Throwing in

It has been only once that I had attended the prayer meeting in the church other than in our hometown. It was in Sendai. There the pastor first introduced some passages in Paul’s letters, for example in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

“How would women of today would reading this?” He said. “As you see, even Paul put women below men. It was such a society at that time. Therefore, today’s words of Jesus are so precious.”

It was written in Mark 12:41-44. Jesus saw a poor widow putting small coins in the offering box of the temple, and appreciated her so much.

43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

His speech gave me a lot of worthy hints. In the Bible there are some descriptions that today we could not directly agree. But we should not neglect them or take them as inconvenient for ouf belief. We should at first admit there are not only sweet things written in the Bible, and then quest the total message contained in the Scriptures. I think it was very nice of the pastor, that he did not hide that Paul demanded women to be silent and submitting, although there were many women listening.

So todays picture. I had worried first to draw the widow throwing her coins in the offering box, for I didn’t know how the box or the temple was like. I should not draw a wrong picture for the holy things or places.

But the Lord gave me a hint: “Imagine, WHOM did the widow give her properties?”
Ah yes.

Later, I got an idea about Paul’s aspect to women in the church: At the time of him, it was very tough and dangerous to work as Christians. So Paul might not have wanted women to be so active that they would be persecuted. Maybe he knew about the harsh situation very well, because he himself had once been the most radical persecutor.

Justified by Faith

From this Wednesday on, we will learn Paul’s letters in the Bible. Yesterday and today I read all his letters through. They were much more difficult than Jesus’ words or the Old Testament, because they were sent between those who were intelligent. Paul had been highly educated before he followed Christ, and he sent his letters to the leaders of newly established Church in Italy, Greece, etc.

Through his letters he insisted repeatedly, “Abraham was justified by God because of his faith, not manners.” I searched where in the Old Testament it was described, which took me yet a pretty long time, for I thought it were written after the incident that Abraham was asked by God to offer his only son Isaac as a Sacrifice, in the Genesis, Chap 22.

Abraham followed His order and took his innocent son to the mountain. It might have been the saddest hiking for Abraham. Moreover his son, who knew nothing, asked him “Father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”, which might increase his pain in the heart.

God must have found Abraham’s faith in such obedience of his and justified him – so I thought.

But wait, it is indeed the “manner” of Abraham to obey his Lord. Paul wrote it was not what to be justified.

At last I found the exact description in Genesis 15, a lot before the Isaac’s incident.
The episode was quite simple. Only the Lord promised him many offsprings. And Abraham (still called Abram) did nothing but believe His word, that He would give the old man offsprings.
Abraham did not any dramatic performance. He just believed God’s promise, so he was justified, exactly as Paul wrote.

So what was the meaning of His demand for his son as a sacrifice?
Many people in the later era explain that the incident should foretell that God Himself would offer His only Son as the sacrifice. Yes, I think God showed Abram the future incident and perhaps made him aware the pain of the Father to sacrifice His Son, and promised He should do it to save human offsprings in the future.

And it’s surprising that Paul knew the Old Testament very well.

One Talent

In the Wednesday Bible study we learned The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

The summary of the parable is as follows:

The rich master delegates his money to three servants. He assigned 5, 2 talents and 1 talent to each.
He left them for years. As he returned, he asked the servants how they did with the assigned money.
Those who had 5 and 2 talents doubly increased their entrusted amount, and the master appreciated them very much.
Only the servant with one talent in his hand had kept it under the ground, and he returned just the equal amount that he was assigned. Then the master got angry at him, regarding him as lazy and wicked.

Then I raised a question:

What if the servant with 1 talent explained? – “My dear master, I knew I was not clever to take a risk to invest your money, and all I could do was to protect your property as is. So I hid it under the ground and kept it until today. Glad to give you back as much as you gave me.”

“In a Samurai drama, the master should appreciate the 1-talent servant the best, for his humility and punctuality, shouldn’t he?”

An experienced brother gave me a splendid answer.

“You see it’s the parable of talent, namely virtue or good will, not indeed money. Good will must be used to help others. The Lord told you shouldn’t seal what you have given by God but use it actively, didn’t he? ”

Some parables in the Bible leaves some doubts, which would be solved through discussions, like this case. Hence people say you should go to church and talk with each other about the Bible, to free yourself from sticking to your own thoughts.

Stigmata

I am baptized as a protestant and do not realize holiness on tangible things, but respect for the hints given by the Lord through them. This remain of the cut branch, like a watching eye, carries a message, how many things, or people, we hurt through our safe and sound daily lives.

