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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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Road trips are always a great way to process things. It gives you the opportunity to reflect and ponder life. This road trip in particular has been good for me because I’ve experienced so much recently and God has been working in my life as a result of these experiences. I’ve experienced the death of both my Grandmother and my uncle in the past two weeks. I had a wonderful Holy Week in which I was able to proclaim my faith in baptism. I’m doing life with some pretty amazing people and my family has bonded together in ways I haven’t seen in a long time. God is good and my Grandmother’s death has drawn me closer to Him. I’m headed out to Catalyst West Coast in Irvine, California. I first went to Catalyst in 2009 with a team of leaders from my previous church. I attended the year after as well and haven’t been back since. Now I find myself being called to these conferences to soak in some teaching and to learn from those that are leading the church today. God has been preparing my heart for some big plans recently and has been opening many doors for me already. I attended a conference for my counseling college in the Fall and started to pray to God about what He wanted me to do with the courses that I have been taking. Not too long later, God started to bring young men into my life in search of mentorship and now I am finding myself pouring into the lives of several men as of late. My spiritual life grew closer to God through worship and He has further shaped my heart to be a part of being a voice for this generation by seeking change in this world. This grew out of attending Passion in Atlanta. God further aligned my heart to His heart for justice in Philadelphia by the example of those that spearheaded the movement for justice before me. Now God is calling me back into leadership. I just completely eight weeks of leadership training, joined my church counseling team and started a missional community. Catalyst is a wonderful conference of teaching and equipping leaders in ministry and I’m excited He has called me to come back. I saw Brad Lomenick speak a couple of months back at PhoenixONE and it was confirmation that God wanted me to be back here in Irvine. I also have many friends from the many years I was in ministry that are going to be here and I’m excited to spend time with them. After arriving, I spent my first night in worship praising the Lord for how great He is on the beaches of Newport Beach watching the sun go down.

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WE ARE ALL IN IT TO END IT!

Today is Shine a Light on Slavery Day. This is the target day for End it Movement to reach the masses about the 27 million people being held in modern-day slavery and sex trafficking. This movement started in January at Passion 2013 and has made a lot of noise since. Everywhere college students and young adults are finding creative ways to talk about this issue. Many celebrities have jumped on board to use their star status to raise awareness. Awareness is doing the work and End It exists to help educate us about this injustice. We are the generation that can be a voice for those without one and put an end to slavery. Indifference is not an option. Draw a red X on your hand and talk to people about this. Go to EnditMovement.com and sign the pledge that says you are in it to END IT!

 

 

 

 

 

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END IT Sunday!

END IT Sunday!

Times Square IS IN IT TO END IT!

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The campus of Arizona State University is IN IT TO END IT!

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Love

I support loving people as they try to figure out God. I support Christians who understand grace and forgiveness. As a fellow brother in Christ, I urge my fellow believers to stop being cruel and judgemental and stop engaging in culture wars. Allow people the freedom to understand and grow. Love people for who they are and where they are at so that they may experience the Love of Christ.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Matthew 22: 37-40

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I think I got five hours of sleep last night. I quickly got up, grabbed my $3 special and headed to community groups. John Piper met with us leaders to encourage us in our respective ministries. He spoke from Matthew 6:25-34 on this topic of anxiety. He encouraged us not to be anxious about tomorrow or this upcoming year 2013.

Dr. Piper first talked about scripture and three ways of how to approach it – Memorize it, Analyze it and Believe it. The original authors did not intend for the books to be split into chapters. He encouraged us to read scripture with the whole book in mind. If we don’t do this, will have a tendency to become moralists (one concerned with regulating the morals of others). He then talked about faith.

Eight key points from Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV):

1. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (v.25) Do not get caught up with physical things or outward appearance

2. Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (v.26) We are more valuable to God than the birds

3. And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (v.27)We add more stress and trouble when we are anxious

4. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (v.30)God provides

5. Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (v.31) – Don’t act like the Gentiles (unbelievers)

6. For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (v.32)We can trust God – He is all-knowing

7. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (v.33)We have the promises of God for our needs – He meets them

8. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (v.34) –  Each day has enough trouble of its own. God gives us what we need to deal with the trouble for the day. We can’t run tomorrow’s trouble today. (Lamentations 3:22)

Pray and let your requests be known to God!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

One thing I took away from this morning was the importance of memorizing scripture. Just seeing Dr. Piper quote long passages of scripture showed me the importance of letting the words of God sink in. I pray that I will spend more quality time in the Word this coming year and truly allow scripture to penetrate me.

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Greg Haugen and Louie Giglio

If there is an organization making a difference in the world with the issue of slavery and sex trafficking, it is International Justice Mission. IJM is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Their vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible. IJM was founded in 1997 and works all over the world. I have been looking forward to this part of Passion all week as they had President Greg Haugen come and speak to us.

Greg spoke to us about how his heart was turned onto justice. In 1994, Rwanda experienced their genocide in which millions of people were murdered in a matter of weeks. The world watched and did nothing. People were asking the question “where was God?” Greg asked the question “where were God’s people?” Here are some key notes from his talk:

The World will know we are His followers if we have outward love for each other

Some facts: 27 million people in the world are being held in slavery. These people are being forced to work all day. In sex trafficking, abused and raped children are being sold. And it is in our own backyard…

We can be the generation that ends slavery. Not because we are awesome, but because we have an awesome God. We need to make the 27 million people in slavery a priority. The world needs to see that God is present and those in slavery need to know that our God is a God that saves.

DO JUSTICE, LOVE MERCY, WALK HUMBLY – MICAH 6:8

What is God’s plan? – WE are the plan (God’s people). He gives us the power.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis – The Four Loves

Christ offers five things to us (because we don’t have a chance to change this on our own)

1. Extravagant compassion – God opens our heart to a hurting world. We wants to transform our hearts of stone to a heart of flesh

2. Moral clarity – Evil is confusing. God gives us His Word to tell right from wrong

3. Sacrificial courage – We will have to see and tell hard things. Jesus grows the courage in our hearts

4. Tenacious hope – We will see more defeats than mercy. God is the ultimate Lord of this world and justice will prevail

5. Refreshing joy – Joy is the oxygen to do hard things. He gives us good things to refresh us to do the hard things

Greg showed this video from the civil rights movement of 1961. I was very moved by it. Jim Zwerg (a white man) and John Lewis (an African-American man) rode these Freedom Ride buses together to fight against segregation. Jim was beaten up for his stance. This video of him in the hospital was recorded right after the attacks. Jim would also go on to say that he meditated on Psalms 27 the night before and that he gained his strength to stand up for justice from his faith. Hundreds would later join the Freedom Ride after this video was shown.

God can do immeasurably more in us

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If you love me, you will keep my commandments

John 14:15 (ESV)

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple

Luke 14:33 (ESV)

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