Friday, March 18, 2011

How Big is Your Heart?

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Over this last week, the nation of Japan and the plight of its people took up residence in our hearts. Although most of us have never been shaken and flooded to the extent of their damages, we’ve experienced enough hardships to empathize with their plight.

I’m reminded of an earlier time in Japan’s and the United State’s history when even during wartime, truth reigned for a few minutes and highlighted our sameness. During WWII, those of Japanese ancestry, who lived in our country, were perceived as threats to our national security. Some were sent to interment camps around the country while others were sent home.

The same thing happened in Japan. Americans who lived there were shipped back to the states. The Bataan Death March saw 70,000 Filipinos and GIs number dwindle to about a third, due to murder, jungle heat, and lack of food and water. Survivors were forced to Japan to work as slaves in coalmines.

The beauty of bad relationships -- they can always get better. And later, that exact thing happened between our two countries. A glimmer of that future was seen in repatriation during WWII. In a harbor, anchored side by side, a US ship held deported Japanese, and a Japanese ship had Americans on board to send home. For a full day, they floated side by side, and I wonder what ran through the minds of each as they waited?

Passengers on both vessels most likely experienced at least some blame, fear, hatred, or loathing. Kenneth W. Osbeck author of “Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions” reports that for “an entire day they lined the rails, glaring at one another.”

As the day drew to a close, someone began to sing a popular hymn of that time, “In Christ There is No East or West.” Soon someone from the opposite ship joined in, and one by one more from each transport joined the melody. Though ship hulls, water, and a declaration of war separated them, those who had embraced Christ sang of their identity in him.

The words to the old hymn convey these thoughts: God-followers enjoy a great fellowship of love throughout the earth; hearts find communion in Christ; and servants of God Most High are bound together. One of the last lines states, “Join hands then, brothers of the faith, whate’re your race may be; who serves my Father as a son, is surely kin to me.”

In recent days, I’ve heard several news anchors mention that people have many things in common -- love for family, homes, and work. Those things that separate us are most times less important -- country borders, oceans, different cultures, ideas, and customs. When our response to others takes into account our commonalities, we fare better through our differences.

People who join hands to aid others can accomplish much. Our scripture for this week comes from 1 Chronicles, and it’s from the setting when King Solomon collects funds for building the Temple in Jerusalem. His father, the former King David, had collected building materials and given much of his personal fortune to that cause. As a leader he set the precedent for giving. We give in many ways -- service, money, time, prayers, and forgiveness -- are just a few of the categories in which we help others.

As the tragedy in Japan has reminded us, possessions can be stripped from us in a moment. King Solomon challenged those who gave monetary gifts to build the temple to also devote their hearts to God. Marjorie Holmes says, “Hospitality doesn’t depend on size or supply. If the heart is big enough, so is the table and so is the house.”

Index Card Scripture for Week Eleven: “Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the LORD?” (1 Chronicles 29:5).

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sister Cathy, Such an interesting story. I told my husband and I looked it up for him on An A Cappella Hymns Collection has an MP3 sample you can sounds beautiful. I really appreciate your sharing it bought a joyful tune to our morning. Enjoy :) love, Ana Harshaw
    Ferndale church of Christ 782 Ferndale, California 95536