【June 2017 No.393】Our lives will end someday. What must we do before then?

by Takiyama Kiyomi, pastor, Takanosu Church, Akita Prefecture, Ou District                                                    Director, Kodomoen Shalom, Certified Nursery School and Kindergarten

My father used to declare, “I want to be working as a pastor until the day I die.” Ironically, just as he had said, he finished his earthly journey when he was 58 years old as the head pastor of Fukushima Shinmachi Church. My father was a happy-go-lucky kind of fellow who really loved children and liked to talk with people but did not like going to the doctor. He was so happy the day of my graduation from college, but that very night a stroke caused by arrhythmia took him away to heaven. It was just four days before Easter.

On that Easter Sunday my mother, the assistant pastor, gave the message instead of my father, who had almost always preached the sermons. Before that day, I had seen my mother stand at the pulpit only a few times. I do not remember the content of the message, but I will never forget the sight of my mother, illuminated by the light coming from the crystal glass of the chapel, looking straight ahead while speaking.

My parents were the kind of people who got really excited every Sunday. My mother used to get up especially early on Sunday mornings and sing hymns. I generally hid under the covers, but as her voice gradually got closer, I would jump out of bed. For me, the hymns that my mother sang were not a lullaby, but an alarm clock. My father had a habit of saying, “The job of a pastor is the best job!” He was the kind of person who, whenever he was asked about his sermon, would not stop talking.

I do not remember ever being told that I should become a pastor, but at some point I began to feel, “It is unnatural for me to live life as something other than a pastor.” I had been thinking, “Someday I will dedicate my life. Until then, I will do what I like.” But when I lost my father, I made up my mind and said, “Now is the time!” Right away, I got an application form and headed to an interview with a committee from Tohoku District in order to apply for the “C-course” examination.* The answer of the committee members was, “You are too young. But if you go to seminary, we will give you a recommendation. You need to study.” When I think about it now, all I can do is just blush. But at that time, I was ignorant of the fact that I did not know anything at all. Angrily, I headed for home.

I could not endure leaving my home in Fukushima, so I procrastinated about going to seminary and got a job at a nearby juku (cram school). Work was enjoyable, and every day was comfortable. But somewhere in my heart there was a sense of impatience. I thought, “I should not be doing this.” However, I could not break away from what I was doing. I kept saying to myself, “One more year,” until six years passed.

Then the East Japan Disaster happened. March 11, 2011 was supposed to be a normal day without anything unusual happening. It started out no different from usual. I left home, cleaned my workplace, and began to prepare for my lessons. At 2:46 p.m. as the ground shook violently, everything changed. It was announced that everyone should return home, so I went home and found my mother cleaning the church sanctuary. But our house was a mess! My mother was worried and said, “I wonder if we can hold the worship service this Sunday.” I looked at her, dumbfounded, and thought, “She really thinks of nothing else but church.” After my father had passed away suddenly, she was worried about the worship service even as she was crying. And now, even during the Great East Japan Disaster,  she was more worried about the worship service than about our own home, even though we had just had a sudden earthquake. Watching my mother, I saw that she had a divine and unwavering calling to be a pastor.

Every day, in the newspaper and on television, there were reports about the people who had died. I heard the names of people who were younger than I was. I am sure that each person had been spending that day no differently from any other day. However, days that are no different from other days do not last forever. Life in this body is going to come to an end someday. That “someday” will surely come, and it will come suddenly. As I faced the reality of so many deaths and became conscious of my own mortality, I started to think about what I wanted to do before I die. At the time of death, what would I be thinking? As I considered that, the answer was very clear to me. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jer. 1:5)

Five months have now passed since I graduated from seminary and was called to Takanosu Church. As the church had been without a pastor for three years, I was appointed right away. My first Sunday in the pulpit was March 27, which strangely enough was Easter Sunday, and I recalled the sight of my mother, standing at the pulpit. This church is just a small group of seven church members, but they support me, a novice evangelist, both physically and spiritually. They are patient and polite with me, so I am getting along fine. Also Kodomoen Shalom, a church-related center for early childhood education and care, has welcomed me warmly as its director. I am really grateful. I think that I am protected like this due to much prayer behind the scenes.

“But by the grace of God, I am what I am.” (I Cor. 15:10) The Lord is with me, so I will keep trusting in the Lord. I will endeavor to do my daily work, which has been given to me today. (Tr. KT)

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), October 2016 issue

*Without attending a seminary or theological school. C-course candidates are required to pass all of the exams within a certain number of years after beginning the program.

