2017 New Year's Service
Update: January 10, 2017
The 2017 New Year's Service was held at the university chapel on January 6 (Fri).
The service conducted by Rev. Shoko Kitanaka began with a chorus of Hymn "Lord of All Being, Throned Afar" by all those in attendance, and continued with a Scripture Reading of Isaiah 11:6-9.
Following the Scripture Reading, President Junko Hibiya delivered her message.
Full text of President Hibiya's message is below.
Hymn: "Lord of All Being, Throned Afar"
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 11:6-9.
Happy New Year. I hope you were able to greet the new year in good spirit and that I may be able to call upon your continued support in the coming year.
In the Book of Isaiah chapter 11, verses 6 to 9 that we just read, we find an unbelievable scene if judged by our commonsense. In the natural world, the wolf always attacks the lamb. However, the wolf and the lamb, or the leopard and the goat, the pair that eats and is eaten, are not regarded here as the strong and the weak. The calf, the lion and the fatling live peacefully together. And it is a little child that leads them. The cow and the bear graze, their young lie down together, the lion eats straw like the ox, and the nursing child and the weaned child play with the asp and the adder. Neither the wolf nor the leopard, fierce animals indeed, nor the asp and the adder do harm to humans. According to the Bible, the world will eventually be governed by Jesus Christ. Today's reading impressively describes a paradise-like place that will emerge when such governance is complete. What is depicted here is a scene in which the universal peace we aspire to, that is, peace with God, peace with our neighbors, and peace with the earth and nature, is realized. Every kind of opposition or animosity among ourselves on earth has disappeared; all living things, human and animals, live together accepting and supporting each other.
Verse 9 promises that in the world governed by Christ, nature and those who live in nature are relieved from sin committed by humans, and "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." That is, everyone on earth will know the Lord; as the sea is completely filled with water, so the earth will be filled with God's blessing.
Let us look at our world today. Last year, we were bombarded with news that showed, starkly, how our society, full of opposition and animosity, is deeply divided. Right before the Summer Commencement in June, those who supported the withdrawal won those who opposed by a narrow margin in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. I do not need to repeat the result of the US Presidential Election. On November 8 when the result emerged, I was visiting Denison University in Ohio, where the Global Liberal Arts Alliance leadership meeting was being held. Late afternoon, many college presidents and vice-presidents paid less attention to the meeting; instead, they were frantically checking their smartphones. During the seated dinner, we heard so many sighs and occasionally a few shouts of joy whenever the result from each state came in. As the night wore on, we went back to our own rooms to watch swing states on the map become all red on television. I was particularly interested in the results of the electoral districts around Philadelphia where I spent some years as a graduate student; the change from four years ago when President Obama was elected for the second time astonished me greatly. Next day, President Weinberg of Denison uploaded a message to students on the university website; "we will be called upon to reconcile differences and find or create opportunities to move forward together, despite stark differences. We have to find ways to do this work that starts from a fundamental assumption that every member of our community is valued and respected." Is this not addressed not only to Denison students but to all of us as well?
Although everyone seeks peace, the war never ends in the current world. Isaiah's message reminds us that the time when our salvation becomes complete will eventually come, and encourages us to hope for such a day, under any circumstance, without giving up. Let us live every single day of this year with his message in mind.
In closing, I offer a word in prayer. Our Lord, Father in Heaven, we ask that You guide us so that we make every effort to integrate those who have been divided by their social and economic backgrounds towards the day when the universal peace is realized. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, amen.