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Commemoration of the Martyrs of Japan

The following sermon was preached by Mary Climer, LSTC student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, February 5, 2009.


Mark 1:21-28

In this season of Epiphany we are reminded that Christ, the incarnate one, the light of the world has broken into the cosmos, breaking through the darkness, revealing the light of God. The Light set in motion actions of an adversary that had already come up, a cosmic upheaval of powers and principalities. Do we notice that evil gets nervous when the Light shows? The man with the unclean spirit called the Light, the Holy One of God, who could destroy it with a word. Do we notice that evil never leaves without resistance? The Holy One of God that commands the unclean spirit to muzzle and come out of the man does, convulsing and screaming. The Holy One of God commands the unclean spirit of our world to be muzzled and to come out, but it is convulsing and screaming. And we were all amazed and asked, "What is this?"

They took the prisoners with a portion of their ears cut off on carts to the city. Each cart with a placard announcing their sentence: "These men are condemned to die because though coming from the Philippine Islands as ambassadors, they have disobeyed the commands by preaching the Christian religion. Therefore, these six priests and the Japanese that have become their followers shall be crucified in Nagasaki." On arrival they step off the carts and then their wrists are tied by ropes to a cross with one sword thrust from the right side upwards towards the right shoulder and then from the left side towards the right shoulder, piercing the heart causing instant death. This is how and why the Martyrs of Japan whom we remember this day died. And we were all amazed and asked, "What is this?"

It was a resisted mission, a crossing of borders, the audacity of the incarnation. God saying, "I speak your language." But human language resisted and discounted. It wasn't always this way, Christian priests and their converts were not always persecuted, at times they were welcomed and accepted, worshipped even; the language heard. Times change and nation leaders change, suspicion creeps in and land becomes important and rivalries ensue and faith is the scapegoat and persons are victims and the powerbrokers control. This is what happened in Japan with Christianity, what once was thought a good thing became resisted and some one, some thing had to pay.

Eun Ae Lee shares, "I remember my grandfather had rejected me when I planned to go to a university in Seoul. That's because I was a female who lived in androcentric culture in Korea. Yet, I am trying to challenge a new study in the middle of Western culture, even though I am a female imaging a new world." Eun Ae saw the suffering of her mother. At meals, her mother could not have a comfortable place to eat, her place was in the corner and she ate after all others were fed.

The parents of the young boy who was assaulted by his peers and hung on a bathroom hook, left to die; know the suffering, the hell of the convulsing and screaming unclean spirit. Do we notice that evil gets nervous when the Light shows? The man with the unclean spirit called the Light, the Holy One of God, who could destroy it with a snap of the Holy One's fingers. Do we notice that evil never leaves without resistance? The Holy One of God that commands the unclean spirit to muzzle and come out of the man does, convulsing and screaming. And we are all amazed and ask, "What is this?" This is the Light, the Holy One of God, the audacious incarnation, commanding the unclean spirit to be muzzled and to come out and the unclean spirit responds convulsing and screaming.

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