日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

The Church as the Vessel of God's Mercy


by Kawano Shinji, missionary
Juni Shito Church (Church of the Twelve Apostles), Hokkai District

(The sermon, based on Rom. 9:19-24, delivered at the September 2010 Conference on “The Church That Walks with People with Disabilities,” organized by the Hokkai District Mission Committee)

Pastoral care is certainly involved in forming the church, for the church is a community of people who are called by God. Yet, it is difficult to define what pastoral care is. Pastoral care, for me, is identical with pastoral relationship. First, it takes place in an existentialistic encounter between a care giver and a care recipient, whoever they may be. We are not exclusively a giver or a recipient but have elements of both. It is, indeed, a relational matter of how much we can keep truthful and faithful relationships with each other. For it is to center around Christian consciousness that God calls and invites us to exist in such a caring relationship. It is not whether we are a pastoral-care giver or a pastoral-care recipient. Neither is it what we are doing to each other. But it is what we are to each other. It is a faith community matter, thus challenging ourselves as to how we exist for each other. The church is called to be such a model community for the world God has made. Furthermore, God is faithful and truthful to us as God's people.

Today, our scripture reading is from Rom. 9:19-24. It refers to our transformation. We were the object of God wrath due to our sin, yet have become the object of God's mercy. It lies in God freedom. We become the vessel of God's mercy, furthermore, aiming at becoming the vessel of God's glory. God gives mercy to whomever God wants to give it. It implies the profound theological issue of election. God's mercy by election is purposeful to serve God's glory.

The word “mercy,” especially the Japanese term we use in our daily life, is often sentimental, elusive, and negative even when we feel sorry for someone with whom we sympathize. But God's mercy is not. It is positive and constructive, for it gives the meaning of life. It is constructive, even messianic. It is God's mercy that gives meaningfulness to any existence, and it is God's mercy that transforms each to be one who would live to glorify God. It is God's mercy that is the foundation of the covenant between God and us. God's mercy is in the relationship based upon God's faithfulness and truthfulness to us. The church into which we are called is founded on this mercy. Thus we are called to be faithful and truthful to each other. The church lies in such covenantal relationship, thus being God's partner and requiring God's mercy to reflect God's glory.

The theme of this conference says, “How can we form an inclusive church that includes people with disabilities?” or “How can we form a church for everyone?” But we should not forget that as a vessel of God's mercy, the church is to include those with disabilities. This inclusiveness does not, however, mean that able-bodied people show pity on those with disabilities. It is not simply a matter of sympathy.

Almost 20 percent of the members of my congregation are mentally handicapped people–those with bipolar syndrome, schizophrenia, depression, panic syndrome and so on. I am having a bit of difficulty with pastoral care, not due to such mentally handicapped people themselves but due to the fact that able-bodied people find it hard to receive them as part of the congregation. The reason that they are hesitant is that they lack understanding. Care is not just dealing with the disability like a patient on a doctor’s list but also with the whole personhood of the person with a disability.

Whether or not a person has a disability, each has already been given the meaning of life as a partner of God. As a partner of God, the church includes all people even before it is formed. All are partners with each other as much as God is a partner with us. We are the vessels of God's mercy to glorify God, for God so loves us.

From Hokkai Kyoku Tsushin (Hokkai District News)


「憐れみの器としての教会」 ローマ書: 9:19-24 川野真司(十二使徒教会牧師)


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