith in the midst of suffering and hostility.

Endo’s Silence took internationally renowned visual artist Makoto Fujimura on a pilgrimage of grappling with the nature of art, the significance of pain and his own cultural heritage. His artistic faith journey overlaps with Endo’s as he uncovers deep layers of meaning in Japanese history and literature, expressed in art both past and present. He finds connections to how faith is lived in contemporary contexts of trauma and glimpses of how the gospel is conveyed in Christ-hidden cultures.

In this world of pain and suffering, God often seems silent. Fujimura’s reflections show that light is yet present in darkness, and that silence speaks with hidden beauty and truth.

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Silence, Beauty, and the Shape of Christian Discipleship

by Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

In 1966 the Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo published his masterpiece of historical fiction, titled Silence. It’s the story of Catholic missionaries in Japan during the 17th century, of Japanese persecution and torture of Christians, of apostasy and love, and of a God who stays silent during suffering until it is time for God to break the silence. The novel raises profound questions about love and suffering, and, in doing so, sticks with and haunts its readers for years.

View this conversation with internationally renowned artist Makoto Fujimura, philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, and theologian Neal Plantinga. Participants describe their first encounter with the novel Silence and then discuss the power of icons, the unthinkable forms sometimes taken by love, and the grace of God in history that gives voice to the voiceless. Fujimura also previews the film Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese.

Makoto Fujimura is a gifted artist and writer. In his memoir titled Silence and Beauty, Fujimura reflects on Endo’s novel, on faith in the face of torture, on the artist’s calling, on Japanese history and culture and what it means for Christians to be a tiny, historically persecuted minority within Japan. Deeply imaginative, brooding, and piercing, Silence and Beauty stirs the reader’s heart with longings previously unknown.

Congregations are encouraged to read Endo’s book and view the movie Silence produced by Paramount Pictures.

Silence Discussion Guide
The following questions may be used for discussion and further reflection:

Share with the group one thing that struck you as you read (or viewed).
What questions does this story raise?
This story is often described as “atmospheric.” Why so?
Who are the main characters?
Who is Kichijiro and what role does he fill? Is his defense of his actions plausible? Would we be like him if under similar pressure?
Why would a novel like Silence become an international best-seller, including in Japan? After all, it tells the story of Portuguese missionaries in 17th century Japan, and ends up making both Japan and the Catholic Church look pretty bad. Why is this story widely regarded as a masterpiece?
Could there be cultural or national “swamps” where the gospel simply can’t take root?
Is God’s silence in the face of persecution always a form of abandonment by God?
If the only way a Christian can save the lives of other Christians is by renouncing Christ, would it be right to do it? What if you only think you can save their lives (persecutors sometimes lie)? If you renounce Christ to save lives, can Christ “take it”? Might Christ even invite you to renounce him to save lives? Or is any thought along those lines mere self-deception?
In short, does Rodrigues betray Christ by trampling or does he follow Christ?
In general, should we calculate the possible consequences of our actions as the main basis for an ethically questionable decision, or just follow God’s commands, and let God take care of the consequences?
What moral ambiguities test Christians today? Have you ever faced a quandary? For example, with a difficult relative? With a friend who is betraying his or her spouse? On the street in front of a panhandler? How do you decide what to do?
What are some small, undramatic ways we ourselves renounce Christ? At work. In our political choices. In our consumption of pop culture. In our family systems.
Where in the world today do Christians face real persecution? What forms does contemporary persecution take?

Silence and Beauty Discussion Guide
Questions for groups reading Makoto Fujimura’s book Silence and Beauty:

What special angles of vision do the Japanese have on beauty? If you were to introduce the concept of beauty to someone, how would you proceed?
Is beauty a purely relative concept? Is beauty only in the eye of the beholder?
What might it mean to refer to the beauty of God?
What’s the connection between appreciation of beauty and faith in God?
Why are the Japanese fascinated with hiddenness, and what forms does it take for them?
Why is trauma so deep in the Japanese psyche?
Why are the Japanese resistant to the gospel (by contrast, for instance, with Koreans)?
What are our own fumies? What in our own faith are we willing to trample in order to fit into a prevailingly secular culture?
After he has become apostate, does Father Rodrigues still have a ministry? A valid one?

Silence and Beauty Exhibition

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So… there is this amazing team from Food for the Hungry headed to Bangladesh next week. They are the FH Bloggers and they will be using their voices to tell the stories of what God is doing there and to mobilize others to make a difference in the world. I have worked alongside Food for the Hungry many times in the past and have so much respect for them and what they do. I can’t wait to share the God story of how I got connected with this. But right now you need to follow these guys and keep the team in prayer.

FH Bloggers

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I love nights like tonight at PhoenixONE. They had inspirational speakers come and talk about their organizations and how God is working around the world. I have always felt the college/ young adult age can make a huge difference in our world. David Wright from Youth for Christ International spoke about what God is doing with the youth. They work all around the world mobilizing these young people to be leaders and share the love of Christ. Below is a video of what they are doing in Rwanda and in the high schools in the U.S.

Youth for Christ reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ and commitment to social involvement.

 

I’ve always been a fan of Venture Expeditions. I have friends that have served in Czechoslovakia through Venture. Paul Hurckman spoke about Venture and how they mobilize people through cycling and other humanitarian projects. They have partnered with all types of organizations like International Justice Missions and music artists to make Jesus’ name famous. This was an encouraging night and I hope to see more young adults make radical decisions to spread the love Jesus.

The Venture Expeditions community empowers people to benefit the world and discover their souls through adventure-driven humanitarian efforts.

