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Toshiki Toma

Between yesterday and tomorrow

Flutt 18. júní 2017 · í enskri messu í Breiðholtskirkju

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. -Amen.

1.
Throughout the ages, how we ought to prepare for the future has been an important topic of consideration. We all know the very old story of the ant and the grasshopper in Aesop’s fables.

The grasshopper spent the days of the summer having fun, and neglected to prepare for the winter. The ant, however, worked hard day and night, and saved up food every day for the winter. The grasshopper laughed at the ant, but finally had to ask the ant for help because it lacked food for the winter. The message is: „Use the present day to prepare for the future.“

This story sounds like wisdom, and a right teaching. Actually most of the working people in this society contribute money to one or more pension funds, preparing for the life after retirement. Many of us also buy extra health insurance to prepare for some illness in the future.

Preparing for our future lives seems like common sense. That is the normal thing to do, and if somebody does not make these preparations, we might see him as a company of grasshoppers, according to the fable of Aesop.

2.
From this point of view, the parable in today’s Gospel sounds a bit surprising to our ears. In the parable, a rich man had land that yielded excellent crops. So he decided to store all the crops by making bigger storehouses. This man felt confident, possessing these riches, and says to himself: “Take it easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”(Lk.12:19)

Obviously, this man thought that he was well enough prepared for his future life. But God had planned to end his life that very night: therefore his storage was meaningless. Jesus says: “That’s how it is with the person who stores up treasures for himself rather than with God”(Lk. 12:21)

Indeed, we can understand this parable in the first place as a caution about “greed” - to desire more than enough- than a teaching about how to prepare for the future. But right after the parable of today, another teaching of Jesus follows: “So stop concerning yourselves about what you will eat or what you will drink, and stop being distressed (…)”(Lk.12:29) So I think it is also possible and appropriate to connect today’s parable to our concern about our future lives.

3.
Jesus’ attitude about this topic, namely how we should prepare for our future, seems to be considerably different from what we take for granted today, such as paying into our pension funds, or buying insurance.

But before the teaching of Jesus, in the time of Moses, God our Father showed the same attitude to the Jewish people: “Don’t save, trust that God will provide you with necessary things each day”.

While Moses wandered the desert for 40 years with his people, God let “manna,” something like white sweet bread, fall from the sky every morning as food for the Jewish people. But God didn’t allow them to collect more than the necessary amount for the day, sparing “manna” for the days to come.

Jesus succeeded to the attitude. How does he teach us to pray every day? In the Lord’s Prayer, we say: “Give us this day, our daily bread”. This “bread” is the symbol of what we need to live that day in total, and it means not only literally bread. But Jesus doesn’t teach us to pray like: “Give us this day our daily bread, and some spare food as insurance for the following days…”

If we begin praying in that way, it would lead us to endless requests and demands, until we were completely occupied with greed. Exceeding our basic needs for safe insurance in the future is the same as distrust in God. God is here today, and takes care of us. God will be there tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and will take care of us. God will be with us in the future, forever. We don’t have to worry about it.

That is one of the reasons we pray only for “our daily bread”, for today. But there is one more reason why Jesus let us pray only for today’s bread, not for tomorrow’s.

4.
The another reason why we pray only for today’s bread is that Jesus teaches us to “live today”, to live this day. If we look at how the foundation of our lives is built up, we have to admit that we can only ever live for “today”. To be precise: we are only alive in the moment. Today is a series of the moments we encounter. And each of our lives is a series of such “todays”, single days.

This is a very simple truth, and we are designed to live our lives on this principle. To live today, this given day, is what we can do and what we are supposed to do.

But of course this day includes remembering what has happened in the past; and to dream about the future; or to get worried about something we anticipate in days to come. Those things are parts of living today and acceptable – unless we fall totally into memories from the past, and stop facing today with an active attitude; or if we worry too much about our future, and cannot enjoy our lives in the present day. It’s important to keep a good balance, and not forget that we are living today, not yesterday or tomorrow.

