The Great Realization… Leads to a New Song

Join the WTUC Community Worship this Sunday, May 16, 2021, from 10 am to 11 am, as our lay-preacher, Betsy Terada, brings us the message beginning with a video of the spoken-word poem, “The Great Realisation.” (The reader, Tomos Roberts is the author and producer of this video.)

Betsy will talk about how the words of the poem spoke to her as a Christian, and the rich lessons of faith, hope and renewal she believes the pandemic can offer to us followers of Christ. 

We will worship together via our weekly Zoom link. You are welcome to stay for a while after the service to talk and pray together with other community church members. Click on the link below to join us a 10 am, Japan time.

Old Testament – Psalm 96: 1 – 4 
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.

New Testament – Romans 8: 20 – 29

20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

We hope that you will join us along with our global WTUC community as we continue to worship together during the pandemic.

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Sing to the Lord a New Song – May 9, 2021

We invite you to join the West Tokyo Union Church family on Sunday at 10:00 am as we share together the ways in which God has taught us to “Sing a New Song” during this past many months of dealing with a pandemic reality. Our message will be an “open mic” time where we can share our thoughts, joys and struggles with each other as a community. Hamlet and some of Ruth’s puppet friends will start off the sharing time. Sounds like they might have a new song to sing.

Open Mic Points to Ponder:

  1. How has God helped you find a “new song” even in the midst of the pandemic? Examples from your life that show a new awareness or joy?

2. “Love one another,” says Jesus. How has this become easier or harder during this past year? What have you learned about loving others?

The Bible readings for this sixth Sunday of Easter are as follows:

Psalm 98 —

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
    and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the Lord,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples with equity.

John 15: 9 – 17 — “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

We hope to see you online on Sunday morning!

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Forsaking Power and Privilege

Join the WTUC Community Worship this Sunday, May 2, 2021, from 10 am to 11 am, as our lay-preacher, Mio Foster shares a reflection on racism and social justice from a Biblical perspective. The theme, “Forsaking Power and Privilege,” will deal with giving up our own power and privilege, just as Jesus did, in order to be at peace and have true reconciliation with our less privileged neighbors.

530 AD – Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano, Roma. Il mosaico dell’abside, risalente al 530.

We will worship together via our weekly Zoom link. You are welcome to stay for a while after the service to talk and pray together with other community church members. Click on the link below to join us a 10 am, Japan time.

Scripture Readings:

Old Testament – Amos 5: 21 – 24

21 The Lord says, “I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! 22 When you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. 23 Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. 24 Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry. (GNT)

New Testament – Philippians 2: 4 – 11

not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

Hymns:

What Wondrous Love Is This

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

The Church’s One Foundation

Prayers:

Please contact us if you have any prayer concerns or would like to be added to the prayer chain. Use the “Contacts” link on the WTUC website. Blessings on your week.

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Second Sunday after Easter

We welcome you to worship with our West Tokyo Union Church community! Each Sunday, at 10am Japan time, from now until we take a break for the summer holidays, one of our members (ordained or layperson) will be sharing a message for the Sunday service. Our worship is being conducted online via Zoom. In this way, we can see each other and interact as we celebrate the Lord’s Day every week.

This coming Sunday, April 18, 2021, Pastor Paul Shew will be preaching. The title of his sermon is simply, “Love.” The scripture passages for this Sunday are listed below.

Click on the Zoom link at 10 am on Sunday to join us!

The Psalms — Psalm 4

New Testament Reading — Acts 3:12 – 19

Epistle — 1 John 3:1 – 7

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First Sunday after Easter

Please join the WTUC community for a 10am worship this Sunday, April 11, 2021. Carol Sack will be sharing a message entitled, “Starting from the End.” The Bible passages to be referenced are listed below. We invite you to click on the Zoom link below to join the worship service at 10am. The link is the same for every Sunday, so you can copy and paste it into your calendar for convenient access.

The Epistle Reading:

Philippians 1: 19-21. — Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The Psalm:

Psalm 39: 4-7 — O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.

We look forward to seeing all of you online! Don’t hesitate to contact us for prayer requests. Blessings on your week.

