Ordination at Roppingi Lutheran Church

Roppingi Lutheran Church is located in midtown Tokyo. Roppongi (六本木) means “six trees.” A large number of expatriates live here and it is the location of a number of embassies and businesses.

Roppingi Lutheran Church was begun by Rev. Dr. William Danker in 1948. US Military chaplains identified properties that were located in prime areas at economical prices. As a result, the Missouri Synod was able to purchase the property that today resides in midtown Tokyo.

Today was a particularly joyous occasion as Tomohiro Fujiki was ordained as the youngest pastor (27 years old) in the Japan Lutheran Church. President Kumei ordained Tomohiro Fujiki on the 1st Sunday after Easter (7 April 2013).

The LCMS guests (Collver, Masaki, Golter) were invited to participate in the ordination, along with 12 other clergy living in Japan. Dr. Masaki, Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, is pictured above laying hands on Fujiki and quoting from Matthew 17:6, “Listen to him.” Rev. Randy Golter, Executive Director of the Office of International Mission, quoted from 2 Tim 4:2, “Preach the Word.”

Dr. Collver cited Titus 2:1, “But you publicly speak what accords with sound / healthy doctrine.” The Greek word for “sound” is related to the English word “hygiene.” The teaching or doctrine that is preached is clean / pure / healthy. This “healthy” doctrine keeps the body of Christ healthy, pure, and clean. Preaching pure doctrine is the task Pastor Fujiki was given.

After Pastor Fujiki was ordained, he celebrated the Lord’s Supper.

The congregation receives Holy Communion from newly ordained Pastor Fujiki and the other assisting pastors.

After the service, the pastors who participated in the service and the attending congregation gathered for a group photograph.

Rev. Kumei, President of the Japan Lutheran Church, talks with Dr. Collver and Rev. Golter at the reception. President Kumei indicated he was pleased with the visit and hopes that the Japan Lutheran Church and the Missouri Synod could work together with renewed energy in Japan.

The visit between the Japan Lutheran Church and the Missouri Synod representatives went very well. The people of the Japan Lutheran Church showed great hospitality and kindness to us. We look forward to what The Lord might work between us in the future.

- Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Fujimi 1-Chōme,Chiyoda,Japan

Holy Hope Lutheran HighSchool Opening Service

On Saturday, 6 April 2013, we attended the opening service of Holy Hope Lutheran Junior and Senior High School. In Japan, April (like September is in the United States) is the beginning of the school year. Also unlike America, the opening service in Japan is as important for the parents and children to attend as graduation.

Holy Hope Lutheran School is 92 years old. About 30 years after the school’s founding, the LCMS purchased the building to assist in the mission of the church.
This photo shows all the people attending the opening service.

For the 2013 academic year, there are 55 students in the junior high and 377 in the high school.

In 1972, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) contributed funds to assist in the completion of a building.

The educational policy of Holy Hope Lutheran Junior and Senior High School “bases its educational principles on Christianity, and strives to educate its students to revere God, love their neighbor, value righteousness, and pursue faith in Christ.

LCMS pastor, Rev. Michael Piescer, the chaplain of Holy Hope Lutheran Junior and Senior High School, opened the service with an invocation, prayer, and hymn.

It was impressive to see the children answer the roll call during the opening service. It also was good to see how the LCMS was working with our partners in Japan.

Riding on the subway to the high school.

Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Revisiting Japan Tsunami

On Tuesday, 2 April 2013, Rev, Randy Golter, Executive Director of the Office of International Mission (OIM); Rev. Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne; Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations, arrived in Tokyo, Japan at the invitation of the Japan Lutheran Church (NRK), LCMS partner church, to discuss our ongoing partnership and to visit the sites damaged by the 2011 Tsunami.

This morning we left Sendai to visit the areas most damaged by the Tsunami. Dr. Masaki points on a map where we will visit.

A memorial marker in Ishinomaki, Japan, an epicenter of tsunami wave. The memorial says, “Hang in there, Ishinomaki.

Rev. Randy Golter looks at photographs of how the tsunami area looked before the disaster.

A sad moment was the visit to Old Ohkawa Elementary School, where 10 teachers and 76 children died. Although this region had suffered from earthquakes and even a tsunami in 1938, the location of the school had been considered safe from tsunamis. On the day of the earthquake, it had been snowing. The teachers conferred to decide whether or not to seek higher ground or to simply relocate outside the school. Unfortunately, they make the wrong decision and the teachers and students lost their lives.

A young boy goes to a shrine at the site of the Elementry school to pray for the souls of the deceased. In Japan, popular religion is a syncretistic mixture of Shintoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Praying for the souls of the deceased is a sort of good work you can do. It is believed that prayers for the deceased brings them comfort and makes the afterlife more pleasant, particularly when life ended in a tragic way such as from the tsunami. In Japan, the preservation of the remains of the dead is very important. In fact, the Japanese government went to great lengths to recover the remains of those who died in the tsunami. The remains are important because there is some hope of a resurrection in Confucianism.

Drs. Collver and Masaki at the site of the elementary school.

The LCMS in cooperation with the Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief assisted in the reconstruction in the affected tsunami regions.

Even two years after the tsunami, there is a great deal of recovery remains. There also is great need for the Gospel of Jesus.

