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Feast of Toyohiko Kagawa (April 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  Toyohiko Kagawa

Image in the Public Domain

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TOYOHIKO KAGAWA (JULY 10, 1888-APRIL 23, 1960)

Renewer of Society and Prophetic Witness in Japan

The Episcopal Church celebrates the life of Toyohiko Kagawa on April 23 and describes him as a “Prophetic Witness in Japan.”  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada also observe this feast on the same day, but list him as a “Renewer of Society.”  Both labels are accurate.

Christ alone can make all things new.  The spirit of Christ must be the soul of all social reconstruction.

–Toyohiko Kagawa

Toyohiko Kagawa–Christian minister, labor activist, political dissident and prisoner, civil servant, pacifist, advocate for slum dwellers and the working poor, and Christian Socialist–grew up a Buddhist.  He, born in Kobe, Japan, on July 10, 1888, was the second child of businessman-politician Denjiro Kagawa and concubine Kame.  They died two months apart, before our saint was five years old.  For six years young Toyohiko lived on the Kagawa family farm in Awa provivince.  There he studied the Confucian classics.  At the age of 11, after a false accusation of harming a girl, he went to the middle school at Tokushima, on the island of Shikiku.  This was an educational institution he wanted to attend.  Young Toyohiko was a serious student who desired to master the English language.  That interest, combined with his location, led to the next step in our saint’s spiritual journey.

Kagawa learned English and came to Christ under the tutelage of Drs. Harry Myers and Charles Logan, Presbyterian ministers.  In 1903, at the age of fifteen years, our saint converted to Christianity.  His first prayer was

Oh God, make me like Christ!

Young Toyohiko, baptized and determined to study for the ordained ministry, had found a new family.  He also lost his old one; the Kagawas disowned him.

Kagawa had two main social concerns–pacifism and poverty.  These existed in the context of his promise to God to dedicate his life to telling the story of the cross of Christ.  The church, our saint insisted, must identify with the poor and the downtrodden and serve God in them.  The church, he concluded, was not doing as well by this standard as it should.  Pacifism was a matter of following the Golden Rule, one of Christ’s commands.

Dr. Myers arranged for the 17-year-old Kagawa to study at Presbyterian College, Tokyo, starting in 1905.  There our saint remained until tuberculosis forced him to leave in 1908.  He had developed interests in and studied theology, philosophy, sociology, and economics.  His studies had not ended, however.

Katawa returned to Kobe, where he continued his theological studies.  Academics were important in preparation for ordained ministry, he affirmed, but he needed to serve the poor also.  Therefore our saint lived not in a residence hall but under a bridge then in a slum.  In 1909 he decided not to seek ordination but to serve the poor full-time.  From 1910 to 1924, with some gaps, Kagawa lived in a tiny hut in a slum in Kobe.  In May 1914, when he married Haru, a factory worker, he and his wife lived in a tiny hut.  She also cooked for sixteen people daily.  Husband and wife were a team.

In August 1914 Kagawa sailed for the United States, to study at Princeton University.  He cobbled together the fare with help from his in-laws, Drs. Myers and Logan, his church, and the seminary at Kobe.  For eighteen months our saint investigated urban poverty, social services, and living conditions.  He also began to formulate strategies that might prove effective in Japanese cities.  Kagawa decided to stop being a social worker and to be come a social reformer.  He thought about how to change institutions and society, to alter conditions that contribute to poverty.  How to create more jobs, increase wages, improve education, make health care more accessible, et cetera became concerns for him.  This had a theological grounding–the affirmation of inherent human dignity.

Kagawa, back in Japan, became a social reformer.  He also decided to seek ordination after all.  Our saint, ordained in 1917, worked in the slums.  Kagawa, the national secretary of the Japanese Federation of Labor, published The Adoration of the Laborer in 1919.  This prompted his arrest that year.  Two years alter he was back in prison for leading a strike and arguing for the right to workers to organize.  (Labor unions were illegal in Japan until 1925.)  Between arrests he wrote an influential novel, Across the Death-line, about conditions in slums.

Japanese officialdom, which kept Kagawa under surveillance much of the time, wavered between labeling him a criminal and questioning his patriotism on one hand and hiring him on the other hand.  In 1923 an earthquake devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, killing 100,000 people and rendering five million people homeless.  Kagawa organized the relief projects so ably that he went on to serve on the Imperial Economic Commission.  He used his influence to help pass laws to end slums in Asaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo, and Yokohama.  On the other hand, Kagawa’s pacifism angered militarist elements of society and government .  In 1927 he was the only Japanese person to sign an international anti-military conscription manifesto presented to the League of Nations.  Other signers included Mohandas Gandhi and Albert Einstein.  Our saint was allegedly a

traitor in the pay of American imperialists

and a

tool of the Russian Communists.

