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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Hymn #364 Because He Lives
Hymn #318 Christ Is Alive (verses 1, 2, 5)
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 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. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 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.
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:
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.
Join us! Note the change in worship time from 11 to 10. The message, “Lent: Nourishment for Your Soul,” will be preached by Rev. Paul Shew.
West Tokyo Union Church is a family of believers. We are especially aware at this point in our church history that the church is not a building. The church is people.
As was decided at our all-congregational meeting, we will be starting weekly Zoom worship services using a slightly less formal format.
Preaching and scripture reading responsibilities will be shared. We will include some liturgy and our organist will provide music for the hymns. Sunday, February 21 is the first Sunday in Lent. We hope that our members in Japan and even previous members now living in other parts of the world will be able to join us as we share in a Zoom worship gathering of believers.
Order of Worship
WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Unison: And also with you.
OPENING SCRIPTURE Psalm 25:1-10 (lay reader A — xxxx)
Hymn #57 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
PRAYER (lay person B — xxxx) (Can start with prayer in own words, then conclude with:
Beloved friends, in this season of repentance and healing, we accept God’s invitation to be ever-mindful of the needs of others, offering our prayers on behalf of God’s community in the church and the world. Fill us with your strength to resist the seductions of our foolish desires and the tempter’s vain delights, that we may walk in obedience and righteousness, rejoicing in you with an upright heart. And now we pray together the pray our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray, saying:
OFFERTORY PRAYER (lay person C — xxxx) Sample prayer:
Dear God, we thank you for this community, the Church. Together we are your body in this world, and we thank you that we are able to contribute to the Church with our tithes and offerings. We are giving and setting aside offerings in different ways now, but we know that you transcend time and distance. You are the one who binds our hearts and intentions together into your perfect plan. We ask that you would consecrate and bless our offerings and service to the glory of Your Kingdom. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Genesis 9:8-17 (lay person A) Mark 1:9-15 (lay person C)
MESSAGE “Lent: Nourishment for your Soul” By Rev. Paul Tsuchido Shew
HYMN #298 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
BENEDICTION or CLOSING PRAYER (Paul)
COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS (Malcolm)
FELLOWSHIP TIME (or people can feel free to leave)
Bio: Jeff is a missionary with JPM (日本長教会伝道会）as well as a campus minister with RUF and in is focused on connecting college students in the Tokyo area to Jesus and the Church. Originally from Memphis, TN, he came to Tokyo with his wife (Katie) and two children (Emerie and Ezra) in November 2016 where he began his Japanese language and culture studies. After 2 years of full-time studying, he and his family moved to the Meidaimae area to both serve as an intern at Suginami Church (杉並教会) and begin work to start the very first RUF campus ministry in Japan.
You can view our worship service on Facebook Live at 11:00 am this Sunday at the link below. For best viewing, please log-in to your FB account on your computer or view from a FB app on your device.