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A Valentine’s Day Surprise

Today is White Day in Japan, the day when guys give gifts to girls in return for the chocolates they received on Valentine’s Day (when only girls give chocolate). Though it is a month ago now, here is what one church did on Valentine’s day:

Candles in ice lanterns lined the entrance, peaceful music played in the hall, tables were decorated and laid for the three-course meal ahead. Unusually youthful serving staff moved through the room making final adjustments. Welcome to the Nozomi church Valentine meal!

Last year our colleagues’ daughter had the great idea of a Valentine’s meal where the children serve the parents a meal while the parents relax with a movie. Everyone enjoyed it last year, so we did it again.

The menu wasn’t difficult, and ice lanterns prove surprisingly easy to make if you have milk cartons and a drill. But what film to show? Long enough to be interesting, short enough to watch it all, thought provoking and enjoyable. What film would you have chosen?

We changed our minds several times but finally chose Shiokari Pass. Based on a true story by a Japanese Christian author, it mixes love and sacrifice, culture struggles and faith. The book was a bestseller and the film successful in Japan. But now, it looks dated and with its challenging finale, how would it go down at a Valentine’s event? It was with some trepidation that I sat down with the guests at our table: a visitor from Tokyo and a neighbour.

It turned out to be both the things I feared—dated for our audience and the ending made for a sober close to the evening, not your usual Valentine’s atmosphere. But I’m glad we showed the film anyway. It’s good to ponder the true wonder of love — a weighty and sober thing. Tim Keller puts it this way,

“All real, life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice . . . we know from experience, from the mundane to the dramatic, that sacrifice is at the heart of real love . . . anybody who has ever done anything that made a difference for us — a parent, a teacher, a mentor, a friend, a spouse — sacrificed in some way, stepped in and accepted some hardship so that we would not get hit with it ourselves.”1

It was a little awkward, but I’m glad that our elderly neighbour and our youthful visitor from Tokyo saw the gospel at work. I’m glad they saw in the film that when we love greatly we are imitating the greatest lover of all: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NIV).

You can watch Shiokari pass in English on youtube: (60 mins)

1. Tim Keller quote from “King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus” p143.

Written by Matt

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