He certainly made no friends among militarists by organizing the National Anti-War League the following year.  In 1940 Kagawa’s public apology to the people of China for the Japanese invasion led to more time in prison.

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

–Voltaire

In August 1941 Kagawa and seven other Japanese men traveled to the United States.  There they engaged in dialogue in the vain search for ways to avoid war between the U.S.A. and the Japanese Empire.  Our saint, recalling hearing news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, wrote:

I felt that all the lights of the world had gone out.  My heart was broken.

During World War II the Imperial Japanese government continued to vacillate regarding how to treat Kagawa.  In 1943 they arrested him for being a pacifist then released him without filing charges.  Then, in March 1945, toward the end of the war, they appointed him the Chairman of the Wartime Relief Committee.

After World War II Kagawa became the civil servant in charge of social services programs.  Prime Minister Naruhiko Higaskikuni (in office August 16-October 8, 1945) told our saint:

Dr. Kagawa, Japan has been destroyed, not because we had not a sufficient, but because we had suffered the loss of a good standard of morality and engaged in war.  We need a new standard of ethics, like that of Jesus Christ.  Buddhism can never teach us to forgive our enemies; nor can Shintoism.  Only Jesus Christ was able to love his enemies.  Therefore, Dr. Kagawa, if Japan is to be revived, we need Jesus Christ as the basis of our national life.  I want you to help me put the love of Jesus Christ into the hearts of our people.

–Quoted in Orlo Strunk, Jr., In Faith and Love (Nashville, TN:  Graded Press, 1968), page 26

Kagawa eventually retired from that work.  His health failing, he spent his final year of life bedridden.  Our saint died in Tokyo on April 23, 1960.  He was 71 years old.

Kagawa was a patriot–one frequently at odds with his government, which kept him under surveillance, arrested him occasionally, and hired him from time to time.  He was a pacifist.  During much of his life the government was under the control of militarists who ordered atrocities–violations of human rights.  Kagawa was a labor activist.  During some of his years labor unions were illegal.  If he had never been at odds with his government, he would have been a hypocrite.

Kagawa was indeed a renewer of society and a prophetic witness.

I offer you, O reader, the germane propers from Episcopal and Lutheran sources.  All three collects apply well to Kagawa’s life and legacy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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We bless your Name, O God, for the witness of Toyohiko Kagawa, reformer and teacher,

who was persecuted for his pacifist principles and went on to lead a movement for democracy in Japan;

and we pray that you would strengthen and protect all who suffer for their fidelity to Jesus Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Job 13:13-22

Psalm 140

Philippians 1:12-20

Luke 22:47-53

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 341

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or 

Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Toyohiko Kagawa, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Howard Thurman (April 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Howard Thurman

Image in the Public Domain

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HOWARD WASHINGTON THURMAN (NOVEMBER 18, 1899-APRIL 10, 1981)

U.S. Baptist Minister, Mystic, and Theologian

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The religion of Jesus makes the love-ethic central.

–Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (1949; 1996 reprint, page 89)

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Howard Thurman was an important force for social justice in the United States.  Although he was not on the front lines of the civil rights movement, he did produce a theology of reaching beyond fear and hatred that inspired many who were on the front lines.

Thurman, born on November 18, 1899, at Daytona, Florida, was a son of the church.  His father was Solomon Thurman (a railroad worker) and his mother was Alice Ambrose Thurman (a domestic worker).  Our saint learned much about the Bible from his maternal grandmother, a former slave.  Thurman, educated at Florida Baptist Academy, Jacksonville, Florida (1915-1919), then at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia (1919-1923), became a Baptist minister in 1925.  His first church as pastor was Zion Baptist Church, Oberlin, Ohio.  The following year our saint graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary.  Then Thurman continued his education at Oberlin School of Theology and Haverford College.  At the latter institution he learned from Rufus Jones (1863-1948), a prominent Quaker philosopher.  In 1929 Thurman became both a professor of religion and the director of religious life at both Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, Atlanta.  While in Atlanta he married Sue Bailey, in 1932.