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Easter 2021 Service

Please join us at 10:00 am on April 4 for WTUC’s Easter Online Service! Rev. Jim Sack will be preaching; the title of his message is “The God of Nothing.” The Bible readings for Sunday will be Isaiah 25:6-9, Colossians 3:1-4, and Mark 16:1-8. The hymns for the service are listed below and the audio links are included. We have compiled sound files sent in from congregational members into a choral offering that we will use in the Easter service.

If you would like to view the children’s message again, here is a link to the Kidsermons.com website:

On Sunday afternoon, please join us for a safe, socially distanced outdoor Easter picnic. Details will be included in the congregational mailing to be sent out by Good Friday.

Hymn #302 Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (verses 1, 2, 3)
WTUC Virtual Choir
Organ only
Hymn #364 Because He Lives
WTUC Virtual Choir
Organ only
Hymn #318 Christ Is Alive (verses 1, 2, 5)
WTUC Virtual Choir
Organ only

Easter Sunday Sermon Text

For those of you who might have missed the sermon, the text is inserted below. As you read the sermon, you can practice saying the name, “Yah-Weh,” while breathing in on the first syllable and out on the second.

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 25:6-9 and Mark 16:1-8

“The God of Nothing”   by Jim Sack

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend, and he was highly successful, but dissatisfied with his life. He makes a pact with the devil. In exchange for his soul, he gets unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure. But I think he was wrong when he said “The end of everything is nothing.”  No, I proclaim to you that “Nothing is the beginning of everything.”

Easter morning begins with nothing! The tomb is empty.  There is nothing inside. Jesus is on the loose. Hope lies in anticipation of the promise that the young man, dressed in a white robe said “you will see him, in Galilee.”  There is nothing in the tomb. That empty space in the tomb is what you and I build our foundation of trust and hope upon. You see, I think our God is the God of nothing. I must explain what I am thinking about. From the very start of our scriptures you can find this “God of Nothing” on whom we pin our hopes of eternal life. 

Let us go back to the very beginning of the Bible, the creation story. We read “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” In Hebrew it is “Tohu wa-bohu.“ ( I think of Mabo dofu, the popular Chinese dish.) This expresses the meaning of “formless void and darkness.” In Latin it is “Creátio ex níhilo”(creation out of nothing). And that is what God starts with; NOTHING!

Moving into Exodus we read about Moses keeping his flock of sheep and going to Horeb, the mountain of God. There Moses sees a flame of fire coming out of the middle of the bush, but the bush was not consumed. God called to Moses from out of the bush. “Moses, Moses! Do not come near; put off your shoes for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 

From out of nothing, God commands Moses to go to Pharaoh and to lead the people of Israel. But Moses goes on to ask God, God’s name, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

God replies “I am.” (“I am who I am,” which is not really a name, but just the fact that God is.) He was saying… I am present, I am here.  The most likely meaning of the name may be “He Brings Into Existence Whatever Exists.” 

God’s name was revealed to Moses in four Hebrew consonants (YHWH). It had no vowels and therefore was not pronounceable. It was the sound of breathing (Yah) and (Way), which becomes a presence from nothing. God cannot be seen or touched. God is above creation and above nothing. God creates from nothingness. We cannot make an object of God, nor name God. 

Continuing on in Exodus, what about the Ark of the Covenant (Ark of God )? It was the gold-covered wooden chest with a lid which contained the two stone tablets of the ten commandments. God gave very detailed information on how it was to be built in Exodus 25. The people were to make two cherubim of gold, which are to be placed at the ends of the mercy seat (cover). Then God says “There I will meet you, and from above (not on) the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant.”

Once again we clearly understand that God is in the space, in the nothing if you will.

Going on into 1 Kings 19, we have another event when Elijah is told by God to go to Mt. Horeb to meet God, and God passed by. We read “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” You see, the great wind, the earthquake and the fire all precede God. YHWH was in sheer silence. Nothing. 

I would now like to move on into the Gospels. 

I was struck that in English, Jesus uses the same “I am” as found in the Gospel of John. There are the seven “I am” statements. 

“I am the bread of life.” 

“I am the light of the world.” 

“I am the door of the sheep.” 

“I am the resurrection and the life.”

“I am the good shepherd.”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

“I am the true vine.”