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This song has always had special meaning to me. We sang it a lot on my first mission trip 6 years ago and every time I would hear it I would think of that particular trip and how God called me to be on mission. How I have interpreted what ‘being on mission’ looks like has changed so much over the years. Today my Pastor talked about being on mission and afterwards we sang this song. It was a moment I needed to just stand in the back and really listen to God what He was saying to me in that moment.

Chris spoke about his heart to be on mission to both the ASU and Tempe High campuses (funny – both schools I went to). I spend about 80% of my time in the surrounding community building relationships and serving people – it’s kinda how God wired me. I form relationships pretty easily and I attribute that gift to God.  I just formed a partnership with an amazing faith base coffee shop and was just offered an opportunity to teach english classes to international students in both Tempe and in China. These are just some of the ways God is calling me to be ‘on mission’ to the community and the world.

Even though these things are exciting and rewarding, I’m still a family man at heart. As I pack for vacation here, I am reminded of how much I love spending time with my boys and being there for them. I’m enjoying my time with my siblings and friends as well. First and foremost, being on mission for my family comes first. This is something I have confused many times in the past. It’s also a common mistake with Pastors who put their ministry above their families.

A few years back I was in a great relationship with an amazing girl and I began to withdraw from her as we got more serious. As I look back at that, my fear was I wouldn’t be able to do ‘big and great things’ for God if I married her. My heart and identity was wrapped up in a mega church that I was grossly over-volunteering for and a mediocre missions program that I was trying to inject life into. Being on mission meant that I was doing the noticeable things for God and I made sure ‘Facebook world’ knew about it. Now I look back and laugh at how arrogant and selfish I was back then. It wasn’t about God, it was about me. Who am I to interpret what ‘big things’ for God looks like?

I’m very thankful for the opportunities that God gives me to go out into the world and serve and for the serving opportunities here in the valley. They really do enrich and reward my life and it’s my heart and I love telling the stories of what God is doing (not me). But at the same time, I love being on mission for my family and watching my boys grow to be amazing men of God. God has really rewired my thinking and shown me what the Kingdom is all about. Jesus says over and over that the Kingdom of God is near and for me, that could just be chatting with the guy next to me in a coffee shop. Only Jesus can move mountains (the ‘big things”) and I am here to be His servant so He can use me to be that shining light to others. His will, not mine and I am thankful to be even just a small part of His plan for the world.

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Three years ago I took the Pathways course at East Valley Bible church when I was invited to come onto the mission board at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. The following year I signed on to their task force and helped grade papers and run the program every week. It a great course on cross-culture missions and how the message of reaching the nations is preached throughout the Bible. Pathways is a 13-week class that explores God’s worldwide agenda and the significant role each of us can play in His relentless Kingdom intentions. Taught through great reading material and different speakers from mission agencies and missionaries who have been overseas, Pathways focuses on God’s heartbeat and purpose for the nations and our role as the church in His wonderful plan. Last week, Christin and I went and checked out the class at Central Christian church and decided it would be good for us to take if God ever calls us to missions someday. We spent our first Valentine’s Day together studying and learning God’s Word.

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PRAY

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Colossians4:3 (NIV)

Prayer is essential to the work God does in the world. One of the best things I do to keep up with what different missionaries is read their stories. It used to be you had to wait till they came back from a long term trip to hear the stories and see pictures. Now with today’s technology, email and blog pages give us instant updates. Follow missionaries’ prayer email letters or visit their blogs and find out what God is doing in other countries. Pray for their specific needs.  Another thing you can do is stay updated on current events in the world.

SEND

And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15 (NIV)

Missionaries were sent at the time of Paul. Sending missionaries to the mission field involves giving financially. That is why prayer and support letters are given out to those who send. It gives you the opportunity to be a part what God is doing in the world, especially if you are not able to go yourself. Another part of sending missionaries is writing encouraging letters. It can get lonely out there and reading emails and letters can really make a different in a missionary’s long term stay in another country.

GO

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 (NIV)

A small but powerful word. Go! It involves stepping out in faith. Even though it doesn’t always make sense on paper, just know God will provide a way when you obey. He will use your gifts and talents. And if going long term doesn’t fit in your plans, try a short term trip. Find out what trips your local church has planned and get a glimpse of what God is doing in the world.  Then take that experience and pray and ask if he is speaking to you to do something more.

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My crazy had passed and my life is settling back to normal for the time being.

Said bye to Ron, Anna and the fam Sunday. Harder than I thought it would be… Then said bye to Shauna and Keira as they head to Africa to do some mission work. Love those two and their passion for ministry… And I just want to give a shout out to my friends and family going to Kenya as well this week.. I will be praying for you guys!

I caught up with the guys of my men’s group this week… missed them. Ready to dive into some deep scripture reading.

Awesome meeting with Pastor Jeff Gokee the other day. He presented an amazing ministry oppportunity for me. He challenged me in my walk as well.. love that!

Counseling with da ex went well yesterday.. that’s always good.. makin progress.

Glad to have both Candace n Nancy back. Two of my favorite people. Call me

Back at work this week.. Work is… well…. work..

Lookin to catch up with Jamin this week before he leaves. I’m hearing some sushi with Axtell. That’s always quite the show…

Looking to have some fun with the boys on the 4th. Have no clue what we are doing.

Rock climbing is on the agenda with Missy. Go easy on me … I’m fragile

I miss Praxis. Might have to miss AGAIN this week. I’m hearin someone floated me some Mercy Me tickets Sunday night.

Leading Bible study tonight and givin a presentation on Belize. Gotta recruit some people on our annual Fall trip.

I think I covered everything for the week. God is good!!

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