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silence-video

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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Hillsong

John 14:23-27

Jesus is the destination

Reality checks 

You will not be the first human in history that trys to skip the God process

Breakdown before breakthrough – there is a process

When you skip the process, you rob yourself

It may seem you might get away with it now, but you will pay for it tomorrow

Proof you are making progress – it will be evident by how much grace you give others while they make progress

Matthew 18:21-35

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Be careful you don’t get caught putting a “process clock” on people that God is not aware of…

Our job is to show up and obey

On the process journey, God may not just be working on them. He might be working on you

Hope is to help somebody

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We must live spirit led so we can SHOW LOVE like nobody else can

Matthew 5:13-16

Be present in the process

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Hillsong Church

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“What can I give back to God
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvationa toast to God!
I’ll pray the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it together with his people.” – Psalm 116

Fuller Studio

Reading tips for the Psalms:

  1. Pay attention to the whole of a psalm, not just to the parts of a psalm.
  1. Read the psalms consistently, rather than occasionally and sporadically.
  1. Pay attention to the internal coherence of a psalm or a section of psalms, rather than allowing them to remain fragmented parts, reflective of our immediate and self-absorbed interest.
  1. Read the psalms out loud, not just silently.
  1. Read and sing and pray the psalms together, not just alone.
  1. Pay attention the Psalter’s “hospitable ‘I’” and its “intimate communal” sense, rather than allowing the individual expressions to devolve to individualism and the communal expressions to devolve to an impersonal communalism.
  1. Immerse yourself in the metaphors that the psalmist employs, rather than remaining distant and detached from them.
  1. Pay attention to the placement and role of the psalms in the biblical canon, rather than viewing them as isolated and idiosyncratic.

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But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Psalms 5:11-12

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Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

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Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

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