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神に呼 ばれて:いつか終わる生涯ー自分のやることは何か

瀧山喜与実 秋田・鷹巣教会伝道師、幼保連携型認定こども園 しゃろーむキリスト教主事

牧師であった父は、福島の教会で現役のまま58歳で急 逝しました。副牧師の母は、4日後のイースターには講壇に立ちました。東日本大震災のときも、母は自宅のことよりも礼拝の心配をしまし た。たくさんの死を前に、私は自分が死ぬ前にやりたいことは何かを考えました。

この体にはいつか終わりが訪れます。

「生涯現役牧師」(死ぬまで牧師でいたい)と宣言していた父は、皮肉にもその言葉どおり、福島新町教会の 主任牧師であった58歳のときに、地上の歩みを終えました。おっちょこちょいで、子煩悩で、人と話すのが大好きで、病院が大嫌 いな、子どものような人でした。私の大学卒業を殊のほか喜んでいた父は、その日の夕方、不整脈による発作で天に召されました。4日後 にはイースターを控えており、急逝した父に代わって副牧師の母が講壇に立ちました。副牧師といっても、説教をするのはもっぱら父で あったため、私はそれまで母が講壇に立つのを片手で足りるくらいの回数しか見たことがありませんでした。メッセージの内容は覚えてい ませんが、礼拝堂のダイヤガラスからこぼれる光を浴びながら、まっすぐ前を見て語った母の姿が目に焼き付いています。

私の両親は日曜日になると張り切る夫婦でした。母は、日曜は特に朝早くから賛美歌を 歌っていました。布団に潜っていると、だんだんその声が近くなってくるので飛び起きたものです。私にとって母の歌う賛美歌は、子守歌 ではなく目覚ましでした。父は「牧師は最高の仕事だ」が口癖で、説教について尋ねると話が止まらなくなる人でした。

「牧師になるように」と言われた覚えはありませんが、私はいつのころからか「牧師以外 の人生は自分にとって不自然なこと」と感じるようになりました。「いつかは献身しよう。それまで好きなことをしよう」と思っていた私 は、父を亡くし「今がその時」と決心しました。早速願書を取り寄せ、*Cコース受験をすべく東北教区 の面接に向かいました。委員の方々の答えは「君はまだ若い。神学校に行くなら推薦する。勉強しなさい」でした。思い出すと赤面するば かりですが、何もわかっていないことすらわかっていなかった当時の私は、ぷりぷりと怒りながら家路に着きました。

福島の家を離れるのは忍びなく、私は神学校に行くのを先延ばしにして近所の塾に就職し ました。仕事は楽しく、穏やかな毎日でしたが、心のどこかで「こんなことをしている場合ではない」という焦りがありました。それでも 思い切ることができず、「あと1年」を繰り返し、6年が経ちました。

そして、東日本大震災が起こりました。

3月11日は何の変哲もない1日のはずでした。いつもと変わ らずに家を出て、いつもと変わらずに職場の掃除をし、いつもと変わらずに授業の準備を始めた午後2時46分、大きな揺れと共に全てが変わりました。帰宅指示が出て家に帰ると、母は礼拝堂の掃除をしていました。 自宅はめちゃくちゃなままでした。「日曜は礼拝できるかしら」と案じる母を見て、「この人は本当にそれしかないのだ」とあぜん唖然としました。父が急逝した 後、泣きながらも礼拝の心配をし、突然の地震の後も礼拝の心配をしている母の姿に、ぶれない牧師の召命を見ました。

新聞やニュースでは、亡くなられた方の報道が連日なされました。自分より若くして亡く なった方々の名前をなぞりながら、私は強烈に自分の死を意識しました。どの人も、いつもと変わらない1日を過ごしていたはずです。しかし、いつもと変わらない1日は、永遠に続くものではないのです。

この体にはいつか終わりが訪れます。「いつか」は必ずやってきます。それも突然に。自 分の死を意識する中で、私は死ぬ前にやりたいことを考えるようになりました。死ぬ間際に、自分の頭に浮かぶのはどんなことかと考えた とき、答えは明確でした。

「わたしはあなたを母の胎内に造る前から あなたを知っていた」(エレミヤ書1・5)

神学校を卒業し、鷹巣教会に派遣され、5カ月が たちました。鷹巣教会は3年間無牧だったので早めに赴任し、3月27日から講壇に立っています。3月27日は、奇しくもイースターで、講壇に立った母の姿が浮かんできました。教会員7名の小さな群れですが、新 米の伝道師を心身共に支えて、忍耐強く配慮をしてくださり、何とか過ごせています。教会の関連施設のこども園「しゃろーむ」でもキリ スト教主事として温かく迎え入れていただき、本当にありがたいです。こうして守られているのも、背後に多くの祈りがあることを思いま す。

「神の恵みによって今日のわたしがあるのです」(Ⅰコリン ト15・10)。共 におられる主に依り頼みつつ、与えられた今日1日の務めに励みたいと思います。 (信徒の友2016年 10月号)