In our Gospel lesson for today we have an empty tomb, filled with nothing, and at the same time, the tomb is overflowing with “I am!” The presence of God. 

Finally, as we go to the book of Revelation, we once again meet up with the “I am.” 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega.”

“I am the first and the last.” At the very end of Revelation we read “Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

In the emptiness and nothingness of the tomb, we have the fullness of YHWH.

The three women, go early in the morning, only to find nothing, an empty tomb.

However, in that emptiness, a young man, dressed in a white robe is there to announce to them and to the entire world, throughout every generation, “Do not be alarmed, He has been raised. He is not here!” And that my friends is the meaning of Easter!

I ask you, are you afraid to die! Perhaps. But think of the adventure and the splendid company on the other side. Realize that your story goes on after death because Jesus’ story is true. When we breathe our last breath, in the twinkle of an eye, we will be truly one with God.

So, “Be still and know that I am YHWH.” (Psalm 46:10)        Amen.

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Palm Sunday Zoom Service

Join our West Tokyo Union Church community for a convivial virtual “face-to-face” online service on March 28, Palm Sunday. The service will start at 10am Sunday morning, Japan time. Ruth Ingulsrud will be sharing the message, “Far and Near-Sightedness – Finding Our Faith Focus.”

During the talk, we will discover what climbing the back fence of a highway oasis rest area has to do with one’s focus in life. And of course, one of the hymns that we will sing is “Be Thou My Vision.”

The scriptures for this Sunday are listed below:

Gospel – Mark 11:1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Psalms – Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever. Let Israel now proclaim, “His mercy endures for ever.” Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; he who is righteous may enter.” I will give thanks to you, for you answered me and have become my salvation. The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Hosannah, Lord, hosannah! Lord, send us now success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. God is the Lord; he has shined upon us; form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will thank you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever.

Psalm 31:9-16

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly. For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed. I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot. For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life. But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, “You are my God. My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me. Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me.”

Epistle – Philippians 2:5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God  as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,  being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Are you focusing on the FROG? (Fully Rely on God) Photographer – Ruth; Location – Nojiri

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March 21st “Open Mike” Online Worship Service

We welcome all members of our congregation, new friends and old, to join the West Tokyo Union Church community for another Zoom gathering during one of the last Sundays of Lent. Our order of worship will focus on the theme of change — how following God’s guidance through difficult or painful changes does ultimately lead to abundant life. A new covenant is established; a change of heart leads to repentance; a seed “dies” in the ground to bring new life. Change is inevitable, but with God’s grace and strength, we are guided into life’s changes and are equipped with the ability to embrace those changes.

All of us can relate to this theme in one way or another, and we all have stories to tell. This coming Sunday, in place of a homily or sermon, we invite our worshipping participants to share a personal story of God’s guidance and blessing through struggle and change.

Source: Creative Commons

Bible readings for next Sunday:

Jeremiah 31:31 – 34 (NIV)

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to[a] them,[b]
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

Psalm 51

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

John 12:20 – 33

Jesus Predicts His Death

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[a] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Source: Creative Commons
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WTUC Zoom Worship #3

March 7, 2021 at 10:00 am

WTUC’s Zoom Worship Service

Raphael’s Hosea and Jonah

HOSEA: A Lenten message from the prophet Hosea about “holy jealousy”
Is “jealous” a good word or a bad word for you? Why does God describe himself as a “jealous”? Could there be such a thing as “holy jealousy”?
The prophet Hosea has something to teach us during Lent about this. His message is just as relevant today as it was more than two millennia ago. Malcolm Foster will be sharing.
Click here to join WTUC’s Zoom worship service:

(Meeting ID: 751 7052 6809  Passcode: SP5y6G)

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WTUC Zoom Worship #2

We thoroughly enjoyed seeing each other’s faces while digitally social distancing last Sunday. Our Zoom service was lively with many members contributing with Bible readings along with music from the home of our organist. As we participate in this new way, we will work to smooth out any electronic wrinkles.

This coming Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, our favorite earthly harpist, Carol Sack, will share Lenten reflections for our message. The Bible texts for the day will be Psalm 22:23-26 and Mark 8:31-38.

We look forward to worshiping together once more!

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