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Midweek Snack for the Soul 心のオヤツ (June 3)

Hello KBF,
     I hope you are doing well in the midst of all kinds of changes taking place. Emergency status has been lifted. Stores, schools and businesses are re-opening with caution, and there are different opinions on how, when, and where to implement the changes. 
     This week we have seen on the news a growing number of people coming together in various countries to say they are against racism. This movement was inspired in part by the murder of a black man in the US by the police, George Floyd. People all around the world are coming out to condemn racism, misuse of force by those in power, and systemic oppression.
     It may seem very distant to many who have not seen racism firsthand, but there are severe effects on people and the society when a certain group of people are constantly seen and treated as less than others. We may think this just affects the people who are oppressed, but that is not the case. The more we see injustice and choose to look away, we are actually building layers and layers of calluses in our hearts and in our community. This can gradually change who we are as a people and as a society. No one becomes a vicious person in one day, but given enough time, we do think thoughts that were not there as children and become emboldened to take regrettable actions.
     On Sunday, Lee brought to us a very beautiful picture of the Spirit of God. He breathes his breath into us, and as we welcome his Spirit, we breathe out and speak the words influenced by the Spirit to the people around us in their language. I thought this was a strong encouragement and a timely reminder for us when we are stuck inside with the fear of COVID-19 attacking our breathing abilities, along with a world-wide protest against racism on the news. How can we breathe out and speak Spirit-filled words to others at a time like this? How can we be a conduit of bringing peace of Christ into our frightened surrounding instead of amplifying the aggravation? 
     As I reflect on the message from this Sunday, I want to share with you several things that are on my mind about the effects of the Spirit. He enabled the disciples to speak another person’s language. Now this is profound. At times, even people of the same household speak differently. Sexual orientation differences, generational differences, tribal and racial differences or even political differences all cause us to speak differently. You know, language is not just about intonations and pronunciations. A language carries the tone and history behind all of those words and expressions. It has certain phrases that do not fly well when translated into another language. The Japanese language carries hierarchy within the language that the speaker will know where they stand in relation to the other speaker. It is hard to interpret this culture into English. 
     So, for the people who came to Jesus’ disciples on the day of Pentecost to say, “Hey, you are speaking my language!” was quite something. Yes, the Spirit helped the disciples with intonations and pronunciations, but more significantly, they were helped by the Spirit to bridge the gap of being different. When the Spirit helped the disciples to bridge the gap, around 3000 people repented. Repentance is a very sacred thing when one person willingly starts to take down the walls and barriers of one’s heart to admit the wrong. The Spirit created a safe place among the disciples for people to put down their defensiveness and aggression. 
     How often do we ever hear people tell us, “Hey, you are speaking my heart language!” We are easily divided into little groups and are not that interested in accommodating other people’s ideas. For that matter, we are generously giving each other space and time to create a deeper misunderstanding because we are terrified of being challenged or simply interacting with tension. But wouldn’t it be great if the Spirit who had helped the disciples to speak in foreign languages would come and help us? Wouldn’t it be great if someone who is very different from us was able to sit down for a cup of coffee with us and see our walls lowering towards each other inch after inch?
     If the Spirit helps us to understand each other well, then indeed as Paul says, the fruit of the Spirit will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, not becoming conceited, not provoking one another, not envying one another, restoring people in a spirit of gentleness, bearing one another’s burden.., and by being so fulfill the law of Christ.”
     If God would really help us change to be a person who can understand, someone who can speak to a person on the other side without defensiveness or walls, would we actually let God do that or would we say, “No, God. I will be anything else for you but that!” 
     As we encounter differences with people around us as COVID-19 self-isolation restriction loosens and even watch some intense growing protest on the news, I hope we can boldly ask God of Pentecost to send the same Spirit upon us so that we may be a bridge within whatever gap we are placed in today and be the conduit of God’s peace. 
     I pray that we all experience the Spirit of God similar to the day of Pentecost. 
     God bless you!
     Pastoral Team





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