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『日曜日の明け方早く、待ちかねた女たちは香油を持って墓に急ぎました。着いてみると、どうしたことでしょう。墓の入口をふさいであった大きな石が、わきへ転がしてありました。中へ入って見ると、イエスの体は影も形もありません。「いったい、どうなってるのかしら。」女たちは途方にくれました。すると突然、まばゆいばかりに輝く衣をまとった人が二人、目の前に現れました。女たちはもう恐ろしくて、地に伏したまま顔も上げられず、わなわな震えていました。その人たちは言いました。「なぜ生きておられる方を、墓の中で捜しているのです。あの方はここにはおられません。復活なさったのです。」』

ルカの福音書 24:1-5

女たちは亡くなった人を捜していました。イエスキリストの死体が墓の中にあると予想していたからです。しかし墓に着くと、輝く衣をまとった人からイエスさまは違う場所にいると告げられます。神の使者たちは大真面目に「なぜ生きておられる方を、墓の中で捜しているのです。」と聞きましたが、この質問も違う意味では、明らかにそこにあるはずの無いものを捜している人たちに対するおどけた皮肉のようにも取れます。同時にイエスさまが十字架と復活についてお話しなさったことを理解していなかった、信じきれていなかったという事を指摘しています。

場所の事ばかりに集中し、その先にあるものに目を向けようとしないという事は、私たちも生きたイエスキリストを違う場所で捜してしまっているようなものです。実際に、墓へ行った女たちのように、イエス様が死んでいるとみなされるような場所、すなわち悲しみが喜びを覆い隠し、闇が光よりも勝り、死が生を支配しているような場所に、いつのまにか置かれてしまうことがあるのです。私自身、そういう悲観的な場所を体験する事が最近ありました。しかしそんな場所でさえも、神さまは生きていて勝利していることを知りました!

私の妻、春子牧師は十二月中旬ごろ肺炎で入院しました。私と息子と娘は1〜2週間、地域のリハビリセンターで過ごせば、また元気になって家に帰って来て、病気になる前の生活に戻れると思っていました。しかし過去五年間取り続けた免疫抗生剤と、首の手術による神経障害がこんなにも彼女の回復力を弱めていたとは、知る由もありませんでした。感染症と浮腫(水ぶくれ)が彼女を衰弱させ、あらゆる医療処置も最初は希望をもたらしてくれましたが、だんだん悪くなっていく状態を阻止することも、元に戻すこともできませんでした。リハビリセンターに来て一ヶ月が経ったとき、彼女はまた病院に戻る事になりました。そこで一時期状態が落ち着いたので、五日間ほど家に帰ることで元気を取り戻し、回復に向かって欲しいという希望を持って家に帰ったものの、ますます状態が悪くなったため再入院する事になり、医師から肺炎をぶり返していると告げられました。

生命維持装置を付けた状態で集中治療室に入って一週間後、教会のメンバーと親しい友達が病院のベットの周りに集まっていました。私と息子を含め、みんなそこに集まっていましたが、娘のジーナだけが昼食を取りに席を外していました。妻の心拍が不規則になりなり、急激に弱まって来ている事に私は気がつきました。もうじきその時が来ると思い、娘に電話をしました。まるで春子は意識が無いながらも、頑張って持ちこたえているようでした。ジーナが病室に戻って来て、母親の手に触れたその少し後、心拍が止まりました。伝道者の書 3:2と3:11にあるように「何事にも定まった時があります。生まれる時、死ぬ時」「あらゆることには、ふさわしい時というものがあります。」

そこに居た人たち全員が、すばらしい神さまのタイミングを感じる事ができました。本来なら私が数時間後に生命維持装置を外すという決断を実行する必要がありましたが、そうではなく、妻が自分で天国に向かうことができた事を神さまに感謝しています。まさに神さまのタイミングです。奇跡的なタイミングで息を引き取った妻を見て、すべては神によって決められているのだと再確認しました。四十二年間連れ添った妻は今、痛みから解放され、彼女が愛し、仕えた神さまと共にいます。

サンライズ教会の牧師、メンバー一同、みなさんがこのイースターの時期にイエスキリストの存在を身近に感じられるよう祈っています。

ポール岩田牧師より

By Pastor Paul Iwata

My son and I had a wonderful time in Colorado during this past week. We stayed with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, Jena, Dwayne, and 3-year-old Evan, in their home that is located in a new housing development just 20-25 minutes northwest of Denver. While taking in the tastes and sights of the quaint town of Boulder that is lies along side the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, we enjoyed our time with them. We rented an car and droved to the World War II Museum of Aviation in Colorado Springs around two hours by freeway to the south of where we stayed.

