Author Archives: minuiperiannath

About minuiperiannath

Name: Spencer Wentland College: North Central University Year: Senior Major:Intercultural Studies My story of meeting Jesus in short: Not many weeks after I was born my parents baptized me into the Christian faith at First English Lutheran Church in my hometown, Appleton, WI. There they renewed their promises to renounce the devil and his ways, the world and evil and raise me the same way teaching me to love and fear the Lord, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creeds and when of reading age to put the Holy Bible in my hands and all the while, with the church community, instruct me in the Christian faith. My parents weren't perfect but they did fulfill the vows they made at my baptism. I had my own more personal experience with the Lord around the age of seven when I followed Jesus out of the Gospels to a "quiet, lonely place" in my backyard with the hope to do whatever Jesus did there. Without realizing it or ever being taught how to "receive Jesus into your heart" it happened quite like that even seeing a mental vision of Jesus and knowing I need to welcome him into my heart and let him sit on the throne of my life. I've never been the same since then and the Lord has kept his promise to be with me "always." I confirmed what my parents chose for me in a public confession of faith and the ritual of believer's baptism at a local swimming school where the Assemblies of God church my mom attends used to do their baptisms. I've never regretted a life with Jesus; life has always been richer, deeper and fuller because of it. About Me: Ha that's a funny question, and a popular one today. Well, if you really want to know "all about me" you will have to meet me. For starters I am hard to put in simple categories and often find myself tumbling between labels; i.e. introverted and extroverted, strong and weak, intuitive yet a rationalist, introspective and social, unique and individual yet needing people and empathetic. I belong to and am part of the Way and that is probably the most defining important part of my being. (Acts 24:14) As a God lover in the Way of Jesus Christ I long to see and embrace all things and people in his love for his glory. Creative people and places energize me. I enjoy and appreciate art and artists and like to contribute and collaborate in making my own art at times. I need my own time and spend a lot of time in contemplation- this is where I get recharged and new vision and vitality for life. A con of my personality is my ill attempts to understand everything about everything. At the same time I also get energy from others and love to be sociable. I make matrix like connections in my mind and although my comments often are perceived as random too me they are very connected to something. To me connection and harmony are very important and I believe the truth brings that out. The last few years have been filled with learning, studying and meeting wonderful people. Copenhagen, Escanaba, Nagasaki, and now back to Minneapolis! So excited to learn, grow and finish my last year at university! Call: I feel strongly called by the Lord to work and give myself as missionary of love to the Japanese people. As the Lord leads I hope to take a missionary assignment through ELCA Global Mission teaching English and serving in congregational mission and leadership in Japan. Eventually I would like to serve as an apostolic worker planting boiler rooms (missional/monastic communities) around the Japanese archipelago with a bunch of other Jesus lovers in international, incarnational bands of friends. About this blog: This blog is for my Church Administration and Personal Finance class. I'm looking forward to interesting and practical conversation and learning that will help develop my leadership and organizational skills for however and whatever takes shape out of the Lord's call.

Missio Dei and Missionary Identity

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Part One: laborer / child

“It is not so much that God has a mission for His church in the world, but that God has a church for His mission in the world.”

Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 62.

Over the long stay-at-home time many of us were in over the last spring, I audited a class on the book of Acts and the establishment and expansion of the first century church with an online cohort of students in the United States. While mentioning the topic of the missio Dei I got some pushback from the facilitator that I was not expecting but I have not been able to stop thinking about since then.

Although I don’t remember his exact words, it was something to the effect of if God is primarily a missionary and the church is just a subset of that missionary enterprise what does that make us?

The implication here is that it makes us a means to an end. It makes us workers, laborers, missionaries. So if missio Dei becomes a way to, by summary of salvation history, reduce both the expression of the Trinity and the Church to mission we loose a lot of important things we need to be careful about. The question my teacher asked me, what does that make us? becomes to me, what does that make me? And so the language of identity comes into play.

As someone who has felt called into missions since I was a child, missionary identity has become a big part of my sense of purpose and identity. But in my teacher’s question the weight of this identifier was challenged. I knew that the implication was that God is not a missionary, primarily, just like God is not a judge, primarily but we know the God revealed through Jesus Christ as loving Father. As such we are His beloved children and to each other a beloved spiritual family of the forgiven.

