"Death and Funerals" Theme of West Tokyo District Pastors' Seminar

A one-day Seminar for Pastors was held at Asagaya Church in Tokyo on Sept. 15, 2009, with 33 people from 30 churches and Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, including 2 lay persons, in attendance. The theme of the seminar was “Death and Funerals Today,” and the featured speaker was Kaku Shuichi, director of the Christian Counseling Center. Having served several churches as a pastor of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, as well as having had much experience working with many persons in the medical field, Pastor Kaku lectured with deep insight and a wealth of suggestions.

Recently, the need for providing spiritual care while ministering to a dying patient is beginning to be emphasized. Patients suffering from a serious illness and facing death may question the reason and purpose for their being and ask, “Why me?” Modern society only recognizes the value of a “useful” being. Therefore, the quest for the value of their existence by those now “just existing” is serious. How are we to understand their question in depth? The mistake believers often make is to say simply, “Let’s read the Bible and pray,” as if ignoring their question. Our Lord Jesus Christ cried out on the cross saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Christ lived in this world of irrationality, which cannot give us fully satisfying answers.

Even though we cannot give a satisfying verbal answer, the sharing of this irrationality in “withness” (togetherness) is important. “What is the purpose of our life?” There is no human answer to such a question. But there is Christ who died on the Cross and was resurrected for us. Here is an answer only the church can give. Therefore, when facing death, which is beyond mere expression in human words, the sacraments of baptism and communion at the death bed are quite meaningful. Also, music, painting, beautiful scenery, human beings, their activity, living space, and lifestyle: all these can provide inspiration.

The speech was rich in content, and the above is only a small part of the lecture given by Kaku. What he said concerning a Christian funeral impressed me deeply. “It is the final summarization of ministering to a church member who has died, showing the answer the church does have for death, and which also serves as a witness to society. (Tr. RK)

―Shichijo Masaaki, pastor
Takaido Church, Nishi Tokyo District
Member, Nishi Tokyo District Pastors’ Committee
(From Nishi Tokyo District News)

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