From 1932 to 1943 Thurman served on the faculty of Howard University, D.C.  He, President Mordecai Johnson, and Dr. Benjamin Mays (the Dean of the School of Religion), provided leadership at that institution and beyond.  Thurman’s titles were Chairman of the Committee on Religious Life and Professor of Christian Theology.  Our saint worked behind the scenes with many of the early leaders of the civil rights movement.  These great men and women included W. E. B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Mary McLeod Bethune.  During a tour of India in 1935 and 1936 Thurman met Mohandas Gandhi and became convinced of the wisdom of applying nonviolence to the struggle for civil rights in the United States.  Our saint also expanded his understanding of religious freedom with regard to human freedom and the struggle for it.

Thurman left Howard University in 1943 to co-found the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, San Francisco, California, an early example of a multicultural congregation in the United States.  His co-pastor was Alfred G. Fisk, who was white.   While in San Francisco, Thurman wrote Jesus and the Disinherited (1949), in which he laid the theological foundation for the use of nonviolence in the civil rights movement and portrayed Jesus as one who helped disinherited people as they dealt with oppression.  Black Liberation Theology, which James Cone went on to develop, grew out of this volume, a copy of which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., carried with him.

Our saint left San Francisco in 1953, when he accepted the job as Dean of the Marsh Chapel and Professor of Spiritual Disciplines and Resources at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.  That year Life magazine described Thurman as one of the twelve greatest preachers of the twentieth century.  He applied that rhetorical skill at the Marsh Chapel until 1965, when he retired.

For the rest of his life our saint directed the Howard Thurman Educational Trust.

Thurman died at San Francisco on April 10, 1981.  He was 81 years old.

His message of nonviolent resistance to oppression is timeless, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYRES, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   Leave a comment

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3c26559/)

Rejecting Agape

JANUARY 31, 2016

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Jeremiah 1:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah son of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

I replied:

Ah, Lord GOD!

I don’t know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.

And the LORD said to me:

Do not say, “I am still a boy,”

But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

Have no fear of them,

For I am with you to deliver them

–declares the LORD.

The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:

Herewith I put My words into your mouth.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and to pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.

Psalm 71:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be ashamed.

2  In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;

incline your ear to me and save me.

3  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe;

you are my crag and my stronghold.

4  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5  For you are my hope, O Lord GOD,

my confidence since I was young.

6  I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;

from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;

my praise shall be always of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (New American Bible):

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

And he [Jesus] won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

Jeremiah 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-2/

1 Corinthians 13:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/week-of-proper-19-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-2/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/forgive-our-lack-of-love-prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphan/

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Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quickeyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

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“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here.”

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

“Who made the eyes but I?”

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“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them.  Let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love,  ”who bore the blame?

My dear, then, I will serve.

You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert (1633)

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The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  There are four types of love in the New Testament, with agape being the highest form.  For a description of agape I turn to Volume X (1953), page 167 of The Interpreter’s Bible:

Agape is another kind of love which roots in the undeserved goodness men have received in Christ.

Agape is a type of love which extends to one’s enemies, looks past mutual interests, and is not merely sentimental.  It is the love which God has for us.  Thusagape is crucial, greater even than faith and hope, which are also commendable and of God.

This was the love which qualified Jeremiah and kept him company on his difficult vocation, one fraught with rejection.  And this was the love which Jesus, also rejected, embodied in a unique way.  This was the love those who tried to kill him at Nazareth lacked.

Agape is hard for many people to practice, for we are flawed.  This statement applies to me.  But I like agape; I seek to come nearer to living it.  One poetic expression of the essence of agape is the George Herbert poem I have quoted in this post.  My choir at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, has sung the Ralph Vaughan Williams setting of it.  The text speaks to me of what I have received and continue to receive from God.  I can do better, by grace, and I am.  And I have much room for improvement.

Agape is also intolerable for many people.  They seek to destroy it.  The reason for this, I suppose, is that it reminds them of their shortcomings.  And, instead of admitting those failings, some people react defensively and fearfully.  Thus violent people have, throughout history and into the present day, persecuted pacifists, from Quakers to Anabaptists to Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.  New England Puritans hanged Quakers in colonial times.  Anabaptists in Europe and elsewhere have attracted a host of foes.  There was, for example, state-sanctioned persecution of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors in the United States during World War I.  And Gandhi and King became victims of assassins.  Before King’s death many of his self-identified conservative coreligionists condemned his stances on civil rights and the Vietnam War.  (I have notecards full of citations, quotes, and summaries from back issues of The Presbyterian Journal, which midwifed the Presbyterian Church in America in the early 1970s.  The Journal, publishing immediately after King’s death, continued to condemn him.)

Our human intolerance for agape has caused quite a body count to accumulate.  May God forgive us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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