As much as I may think of the importance of the mission if I, or my team, or my congregation loose this familial imprint rooted in our baptismal identity then it actually disrupts and distorts the mission itself. It does so firstly, because by failing to relate as family in love we fail to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, we become a living contradiction of the Gospel we are supposed to proclaim. And so in this sense it diminishes our Christian witness.

But before I get ahead of myself an start looking at my collective context I want to examine my own heat. Have I made the work of mission more important than loving my team members as sisters and brothers? Have I failed to be family first? Do I see myself primarily as here to work or here to be a son, a brother, who accompanies and gets to work when called?

Its beyond the scope of my writing here to deconstruct the theology of missio Dei or even answer the question as to whether it is problematic or has ways to self-correct these implications. But I know I need to change some of my thinking. Even as I write from quarantine at my hotel North of Tokyo where work is limited but there is still a lot of work to be done perhaps the most important work I have been able to give myself to is the work of repentance.

I mean, I shouldn’t feel burnt out after being home for almost a month and now finishing almost two weeks of quarantine at a hotel? But then why am I so tired? Because there is always work, always work, always more work. And if God is primarily a worker then I am always an unworthy servant.

No.

In Japan, where work and the company has become idol number one there desperately needs to be a people who live the Gospel as Kingdom family first. It is out of abiding in the Vine together that we bear fruit, it is out of our mutual prayer, discernment, conversation, laughter, play, and even co-working the things placed upon us that we can only begin to discern what the Father’s business is. But in such a context as this I wonder if it is not the freedom to rest, the freedom to play, the freedom to let go and just be,,, be with the other that we can offer the ministry of presence, the ministry that is accompaniment.

And so I offer this prayer:


Gracious God, merciful Father, forgive me for the ways I have judged myself inadequate, a failure, unproductive, and lazy. Help me to see how you see me that I may be rooted and established in love, bearing fruit from that eternal stream rather than trying to work it up in my own steam and power. I waste away, meaninglessly when I do so, and I am so much more likely to fall into judging others to defend myself. Forgive me for judging others around me with the constant examination of who is doing more work. Release us all from the endless and meaningless busyness that surrounds us in our world. Help us cary in each hour of the day the one thing that is needful, to be at your feet receiving. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

I see a Renaissance for Japan

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     I will never forget a prayer meeting I attended in Kansas City back in 2014 for Japan and the Japanese that was co-hosted by 24-7 Prayer and the International House of Prayer. A Chinese sister was sharing a dream she had had about Japan where she saw all of these dead bodies in the city of Tokyo that were in homes and apartments and she saw them being resurrected. I believe this is a picture of of those “dead in their transgression” being raised to new life in Christ.


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The Unfinished Task and the Missio Dei

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Today is the commemoration of John Donne, an English poet and Anglican vicar. In his memory I sang hymn 684, Creating God, Your Fingers Trace, in ELW in my morning devotions, the final stanza of which is written:

Indwelling God, your gospel claims one family with a billion names; let every life be touched by grace until we praise you face to face.

Jeffery Rowthorn

The prayer in this hymn relates to the unfinished task, a term which put simply refers to the great commission. In the hymn written by Jeffery Rowthorn, captures the evangelical hope of the Church, namely that through the Gospel every life, every soul will experience adoption into God’s family, and wake up to the reality that “in him we live and move and have our being.” The expression of this as a hope takes the form of a sung prayer and implicates the unfinished nature of the Gospel’s work in that “who hopes for what he already has but we hope for what we do not yet have.”