Sometimes, however, it is difficult to keep that balance. If someone has had a terrible experience in the past, and it still remains in that person’s life as a trauma, it’s not an easy task to separate today from that past. If a person’s trauma is really strong, it’s a kind of disease, and he needs help of an expert. But it is possible to cure, in my understanding.

There can be also some sort of mini-trauma in our lives, or I would call it a “sense of emptiness” or „sense of loss“, that makes it difficult to concentrate on living today with full power.

5.
We are naturally accustomed to think of life as a continued story. It’s just like a book, an autography beginning at birth and ending at death of a perosn. Yes, we read the life of Jesus on earth after the same pattern. This is not a bad thing, just natural.

But when we learn to see our lives according this pattern, we make an average model of one’s life in our consciousness such as „while one is small, he goes to school, and around twenty begins to work. Then get married and has a baby…“ Then we begin to compare our own lives to the average model, or to the lives of other people that we know.

For example, if my life is obviously lagging behind compared to the lives of others in some regard, I begin to feel uncomfortable about it, or might even feel a sense of inferiority.

In Japan, many men and women have a vacant feeling because they cannot get married after reaching a certain age. In the case of women, the matter of the possibility of childbearing also comes up. Some people long sincerely for their own partners; but some feel bad just because they are not like most people, or because their lives don’t fit the average model. “Something is missing in my life.” “My life cannot be completed if things don’t change.” These are examples of the sense of emptiness.

And I know that some of you, who have experienced the consuming years of asylum seeking, also encounter this sense of emptiness and try to overcome it.

I think it is quite a natural thing for those who have lost 4 years, 5 years or more in their lives as refugees; in which nothing seemed certain nor creative; to miss those years and dream about how they might have used those years for doing something creative, just like many others do in peaceful countries.

What might they have achieved if they could have used that time as they had wished, instead of seeking refuge? I cannot answer. Nobody would be able to.

But I do believe one thing: that God our Father provided for each of them the grace of the day they had lived. Grace means here that we are in God’s care. God knows what we need for that day and gives it. We have all received this daily grace, but sometimes we cannot recognize the grace as grace, since our understanding is limited. And we might understand it later.

You know there are many examples that one, who has experienced difficulty in his life and consumed much time because of it, sends later messages and encouragement to the people around him, precious messages and encouragement that only who has gone through that difficult time can send.

6.
Each life is different from others. Jesus compares peoples’ lives, in some parables, only to emphasize the meaning of following God in our lives. It is not a constructive thing to compare our lives to others’, for something that looks like disadvantage at first can turn out to be a great advantage afterwards.

Jesus not only teaches this, but demonstrates it several times during his earthly life. God has power to make that change in our lives. Jesus’ death on the cross is the symbol of this power. It looked like a failure, but in truth it was the victory, opening the way to God’s salvation for us.

The message of Jesus today is: “Do not try too much to insure your future, but trust that God our Father will take care of you. Receive today as the grace of God, and live it”.

We also learn, as an extension of this message, that our past experience, whatever it is, can turn into special grace for you, or for me. Jesus says: “Don’t be bound by the events of the past. Trust that God was always taking care of you in the past, as well as today, and so, live today!”.

To live today with the grace of God are our lives. Our past exists in order to make our today better and more meaningful. And living today with our full power makes our future lives, with which God our Father will be pleased.

The Grace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Amen.

Text

Luke 12:16-21

16 Then he told them a parable. He said, “The land of a certain rich man produced good crops. 17 So he began to think to himself, ‘What should I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and I’ll store all my grain and goods in them. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “You’ve stored up plenty of good things for many years. Take it easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”’ 20 But God told him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded back from you. Now who will get the things you’ve accumulated?’ 21 That’s how it is with the person who stores up treasures for himself rather than with God.”

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