Prior to Empire. In the Midst of Empire. When there is Empire no Longer.
Our God is the God Who Remains – Who Is Steadfast In and Through All Things.
The Old Testament story of Abram and Sarai describes a time prior to empire. God blessed them, a faithful couple, with a baby to ensure that their people would no longer be aliens in the land God had chosen for them (see Genesis 17: 1-22 and Genesis 18:1-15).
In the New Testament, in the midst of empire, Zechariah and Elizabeth, another faithful couple, were promised and received a baby (Luke 1:5-24). That baby, John the Baptist, paved the way for Jesus and his message describing a God of love.
In early May, in the midst of preparing to visit Friends in Japan, I prayed to know more about the people of Japan Yearly Meeting. I heard that they were rich in faithfulness, like Abram and Sarai and Zechariah and Elizabeth.
My husband and I, with our children, traveled to Japan on June 24th of this year. We visited the five Quaker Meetings there. While we were called to go, we didn’t know why. We didn’t have a message or goal; we went out of love.
We knew we were being led. While clearness committees, visits with seasoned Friends, and anchor committee meetings helped propel our way forward, a couple of chance encounters helped ensure that our trip was not delayed. The first occurred when two angels, a black man at a FedEx store and a white man in a pick up at a U.S. post office, helped us get our application to the Lyman Fund committee on time. The second occurred when a member of the Japan-America society and a congressional liaison at Rep. Brad Wenstrup’s office worked in tandem to ensure that our adopted son’s foreign birth did not delay our getting his passport and our ability to fly out of the country.
While in Japan, Japanese Friends brought to our attention the role that the United States was playing in Prime Minister Abe’s push to get permission to reinterpret Article 9 — the statement in their constitution that renounces war and prohibits Japan from maintaining their war potential. We sat with Friends as they publicly called for the pursuit of friendship between Japan and China. Also, we learned that 85 – 90% of all Japanese people have no interest in killing… ever, whether in response to murder, terrorist action, or international aggression. We shared about the militaristic nature of the United States and how the peace churches have attempted to respond in between and during times of war.
Given that this trip was 7 years in the making, I do not think it was coincidence that we traveled to Japan around the same time that President Obama and Prime Minister Abe were meeting together in Washington D.C. We reinvigorated ties among American and Japanese Friends just as an American president and a Japanese prime minister were reinvigorating ties between our countries.
While these world leaders were committing to an international alliance, we were being called into deeper community. While these powerful men were talking about how to ensure peace and prosperity in our countries and around the world, we, ordinary people, were praying, eating, worshiping, hiking, and talking together… seeking peace within ourselves, our Meetings, and our world.
Given our conversations with Japanese Friends, I am convinced that accumulated fear is propelling these changes. In Japan, fear of economic decay, foreign encroachment, and being viewed as insufficient or weak is paving the way for political leaders to take these steps.
Recently, the United States… “welcomed Japan’s enactment of new laws that ease restrictions on overseas activities of the Self-Defense Forces, including allowing them to help allies even if Japan is not directly attacked.” Why are we encouraging and welcoming Japan’s move to become more engaged in military action? What fears do we have? (Please share your comments.)
This past week, God led me to write this post. Friends and all people of faith need reminded that God is with us, Love is stronger than fear and death has no power over Life.
Might it be that our visit with Japanese Friends will do just as much or more than the alliance between our countries to help ensure that our world moves toward peace and prosperity? Or maybe our awareness and our commitment to God and each other is going to help ensure that this international agreement actually moves our countries toward peace and prosperity rather than just another fear-induced adjustment of military and economic policy?
While our countries (an empire and a country that was once an empire) pursue the ways of the world, we are pursuing the way of faith. Together, we are Quakers. Whether our religious roots are Shinto, Buddhist or Christian, we are Friends. Let us pursue peace together: Praying that our countries don’t use our religious traditions to justify military action and urging our leaders to learn war no more.
As in ages past, God has given people of faith a baby to nurture… to help ensure the longevity of a God-inspired people.
We are not alone. God Remains. God is present with us.