In attempting to relate the unfinished task to the overall context of the missio Dei, I wrote this in the opening paragraph to my senior synthesis:

Though not to neglect the larger and broader thrust of the missio Dei in its overarching bend towards the establishment and advance of the Kingdom of God as expressed both in his sovereign, just, and loving reign and shalom, at the heart of the missionary task lays the Great Commission including both the proclamation of the Gospel and the discipling of the nations. According to the words of Jesus this task shall not yield or forbear till history has reached its consummation (Matt. 24:14). Therefore the reality that there are places of resistance or absence in this task remains as yet a crucial dilemma in the Church’s praxis. Because the preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom and the act of teaching lay central to the missionary task, communication and being able to be communicative within the cultural context one finds themselves in is of import. Furthermore, the incarnational pattern of Jesus lays the foundation for philosophy and heart that drives contextual communication. In other words, as Jesus as the divine Logos entered from the “culture” of heaven into human culture and into the worldview of humanity so the disciples of Jesus replicate him as they move from one culture to another and seek to enter into the worldviews of those whom they are called to bear witness. Thus the missiological context of the unfinished task sets up both the problem and suggests the way forward, that “as we go” we go at least a time in the shoes of another, seeking to understand in humility the way they see the world.

Identity and Worldview of Emerging Japanese Adults, Spencer Wentland

In terms of my larger missionary community in ELCA Global Mission, this “as we go”ness of mission relates largely to the missiology of accompaniment. It relates to the how we do what we do. In many ways, what we do will in turn by shaped by the how we go about doing things because the relational priority that accompaniment brings, a priority rooted in incarnational way of Christ, the direction fo where we are going and the what we do in terms of the immediacy fo mission will shift in ways that often dynamic and complex.

Accompaniment is defined as walking together in a solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. 

What I argue in relating the unfinished task to the missio Dei, I also now argue for in its relationship to accompaniment. Although accompaniment subjectivizes mission this subjectivity is always subset in our subjectivity to the Lord Christ. Just as the Word of God is the source for the Church, it is also the source for her mission within this relationship we have an objective Gospel and an objective commission to disciple the nations that informs and shapes the how (accompaniment) and the what (evangelical mission) of what we do.

Although what the Church does as it participates in God’s mission may be varied and diverse, the priority of the unfinished task should not be neglected. To completely shift from an apostolic character, advancing the Gospel in unreached places, to a catholic character, relating mission only through channels of ecclesial partnerships because of the relatively ubiquitous nature of the Church in our time, ignores the fact that much of the world remains out of touch with any expression of the Church in any form. In order to be consistent with the purpose of the ELCA as stated in paragraph 4.02 B, we must renew this commitment to an apostolic character and nature of global mission. Accompaniment, in as much as it is rooted in the Way of Christ, continues to shape how mission is carried out whether it originates in Christ’s Great Commission (apostolic orientation) or the external call of companion churches (catholic orientation).

Carry out Christ’s Great Commission by reaching out to all
people to bring them to faith in Christ and by doing all ministry
with a global awareness consistent with the understanding of
God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of all.

CONSTITUTIONS, BYLAWS, AND CONTINUING RESOLUTIONS of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Statement of Purpose, 4.02 B

In my next blog I want to relate the idea of task to God as I wrestle through some ongoing metanoia in my understanding of the missio Dei.

“The way he carries me.”

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     The sacristy is what we called the prayer room at the Copenhagen Christian Culture Center. I lived at the center with seventeen others from five different countries and three different continents. We had come to spend a year of our lives focused on Jesus. Some had returned to learn about leadership and bring a level of it for the first year participants.  This was 2007 and 2008 and it was my “gap year,” before attending normal university but it was a season of prayer, close fellowship, theological study, and hands on ministry experience at the church and in the red light district of Copenhagen. 

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Preaching for Chapel

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Below I will include the text of the message I was supposed to preach yesterday. That was before I got influenza but one of the senior missionary-teachers graciously canceled my preaching for yesterday because she new coming back to work this week would be a beast.

I rely on the daily lectionary for preaching for chapel at Luther High School. I populated a topical list pretty quickly after coming here but I always read the daily texts first and see if the Holy Spirit might give some Word from the written Words and so far she always has.

It takes me a while to prepare a message, even though I need to keep it to three and half minutes and I usually have to shave stuff off to make it fit. The time we are given to preach is seven minutes but we usually preach in English and it gets translated by Japanese co-teacher or a Japanese student with assistance from a Japanese teacher.

