Bach in Japan

March 11, 2013

No, this is not Bach.  His name is Massaki Suzuki and he’s the founder and conductor of the Bach Collegium Japan.  He is drawing huge crowds from all over Japan to his concerts.  It seems that many of these music lovers are having their first contact with Christianity through the music of Johann Sebastian Bach!  How is that?  Mr. Suzuki explains,

Masaaki Suzuki<br />photo: Marco Borggreve

“What people need in this country is hope in the Christian sense of the word, but hope is an alien idea here.  Our language does not even have an appropriate word for hope.  We either use a word meaning desire or another word meaning something unattainable.”   A professor said, “Where else in the world do you find non-Christians so engrossed in biblical texts?”

J. S. Bach died 7-28-1750

J. S. Bach died 7-28-1750

After each of his performances, non-Christians crowd around his podium to talk about topics that are normally taboo in Japanese society — death for example.  “And they inevitably ask me to explain to them what hope means to Christians.  Get’s me thinking about how I might articulate my answer to that question in an understandable way.  How would you explain what hope means to you?

According to one Japanese man’s report, “Bach gives us hope when we are afraid; he gives us courage when we despair; he comforts us when we are tired; he makes us pray when we are sad; and he makes us sing when we are full of joy.”

About three years ago, First Things published an article from which I learned about this Bach boom that’s still sweeping Japan.  It’s six pages long, but worth the read.    In it, the writer describes the bleak spiritual picture in Japan as well as the encouragement provided by Bach’s music.

Thanks to J. Marty Cope, our church’s choir director, who is organizing a tour for us to travel there this summer to sing music from Bach and Handel and old gospel hymns from America.

All this impacts me as yet another example of the impact Jesus had when he visited Planet Earth 2000 years ago sending ripples of influence on the arts and music as well as so many other influences for good.  I just finished reading John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man?, which shows the ongoing impact of Christ on so many ways we can live life with dignity throughout history as well as how we can be rightly related to God the Father permanently.

What an appropriate time of the year to listen to a portion of Japanese believers singing St. John Passion.

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A Tribute to Mom

March 2, 2013
Last Time with Mom Alive at 100

Last Time with Mom Alive at 100

Mom died on Feb 20.  The last time I was with her alive was November 3, 2012 at her 100th birthday celebration.  At the funeral service last week, Pastor Doug Smith paid tribute to her life that quietly impacted hundreds of people.  He emphasized our rich heritage of godly ancestors through several generations and also the way our family is currently involved in serving the Lord for the kingdom of God.   Several things I will remember her for are (1) she was more comfortable serving others that being served, (2) she always tried to do what was right, (3) she loved children, and (4) her life exemplified the popular slogan of the depression: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

My sister wrote this poem as she reflected on this very significant lady:

O, Mom, the things your life has seen:

In your childhood home, electric was not there,

Nor running water out of a faucet

When at night you climbed the stair.

You saw your first airplane in the sky

And automobiles were a treat,

Television and telephones were in the future

You were happy to have enough to eat.

World War 1 and then the Depression,

World War 2 took lives too soon.

The years rolled on and by and by

A man took a walk on the moon.

With a good marriage to an upstanding man,

Times were a little better and not as tough.

You raised your children and helped others

Somehow there was always enough.

Looking back on a hundred years

Gives us a reason for pride

To have lived in those remarkable days

Where strength triumphed

and conveniences arrived.

So here’s a bundle of loving thoughts

And honor that’s fit for a queen;

We’re amazed as we stand reminiscing…

O, Mom, the things your life has seen.

In the darkness of grieving, certain scriptures come to light.  “A good name is better than a good ointment.  And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”            (Ecclesiastes 7:1)