Praising in painful times

Jul 23, 2015 by and

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Yukari Kaga, a pastor from Hokkaido, Japan, admitted Peter’s praise in his letter to the early church seems “a little strange to me.”

Conrad Grebel University College assistant professor of music Maisie Sum directs the college’s Gamelan Ensemble at a July 22 worship service. Grebel established a course on the Balinese percussive instrument in 2013 as part of its Global Music program. — Dale D. Gehman for Meetinghouse

Conrad Grebel University College assistant professor of music Maisie Sum directs the college’s Gamelan Ensemble at a July 22 worship service. Grebel established a course on the Balinese percussive instrument in 2013 as part of its Global Music program. — Dale D. Gehman for Meetinghouse

Peter wrote this letter (1 Peter) in such a cruel situation, Kaga said during evening worship July 22 at Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Harrisburg, Va.

“I have a question,” she said. “How can we praise the Lord in such a painful situation?”

When we struggle with fear or anxiety, our hearts shrink, Kaga said. Then we get depressed, and self-pity covers us.

“However, there is a life that gives a true life,” she said. The Scripture passage for the evening worship was 1 Peter 1:3-9.

The Chinese character (shared by the Japanese written language) for mercy resembles an antique clothing iron. Mercy is like that iron — not too hot or too cold, but “exactly the right temperature for us,” she said.

“This is the work of the Holy Spirit,” she said. “It irons our heart — our shrunken heart — with the exact right temperature many times again and again.”

Mercy is also like a shield, she said.

“Our faith hasn’t disappeared because of God’s shield,” she said. “This is our Christian hope.”

We can also praise God like Peter in this letter, she said.

Kaga ended by reminding those gathered at worship that, “Jesus’ death has swallowed death in victory,” she said. “This is the work of God’s great power.”

Kaga is the pastor of numerous congregations, including Japan Mennonite Obihiro Christ Church and several small churches in the Tokachi region of Hokkaido. She serves her conference as the secretary of the executive committee and also serves at the Mennonite Education and Research Center and as chief director of the Peace Mission Center.

A graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va., with a degree in pastoral counseling, Yukari also holds a master of divinity degree from Tokyo Biblical Seminary.

Before Kaga’s message, Larry Miller, former MWC General Secretary, brought greetings from the Global Christian Forum.

Miller became GCF’s first full-time Secretary on Jan. 1, 2012.

The GCF, formed in 1998, is a growing global initiative that seeks to bring leaders of all Christian churches in the world together to foster mutual respect and to address common challenges.

At the end of the 20th century, Miller said, there were 30,000 distinct Christian denominations.

Anne-Cathy Graber of Paris, France, also brought greetings. She represents MWC on the GCF committee.

The assembly also heard a message from the Catholic Church delivered by Monsignor Gregory Fairbanks of Philadelphia.

The worship service in the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex Arena began with music from Indonesia, Japan, India and more. The service ended with an upbeat rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

See all MWC assembly coverage here.

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