I preached in Japanese once and it took about twelve and a half hours to prepare a seven minute message. I may do it again, but for now I am glad I did it that once.

So here is the message I was going to preach that I will likely give later this year:


Text: Genesis 49:1-2, 22-26

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. 

“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
    listen to your father Israel“

Joseph is a fruitful vine,
    a fruitful vine near a spring,
    whose branches climb over a wall.
 With bitterness archers attacked him;
    they shot at him with hostility.
But his bow remained steady,
    his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
    because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
    because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
    blessings of the deep springs below,
    blessings of the breast and womb.
Your father’s blessings are greater
    than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
    than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
    on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

NIV

Title: God Will Bring the Increase

I moved to Fukushima when I was twenty-four years old. It was my second time living in Japan and I was excited to be back in Japan. My first year there, however, was very hard. I came with the hope and promise of community, but I could not find good community at first. Working in Japan was much more difficult than being a student. I felt isolated and alone. I began to lose my trust in God, and I began to get bitter.

            My first winter in Fukushima I got sick for ninety days. During that time God confronted me with my lack of trust and brought me back into fellowship with him. It was during a prayer time after that, that I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit say, trust me to supply for every place you feel lack. I said yes, I will trust you. Within one month I was already starting to make close friends, and everything seemed to be changing.

            We all have a time where reality does not meet our expectations. We have dreams that seem to crash to the ground. We don’t get the grade we want. We don’t seem to fit in the group of friends we had hoped to belong to. We don’t go to the college of our first choice.

            In Proverbs 13: 12 it says, hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Today we heard about a man named Joseph. When he was young, he had a dream that he would become a king and even his father and brothers would bow down to him. This dream was from God, but his brothers hated him because he said this. They plotted to kill him but instead sold him into slavery in Egypt. There Joseph was successful at first but became a prisoner through a lie someone told about him. You can read more about his story in the book of Genesis, and it’s very interesting but I will only say now that one day his dream came true. Even though he became a slave first, and then a prisoner, Joseph became a ruler in Egypt and his father and brothers bowed down to him.

            So, Joseph was a fruitful vine growing near a stream and climbing a wall. I’m telling you right now that if you live in God you will be fruitful. There are many obstacles in your life, many walls. Tough relationships, homework, sports practice, music practice, the requests from parents, tests, and entrance examinations just to name a few. Sometimes you get sick, sometimes someone you love closely gets really sick. These walls can feel like they get in the place of life but they actually are building strength in you so you can climb over the walls and into the dream God has for your life. People may attack you; they may say mean things to you or mean things behind your back, but you stand your ground because God is going to help you. God is the rock that gives you a firm place to stand and prepare your life. God is also the shepherd who guides you through the questions of life. You have a lot of things to do but only God can make you grow. The miracle of life and growth are mysteries that work by God’s power. God will bless you. He doesn’t want you to just survive but to thrive!            

We are a people who live in light of God’s promise. This promise came to Joseph and it comes to us through Jesus Christ who is the True Vine. If we live in him and let him live in us, we will have fruitful, abundant lives. We will thrive. 


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Battling for Joy

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I think the darkening of winter teaches us something important about a deep internal truth of the human condition. We all feel cold, we feel an large empty aloneness, we experience the eclipse of warmth and light and love. Harsh, harsh is the world upon the soft and supple flesh of humankind.

Amidst the dark and gloom of the winter night there are different kinds of portals we set up to remind us that beyond this there is something more profound. Stars in the night sky and pierce not only shade of night but also the shroud that gets around our heads. Fairy lights are strung up in preparations for the mass of Christ, the Light of the Word born in this harsh world. We set ups lamps and advent wreathes, and Christmas trees which glow and shimmer a warmth. And all of this is a kind of fight.

Its still Fall here in Kumamoto but the days have been getting darker. But I only reference this seasonal charade of shortening days as a kind of analogy. Its an analogy to what goes on in life and to what has been going on in my life.

