Sitting at the Kotatsu awaiting other
guests I had arrived before the others. The first couple had come in and greeted the host. Warm greetings. Hearts filled with love excited to spend a few hours enjoying the fellowship and a meal. It's the third year since his death and the Otorou festival is happening outside. The guest presents a large bottle of sochu an alcoholic sake of rice wine. "Otou san ni agetai." ( I want to offer it to your husband) Says the guest. "Dozou." (Please do) replies the hostess. They duck into a side room with the sake. The sake is placed on an alter next to a picture of the deceased. The guest on his knees deeply bows long and meaningfully. The sake is opened and poured into a sake glass. The first fruits is offered to the spirit of the deceased. The incense stick is lit with a lighter and then placed in the bowl of sand next to the picture on the other side. The room fills with the aroma of the incense burning. Then the guest gets into position and in front of the alter and take a tiny round brass ball mallet and chimes the buddhist bell signaling the Spirit to come and participate with the festivities. The guest bows again and mumbles of few words or respect and adoration. The host begins to tear up. The guest is also tearing up as they together remember the one whom they loved so much. They feel guilty and have unanswered questions. Life was cut short but not by a criminal or an accident but because of a circumstance. The hostesses husband in his 50's was fired in the graphics design job he had for 3 decades. Retirement was still a few years off, but his meaning and purpose was to be active in this vocation. The youth are very savvy on the computer he wasn't. It is an entropy of time and knowledge. Can one blame the company? The weeks and months of job hunting yielded embarrassing opportunities that just were a stain on such a glorious career. Is that the reward of a faithful life lived dutifully to a company and family and to ones country. The days drone on with no phone calls for work. The drinking becomes more of an escape from a reality that is spiraling into meaninglessness. Feeling like a weight around the neck of the family supporting him now he has become emasculated in his soul. "What's wrong with me?" "What did I do to deserve this?" might be questions that loom echoing in the empty halls of the mind that no longer thinks of work. To end ones life will release me from these feelings and the burden of being that millstone around my wife's neck.
It was a regular day. He woke and started his day like any other. He's going to check on a few job leads. Life was normal or so it appeared. He had for many years passed over that same bridge. All his life that bridge connected his home life to the world. That day what thought came into his mind we will never know but at that moment, that day, that bridge was a connector to another realm. It was a road he has never travelled but thought about all his life. It wasn't a walk but a fall. It was quick and surreal. All is black. It is over.
More guests fill in to the home more bell chimes and so many tears. He was loved. He was greatly loved. His view only saw what he saw in the mirror. He was not able to see through the eyes of his family and friends. The life that was snatched from a loving family is not at peace. Agonizing guilt and remorse plague the wife and her children. There was no chance to say good bye. No chance to fight the enemy of death with a surge to live. No final touch or kiss. His body was crushed and shattered by the fall. She got the call while at the office working. She raced to the scene. His I.D. led authorities to notify her. "Is this your husband?" From the bridge it was hard to tell at the form of a human below. His clothes and affects with him indicated 100% it was him. But she immediately did not want to believe this. NO! I don't know! Maybe? He is brought up and the sheet is drawn back. She looks into the white pale face of a man she slept next to for almost 30 years. She had starred into his face so many times in bed, at the meal times, during travel. That face is now just a shell of a soul that she needed in her life. "It's him." she whispers. He is covered back up and she still in shock and disbelief finds the tears uncontrollably falling. Her knees weaken as the love of her life has been ripped out of her own soul. Two souls knit together for so many years are not separated like products on a conveyer belt. The fabric of our very being and meaning are shattered and the vacuum of emptiness fills with deaths cold air. Sobbing. "What?" Why did He…? What about…?" "What am I going to…?" 3 years later still remain unsure questions are still unanswered.
So the party went on we had a great meal they drank and I sipped Coke Zero among the drone of the taiko drums as the matsuri men rhythmically pulled the dashi down the street.
The next time I meet with her she was concerned whether or not I had a good time or not. I said, "I was worried that because I had not bowed to her husbands altar I might have offended her?" She said, "Oh no it was okay. I know you don't believe like we do." Then she asks me a question.
She had been coming to Bible Study and she has been asking a lot of questions. She even prayed to receive Christ one night but I wasn't sure of this decision. She still had the altar and her life was troubling her. She wanted to be rid of the guilt she felt because of her husbands suicidal death. She saw Jesus as a way for her to be healed but not to have a Savior or Lord in her life. She felt she was fine the way she is. Except for the guilt all was fine. So she asks me. "I have been praying to God in my time of daily lighting incense to my husband. Is this okay?" I have never had this kind of question put this way. She talks to her husband. She is lonely. She was told after the tragedy that she had to buy the alter. It happened so fast. She went to the only store her elders recommended. They showed her models and she was compelled to make a decision. But she didn't like it. She felt this wasn't right. She wanted to wait but the funeral was coming and the preparations were made so she went through with it. She has buyers remorse. But she Talks to God...
In Bible Study I taught her the scriptures of what God's word taught on death. I did not withhold anything. Finally, I used the marriage bed as an analogy for idolatry. If your sleeping with your spouse and some one else is in the bed then your intimacy is compromised and it's not right. If your sharing God time with your dead husband's spirit then that is idolatrous. God does not like it. You cannot have both God and your dead husband. 1 Corinthians 6:16-17.
She left Bible study as sad as the Rich man who walked away from Jesus, who said. "Oh how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God." I might say similarly, "Oh how hard it is for the Japanese to enter the Kingdom of God
Please pray for her if you feel led. I wish I could synchronize the Japanese faith with Christianity. So many ministries and pastor have already gone down that road of compromise. They did not yield any lasting fruit from it. I shudder to think what they might hear from our Lord. Christianity costs big time. Christianity is not pie in the sky. It is laying down your life and allowing Christ to take control and do what he wills. A life of pain perhaps, suffering? Probably. A lonely road? God is with you where ever you go. Christianity cost God his son. We can't cheapen it for the sake of comfort for a pagan nation. Japanese people are on their way to hell and Japan needs to repent from all these things. I don't want to be guilty of sugar coating the gospel so that their trip to hell is sweeter. As a minister of Jesus Christ it would be better if I hang a millstone around my neck and throw it into the sea. All gods must go. He is a jealous God and will not share us with any other god or spirit or deceased persons. Christianity is a narrow road few there are that walk upon it.
Even in America too many have already compromised the truth of the scriptures. The very things I preach against in this country to save perhaps a few, I see pastors in America embracing New Age, and Buddhism traditions and incorporating them into the church. The Catholic faith as done a very good job in Japan to synchronize the gospel of Jesus to Buddha's and Shinto. In the US some families are encouraged to get a christian altar. Have a family altar for the Bible and prayer. America is full on heading into its dark ages at hyper speed. If you are allowing things you know by the Holy Spirit to be wrong you are compromising and grieving the Holy Spirit. You are committing idolatry. That is spiritual harlotry according to the Bible. The Jews went into 70 years of captivity for their whoring. What will America reap? The new religion of America is tolerance and acceptance. If you don't synchronize an appropriate politically correct ideologies your a radical. You will be marked and watched.
Our God is also watching us. He knows us. He loves us. His heart is to turn us away from these things are lead to death. The wages of sin is death.
I pray Lord that you will give the Japanese more mercy and shower them with His gospel. Oh please Lord open their eyes that they may see the light and be turned from the darkness. I ask you to deliver many souls from the fires of hell that await them. Even in America I pray too that they will experience revival and turn from their sin. In Jesus name Amen.