Going Out

Last week I was possessed with a lot of work. It was a publishing work, with which I had been for as long as 8 months. Now it’s all done and I am freed of the pressure. Yet when I look back over those months and find the work were a lot of fun.

I kept my attendance on the prayer meeting on Sunday and the Bible class on Wednesday.
We learned there the passages in Matthew chap20, where the Lord tells the story of Labores in the Vineyard.

It’s the very famous story that the lord of the vineyard pays every Labors the same wage, regardless of since when he were there.

Yet our paster always gives us fresh hints. He told:

“Note that the lord, implying Jesus, goes out to the marketplace to pick up the labores, instead of waiting them to come asking for the work. He goes out many times a day to take those who are just standing with nothing to do, not knowing what to do. Remember in the same way, that He comes out to seek us.”

That inspired me to today’s picture. He is leaving his house in the vineyard to the marketplace, where some people are standing and others come and go:

How will He bless us?

In the Bible Study we read also a guidebook written by people of the Japan Baptist Convention.
Explanations of given passages of the Bible are written there. Some articles hit me on the chord, others might not be my taste. But one thing is sure: every writer is himself inspired so much with every single word of the Bible.

Recently I was so much impressed by an article, in which the writer put a great significance on the word “Blessed,” which is often remarked by Jesus.

Yes, we often quote “Blessed are the pour…” and say ourselves “God bless you!” or “I’m blessed with…”. “Blessed” seemed me rather easy to use as “a good word.”

I was surprised, then, the author wrote:

“Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” – these words, which Jesus told filled in so much pleasure! Have you ever tasted these words, for they have been given to yourself?

Well, I have not imagined that He would have told the words with such pleasure.

So today I’d like to imagine how did He look, as he blessed the people.
Yes, I’m going to draw His face. But please don’t take it as I draw icons. They are just schematic illustrations of human emotions.

A typical smile:

Or with a bit of heartache, for he knew He would be at last betrayed by those who He blessed:

Or rather a wild smile, for many of His declarations were to challenge to the conventional, humane ideas of good and evil.

Ah yes, what if His mouth were open? A big smile.

Or why can’t we imagine that He stared at them straight?

Or He might have been in meditation…Nirvana?

How about if He was looking up to His Father while he was talking?

And the last idea: Instead of smiling, he looked into the eyes of others seriously and told decisively, “I truly tell you, you are blessed!”

Which would you like best, if you were blessed by Him?

Watchman

I really like the passages in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 21:11-12.

11The oracle concerning Dumah.

One is calling to me from Seir,
“Watchman, what time of the night?
Watchman, what time of the night?”

12The watchman says:
“Morning comes, and also the night.
If you will enquire, enquire;
come back again.”

The song of Watchmen is also sung in Psalm 130:6.

6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

The “watchmen” in the Bible was former in Japanese translated as “Patrols,” and now it is corrected to “Gate keepers.” That should be reasonable, because the watchman in Isaiah Book tells “come back again,” which should mean he is staying and the questioner is leaving.
Yet I like the former translation, with which I had been inspired for the first time.

So today’s picture.

I’d like to draw so that the watchman appearing from the dark, carrying a small lamp.
Then today’s challenge of mine is, to paint the light cast from the lamp onto the watchman, as instantly as possible. Please do not think as if I just wanted to save the time. I do want it, but I’d like more to cherish the very instance that the idea fell on me.

First, the whole figure of the watchman. Unfortunately I don’t know exactly how the people in the Bible era were dressed like, but according to many illustrations of the Bible I imagine he wore a vail and easy garments.

Today I don’t draw the outline of the figure, because it should be faded in the dark around him. Instead I put the thicker brushes on the draft.
There are yet two exceptions, the brightest parts of the picture: The light in the lamp and the eyes of the “watchman.”

I used only four colors: yellow, orange, light and dark gray. I suppose human face should look reflecting more light than the ambient, because watchers of the figure(who watch this watchman) tend to look for his face.

Let’s check how it looks in the darkness. It’s very convenient to use alpha and layers in the painting soft.

Maybe not bad.

Now all colorings is done:

Then embed him in the darkness. For the shadow I used one more color:brown.

The new japanese translation describes the watchman’s answer as “The morning will soon come, but it is still the night.”
The new translation implies “The happiness will soon come, although we are still in pain.”
It would be precise, along with which noted in the Psalm as above.

But mornings sometimes illustrates our pain more vivid. My mother died in the evening and father at night. In both case the next morning I was really impressed that the sun should rise with or without them.

So I think we would take the watchman’s word as is, as the former translation: The morning will come, and then the night will also come.

朝が来ます、夜もまた来ます。
もしあなたがたが聞こうと思うなら聞きなさい、
また来なさい。