Breakdown in relationships, stress, fatigue, and friction wearing on relationships still intact, the anxiety of navigating how to love one another. Is that supposed to be stressful thing? Too much work, never enough time. Setting boundaries against the narrative of slavery that wants to destroy both sabbath and sonship along with God’s image and Kingdom. I slip. I sin. Sleep comes thinner and sickness seems to spin around from head to head as it jumps on sneezes and halitosis ridden yawns.

Harsh is the world that presses heavy upon our supple flesh.

Nearby the ones I love most struggle to grasp meaning and joy. God,, Where is your God? The enemy mutters.

So I speak over my heartbroken soul,

“Take courage.

For I know my God will break through for me.”

from Psalm 42, TPT

Joy is a battle! Putting up Christmas lights, lighting a candle, clasping a mug of warm tea or soup, bringing a warm face to a downcast friend or finding a warm face for yours– these are acts war, or resistance against the onslaught of the cold, dark, drift of despair and assulting lies that say its not worth it.

Its worth it. “The Joy of the Lord is our strength.” Its the only way I have been able to find victory in this season is to fight with joy and when I don’t have it, to fight for joy. There is this profound, and wonderful truth that should undergird all of reality–God is fighting for our joy to. Jesus, crucified on the cross (“for the joy of set before him”)– He was fighting for joy. For your joy, for mine, for the joy of holy fellowship at the warmth of his table. He was fighting so we could know we are the beloved and rest on his chest, he fought to give us the cup of the covenant. Holy wow! There is joy in his presence, the fullness thereof.

To all my brave friends and fellow travelers out there going through life in this post-modern, post-industrial, overworked, 1%, bi-polarized, bickering, cold, petty, merciless, atomically armed, neo-imperialistic in both capitalist and communist iterations, (why do the nations rage in vain) world.

Peace. God is with us. There is joy in his presence. Fight to enter it, Surrender to His fight to bring you there, to infill you. Rest in it and then labor from it so your life can extend the deep and satisfying joy of being loved in God through Christ to battle-worn weary in your midst. We are all among them. And the right man is on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.

下げるべき − Pulling myself back

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Last Saturday I intended to follow some pattern from Pete Greig and take a much needed one day retreat. These last few weeks at work have been heavy and the crunch at the end of last semester has had me all but burned out. I planned this retreat almost a month before I took it and it came at a most needed time.

Almost before it started it began to feel threatened. My partner recently moved to the same city as me and I knew my only day off was valuable time with him but I also knew I needed this time with Jesus. I was thinking in a false dichotomy that I couldn’t have both so I invited my partner in on some time of rest and get-away. This time quickly seemed to come under attack as well though. The cafe we walked to was busy, noisy and far from the type place I was looking to open some spiritual reading, bible and journal. My partner wasn’t reacting well to the environment either and was showing visible irritation that I couldn’t ignore. I was trying to make it work but it wasn’t working.

I wrongly wanted to shift into blame. It was my partner’s lack of patience that ruined the afternoon. It was the cafe’s poor atmosphere, it was the business of the city that I couldn’t get way from and on and on. Blame is a loud mouth of accusation; blame is satanic. Interesting, my partner mentioned on our way home that he felt like he was being spiritually attacked. I took the cue at face value and tried to fix it but it wasn’t working.

Later in the afternoon, about dusk, I decided I needed to get some space for myself and recover the retreat I planned earlier. I walked to an izakaya (pub) two bridges down the river from my home and found it closed. It was opening in a half hour so I opened my book and began to read. I was invited in and ordered a drink and kept reading. These words grabbed my heart brought conviction and invitation.

Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,

    but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

Proverbs 11:11, NIV

I was brought back to a scene in 2011 where I was visiting a friend’s church and heard a sermon on this verse. I was just about to move to Nagasaki then and I remember the sermon dripping with various kinds of wisdom that seemed to bring key revelation to prepare me for going to Nagasaki. The words pulled me back to that time of revelation and pulled me out of the negative litany of voices that I had begun to often spin in my head or mutter under my breath.