The culture of Colorado is quite different from Los Angeles, racially mono-color, and economically, middle to upper middle and up-scale in income and tastes. People in Boulder love the outdoors as can seen by the many stores that cater to hikers, campers, bicyclists, and nature lovers in general.

We observed people enjoying life to the fullest as God has granted them vigor, vitality, and strength. The thinner air of the high elevation doesn’t slow them down. The trails in the nearby open areas and mountains were used well by people on foot and on bicycle. There was one young man who ran by us down a mountain trail wearing only pair of running trunks in nearly freezing temperatures! Wow, I remember in my youth experiencing that sense of invincibility. However, it is only for just a passing season of one’s youth.

In my processing over my wife’s passing in February, when finding myself confronted by the natural course and end of our life here on earth, I have reached an understanding that any thoughts of the future, particularly relating to the eventual course of life for most people, should always be overshadowed by promise and reality of Jesus being with us and even in us in whatever the future holds for each one of us. He said, “I will never leave nor forsake you,” and “Behold, I will be with even to the end of the age” (Heb. 13:5b; Matt. 28:20). He’ll take care of our future.

The Lord’s wants us to be fully engaged in living fully for Him in the present moment for the sake of serving others with kingdom love and truth. For even one moment, any anxious thoughts about the future or our future of our life here should not rob us from being fully present for God and others! God will take care of the future, even tomorrow, for Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself,” but instead to “Seek first His kingdom and righteousness” and concerns pertaining to tomorrow will take care of themselves (Matt. 6:33-34).

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’”

-- Luke 24:1-5

The women were looking for one who was dead, expecting to see the body of our Lord Jesus Christ in the tomb—the place of the dead. But when they arrived at the tomb, they were told by the men in gleaming clothes that their search for Him was in the wrong place. The messengers of God must have been dead serious in their question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Though in another sense, their query could be taken with facetious irony of looking in the wrong place for what obviously would not be there, but also centrally points to their lack of faith in and grasping of what Jesus said and meant during his discourses before the cross about his rising again.

Often, we find ourselves looking for a living Jesus Christ in the wrong places if we only get focused on the places themselves without looking beyond them to what is unseen. In actuality, we, just as the women who went to the tomb, find ourselves in places where Christ would be assumed dead such as where sadness looms over joy, darkness prevails over light and death reigns over life. I found myself in such a place of doom and gloom recently. But I found that even there, God is alive and victorious!

My wife, Pastor Spring, was hospitalized in mid-December for pneumonia. We, including my son and daughter, thought that after a week or two at a local rehabilitation center that she would be up on her feet back to the life at home that she had before her sickness. Little did we realize the toll that the last five years of taking immunosuppressant medication and the neuropathy from a neck surgery had upon her resilience to bounce back. Infections and edema (water retention) brought her down and all of the medical measures in which we felt hopeful at first were of little avail to arrest and reverse the week-to-week decline in her condition. After a month at the rehabilitation center, she was readmitted to the hospital, and then after having her condition was stabilized, spend five days at home with our hope of her getting her spirits up and seeing her improve. Instead, she declined further and was hospitalized, and diagnosed with a relapse of pneumonia.

After her being a week on life-support in intensive care, church members and dear friends were gathered around at her bedside. Everyone was there including myself and my son, except for my daughter, Jena, who stepped out for lunch. I noticed that my wife’s heart rate became erratic and began to decline rapidly. Sensing that her time was near, I called my daughter. It seemed as though Spring, unconscious, was holding on and amazingly, when Jena entered the room and touched her mother’s hand, just moments later, her heart stopped. As Ecclesiastes 3:2 and 3:11 state, “There is a time to be born and a time to die,” and that “God has made everything beautiful in its own time.”

For all of those present, there was an awesome sense of divine timing. In just few hours later, I would have had to execute our decision to remove life-support, but I am grateful to God that my wife went on her own. Again, the Lord’s timing. The miraculous timing of her last breath reassured me of God being in control of everything and that my wife of forty-two years together was now free from pain and with the Lord whom she loved and served.

The pastors and members of Sunrise Church pray for the experienced presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life during this Easter Season. --- Pastor Paul Iwata

On behalf of the pastors and members of Sunrise Church, we pray that you have a blessed Easter! --Pastor Paul Iwata