Rev. Shinri Emoto of the Japan Lutheran Church at site of the elementary school.

The Japan Lutheran Church (NRK) hopes that the Lord will move the LCMS to continue support for theological education and the sending of personnel to assist in Japan.

- Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Kamaya Nirashima-Chōme,Ishinomaki,Japan

Easter Blessings from Pastor Harrison

“The hard work is over, says Luther. Christ has done everything for our salvation. It’s done! And, Luther says, it is as though our resurrection has already taken place in Jesus,” said the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, who quotes Martin Luther in his 2013 Easter video message. “Whatever you face in this Easter season . . . know that Christ is yours, and ours is eternal life.” Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Sermon on Luke 20:9-19

The following sermon on Luke 20:9-19 was preached by LCMS Fourth Vice-President, The Rev. Dr. Daniel Preus at the International Center Chapel on Friday, March 22, 2013.

In Jesus’ name, amen. As I read this text over a number of times, there was one thing about it that jumped out at me as being truly interesting. It was the initial reaction to the telling of Jesus’ parable. Jesus tells this story about the owner of the vineyard whose servants were brutally treated and then sent away empty handed, whose son was beaten and killed and thrown out. He says the owner of the vineyard will surely come to punish those who have acted this way and the response is, “Surely not!”

What an amazing response! When Jesus tells this parable, he is picking up on an Old Testament theme. In Isaiah 5 the prophet depicts God as planting a vineyard, taking care of it in every way possible and then coming to look for fruit on the vines and instead of finding good sweet grapes, finding only wild grapes or as one translator puts it, rotten, stinking grapes. Jesus picks up on this illustration in His parable and depicts the owner of the vineyard, whom all understand to be God, sending servants to determine what kind of fruit his vineyard is producing. The servants in the story are obviously the Old Testament prophets who frequently confronted and condemned the people for their lack of fruit – for their faithlessness. The servants are not only sent away empty-handed, however, with no fruit whatsoever, but are beaten and treated shamefully. The owner then sends his Son. Surely they will respect the Son of their Lord! But instead the vine-growers determine to kill him, thinking the inheritance will then be theirs. And then they do kill him and throw him out. In the face of such unthinkable dishonesty, brutality, murder and treason the owner of the vineyard determines to destroy the evildoers, take the vineyard away from them and give it to others – and the response to this parable of Jesus? Surely not!

Surely not!? The response seems so incredibly illogical, unreasonable and strange. And it is – but it’s not so unusual. Take a culture like the one you and I live in where increasing numbers of people forsake and show contempt for the commandments of God, where they dabble in the Eastern religions or forsake the worship of the one true God entirely, where they insist that all gods are equal and all religions have equal access to the truth, where those who are actually faithful are treated with disdain or even persecuted. What is the reaction when God’s law is applied, when people treat the owner of the vineyard as though he had no right to expect fruit and the one who made them and has so abundantly blessed them promises to punish them for their disobedience and unbelief? What is the reaction? An indignant “Surely not!”

And what about you and me? When the Lord comes to us and says, “I came looking for good, sweet fruit and I didn’t find it. I came looking for those who would love me with all their heart and soul and mind, for those who always love their neighbors like themselves and I didn’t find them. Your fruit stinks! You deserve to be punished; you deserve to be destroyed.” What is our reaction? It is in our nature to think, “Surely not!” In the face of judgment, it is in our nature to justify ourselves and say, “Surely not!”

Thank God that, in the face of his Law, the Holy Spirit has led us to reject that self-justification that is always striving for domination in our lives and spirits and has led us to remorse for our sin. Thank God that in His mercy, He has led us to cry out for mercy and forgiveness and has provided a way to forgiveness that has removed His judgment from us.

But perhaps when the people reacted to Jesus’ parable with the cry, “Surely not!” they were not disagreeing with the just judgment of the owner of the vineyard. Perhaps they were instead telling Jesus that he was wrong when he said that the vine growers would kill the heir when he came. Perhaps they were expressing outrage at something so unthinkably horrible that they simply could not imagine it happening. That they would kill the Son of God. No, that would never happen! Surely not!

But of course, it did, and the scribes and the chief priests, whose voices may very well have joined with the others in crying out, “Surely not!’ were already planning to take him captive and to kill him. And their crucifixion of Jesus became a rejection of everything he ever said about Himself.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” Surely not.

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Surely not.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his onlybegotten Son.” Surely not.

It is this message of rejection the chief priests and scribes intend to send with their crucifixion of Jesus.

But then He rises from the dead! And of course in the resurrection of Jesus all those “Surely nots” are dissolved and evaporate in the face of his clear conquest of death, as his power to deliver on all his promises is made evident to all who will see.

And now the heir to the vineyard, the one who holds the whole world and everything in it in his nail-scarred hands has a message for weak and sinful people like you and me. It is a message of forgiveness and comfort from the one who freely gave Himself up to death in order that we might live. It is a message that responds to every doubt and every fear you have.

“I am afraid that I have been too disobedient for God to forgive me.” Surely not!

“I am afraid that I have been too weak and dirty for God to love me.” Surely not!

“I look at my troubles. I am overwhelmed. I am afraid that God has deserted me.” Surely not!

“I look to my future; I consider my frailties and I am afraid that death will defeat me.” Surely not!

“Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Amen.