“By the mouth of the wicked a city is destroyed.” Do I want to speak death over the city I live in just because its been hard? What good will come of that? It will only spoil me and bring destruction to the city. Have I forgotten why I have come? Have I forgotten that Jesus weeps over the city? Have I forgotten that life and death resides in the power of the tongue? There in the casual space of that bar I began to have a moment of true and deep repentance. I began to see that I can speak blessing over the city, over coffee shops, over my job, over my partner, over my cooking pots. I don’t need to mutter the sour words of the wicked but can bless everything in my life because all of life is holy, all of life is spiritual, and God is looking for, preparing a world for full inhabitation by inhabiting a kingdom of priests.

“Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.” And I should seek the prosperity of the city I live in. Though I may be in a kind of exile I am also coming into a new home. While I have been sent by the church I am sent as one to live among. I will not forsake this priestly calling to bless the city, to bless those I live among, to bless car and pedestrian, street and building. God bless Kumamoto, God bless this school, bless my friends, bless the strangers around me, the students preparing, my co-workers going home, bless the one’s I love most, bless my home, bless my pots and glasses. Bless my socks off, and may I be blessed to be a blessing through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Foraging On

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If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;

If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

Proverbs 24:11-12, KJV

Jesus came to seek and to save those who were lost (Lk 19:10). He defined his mission with these words and additionally contrasted the fact that he came to give life and life in abundance with that of the thief who comes only to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). As the Wise Son he has been appointed over God’s house (Heb. 3:6).

Since I have written on this thread of “Missio Argo” sub-blog, more than four and half years have passed. My brother’s house from which I last wrote has been sold and he is living in a new home. I moved to a new home within Fukushima, then I left Fukushima in 2017, to intern at a non-denominational church in Kansas City as part of the missions, prayer, and justice movement with which I was seeking a greater degree of covering, alignment, and relationship. I started with homecoming in Wisconsin for a four-month sabbatical.

Two years in Kansas City brought great difficulty as well as great depth of friendship and significant pivotal moments for growth in my life. I came to the church in KC to first seek inner and heart healing in the context of a spiritual family I was led to. I was met with a heavy-handed skepticism from some of the leadership that was shocking, and I think borderline spiritually abusive. Despite that, I submitted as much as I could with a broken heart, believing the promise that this was the family I was supposed to be with. Good friends grew up around me, godly men and women generations above me and near me who were able to speak prophetically into my heart.

Between a Living Waters group program and a Healing for the Nations retreat, as well as time in the prayer room at the church, and the experience of losing my car and phone while driving through the Iowa countryside, God spoke profound, life altering revelation into my life. Let me give some snapshots of the heart and vocational journey over these years:

  • Healing and deliverance from deeply embedded shame and childhood wounds began to free me from the way shame coated my sexuality and inner child. Within this freedom I could see that my path to holiness/wholeness meant integration of my homosexually oriented sexuality and inner child with my adult self and with my faith and relationship with the Lord. I did not need to manicure a “holy enough” version of myself that was rooted in my own work but freed in Christ and the love of the Father I knew I was empowered to walk the path of integration and given permission to live the question of what all of this means and how I should live.
  • The need to surrender the work of healing my heart to the Lord. It’s not my work, it’s my heart but Jesus is the healer, the master physician and he is the only one who can in fact bring healing.
  • I was building my life on a foundation of technology and knowledge. These empower the old man, or the false self. The picture is me sitting in a command center at the panels of a supercomputer. The seat with me in it represents the rule of reason/knowledge/intellect and the use of technology to aid the shaping of self and my world.
  • God was replacing that paradigm with a new one: “the coracle is sonship.” The coracle refers to a kind of sail boat driven by the wind and is a picture of a Spirit lead lifestyle. Sonship refers to the life in the Spirit by which God is my Father and Jesus my elder brother. God has always been, and profoundly through this revelation, inviting me into a new and living way by which I plan, strategize, and make decisions with the Father and under his wise council and leadership as a son rather than as an orphan in my own command center. I am still shifting into this reality, but it has been tremendously life giving.
  • Caught up within this paradigm shift was how to live the question of my sexuality. I needed to not rely on my own insight, knowledge, and understanding nor on the knowledge of experts but trust the voice of the Spirit to lead me through the darkness of unknowing.
  • This nexus of foundational repentance brought great freedom. Freedom from shame, freedom from needing to figure things out, and freedom from the lies that I am solely responsible; I have to be on top of things; I have to have it together in any way that exalts the self, up, over, and against the Lord’s role to be responsible to and for me. To let the Lord be my covering, and to be the Word from the Father that defines and calls me into being.
  • As I began to live this repentance in the context of my church family, I found good, caring, and compassionate friends who got to know me and who I in turn got to know. I was somewhat anxious to get accepted into the internship in which I was invited into and had subsequently been disinvited into. This put a little bit of the devil’s schemes into the walking out of these new revelations. In my relationship with the Father I grew in sonship and belonging. In my relationship with the church I fell into performance and continually struggled with belonging.
  • I had hoped to live out the question of my sexuality together with my spiritual family. In some ways this occurred, but in many ways the process seemed frustrated. I was also eager, probably too eager, to make it through the hoops to get through the internship, seminary study, and leadership development so that I could get back to Japan and dear friends and relationships I had built during my three years in Fukushima.
  • My trust in the leadership had been rocky from the initial rejection and performance dynamic that built but as the story kept changing about when I might be resent to Japan, I began to grow uncomfortable with the alignment.
  • In the summer and fall of last year I felt increasing tug from the Lord to give voice to my experience as a sexual minority which culminated in me coming out as a queer, celibate Christian. From what I knew about the theological/ethical boundaries of the movement I was coming into, I thought I was within them. I had shared openly about my sexuality and how to speak to it with leadership and thought it was safe. It was NOT. Immediately I began to be treated with anger and accusation for doing something wrong. Something that was so hard and yet so freeing for me to speak, which was an act of living in the light and living with greater integrity was met with judgement and anger. It was the anger that scared me most. I began to feel unsafe in the company of certain leadership and when I attended worship, I began to have experiences of trauma. This wasn’t just an experience of offense, but I was actually having a racing heart, hyperventilating and feeling extreme panic. I stopped attending worship at that church but stayed involved in the courses and small group I was helping start.
  • I hardly began to look for ways to go back for Japan but there was a remarkable open door that came through ELCA Global Mission and I was in a process of discerning a call immediately. This avenue out of Kansas City and to Japan is, I am convinced, the good pastoring of the Lord to deliver me from a place where I was not being pastored well.

I move home in December. My spiritual son and friend who is closer than a brother came from Japan to visit me in Kansas City, and then my family in Wisconsin, and New Mexico. I accepted the call to Japan with the ELCA in December and started orientation in February. I was sent at the end of March and started working at a Lutheran junior and senior high school about as soon as I got here as well as work in congregational mission which I am still just getting aligned with. My pastors of the Lutheran church in my hometown have been a literal lifeline as I almost gave up hope of belonging in any kind of “church.” Not only have they always been a prophetic voice of welcome, they have championed me in the upward call of God. I am incredibly grateful for them.

I love my church family in Kansas City as well. I met some of the most beautiful, loving people there. I also love the leaders. Some are close friends. There is pain but leaving for me was something God did to rescue and re-place me in his purposes, not a permanent farewell. I don’t know if, how, or when I will rejoin my friends from that movement. I was kicked out of the leadership pathway because of my professed sexual orientation. That has been a deep, and grievous bludgeon against my soul but I am hopeful for change, for reconciliation, and for us to grow in brotherly love and affection through whatever comes next.

Jesus sought me out when I was lost in the rejection and judgement of those given over me. Jesus is healing and giving me life as I walk in the way of the cross. Jesus is protecting me from the way the thief has tried to kill my walk with God, steal my destiny, and destroy the dreams God has put in my heart. I am growing in my identity of a son in God’s house both in relationship to God and to the Church which is full of sinners of which I am one. God’s love came through the bloody cross of Christ and I am learning obedience through suffering in various junctures in my relationship with the church. I am encouraged by this because I read it as a sign that I am a legitimate son who is chastised because I am loved.

And so, as I continue to write on this platform about mission and life as a missionary, I want you to know a little about more about who I am and where I am coming from. As I am eager in the joy of the Lord to share the good news of the reconciling love of God, of his generous welcome into the house, not only to receive the bread of life but to do the work of the Kingdom as co-agents of a glorious redemption. As I do so, I remember I can still be lost, I am still broken, I am still holding questions and living them. I don’t give pretense to hold the answers but I know there is something about this man, about the way he loves me, about the way he holds out his hand that I can say with confidence to those around me, have you heard of this man who can save you from death, and sin, and hell? Far be it from me to to abandon the work of reconciliation to which God has given me.

Pray for me. The love of God be with you.

この指輪

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Resting in an ornamental plate laid upon the chalky black of my desk surface is the silver of my ring. Of all the things in my room it is one of the smallest and yet one of the most precious. We have been together for ten and half years. Ten and half years is a long story. Perhaps to long to give it a complete biography but, man the memories that go with this ring.

The plate it lay in is a gift from my student Chisa-san. Chisa is a retired teacher, a farmer, and perhaps an unhappily married woman. My ring was with me the whole time I knew Chisa. It went with me to her farm home, to the sake breweries we toured in her hometown. It hung, snug enough through many a teaching on basic English. Chisa gave me the plate this ring sits in. It is one of three of its proper places.

The other is an ornamental bowel given to me by a now old friend Yusuke Kubo. He came to my hometown twelve years ago. Both his and Chisa’s dish were farewell gifts upon my leaving Japan. I left last year, the ring with me and I with it.

If you look closely at the ring you will see that it is not perfectly round. This is because on one of our first dates I dropped it off the balcony of an art museum in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is where I met the ring. It was my gift into first-year participation at Copenhagen International Masters Commission. First year students were supposed to make a covenant not to date or pursue the opposite sex during the entire duration of their first year. Because of this commitment we were all given individually chosen covenant rings. This one is my covenant ring.

Upon graduating from the program I decided I needed to give an extended meaning to this ring I had grown so fond of. Growing up an Evangelical Christian I had enough dipping in promise keepers and purity cultures to know that getting a promise ring was kind of like a right of passage. And its kind of connected to the purpose of the original covenant, I thought, and so it became my promise and purity ring.

I have lost the ring several times but thankfully have found it. One time I was visiting a friend and spiritual brother in Nagasaki. I was staying with him during my short vacation. We had become friends before he came to profess faith in our Lord, while he was still seeking God. He has studied to become a doctor, he is an excellent volleyball player, he is gentle, kind, and a determined young man. He is a good friend. He even made me pancakes for breakfast as we ate on the rooftop balcony of his eighth floor apartment. Atsuro is his name. I left my ring at his apartment the morning I left to return the 1,500 kilometers for my home in Fukushima. He sent it within several days with a note encouraging me to not give up and to be courageous in my efforts to share the Gospel with Japanese young people in Fukushima.

I took his encouraging words to heart and put them into practice sometimes. I wish I would have put them into practice more. I wish I practiced purity and promise keepeing more too. God knows I’ve lost those sometimes.

/Sometimes/ when I put my ring on my finger I grimace because it reminds me of how often I have failed. The ritual includes praying Shema, the Hebrew prayer likely central to Jesus’ own prayer. Shema Israel, adonai elehenu, adoni echad I begin before I break into the rest in English, You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your might. And I aspire to, but I don’t. I have a love-hate relationship with the word purity. Its a shame triggering word at times. What is pure about the race of men made from the mud of this earth? What is pure about me? Maybe I have taken on a love-hate relationship with this ring. Maybe I’m writing this now because God wants me to address this.

I have been learning that God is more concerned with our trust in him then in our attempts to please him. The righteous fall but they get back up,

they get back up,

they get back up.

And everyday when I put this ring on my finger I will remember that it is not my purity, not my love isolated away from the One I trust that will hold me in God’s promise but that he who is faithful and true will finish what he has accomplished. That is His promise to me.

So when I put on the ring and when I place back into the bowl or dish I will remember the One who holds me in eternal love, a love that will demand from the grave all that is worth more than the mud and refuse of broken humanity. Whatever it is that God sees in us, some treasure, some glitter and glimmer. May this ring remind me I am precious in His sight, I am beloved.

Amen.