It's late here on Saturday evening in Japan (yes I'm still living in the future) but I wanted to share a brief reflection about today. In both Tokyo and Saku we visited local sites of worship associated with the Japanese amalgamation of Bhuddism and Shintoism. I'll have to address what these two interwoven religions believe another time, but the practice of worship and the presence of the spirits is very real.
In visiting these places today I observed people sincerely worshipping what they believed to be gods. However these "gods" as I have posted before are merely the demonic enemies of Christ. Yet because of our fallenness and our rebellion against God we choose to substitute worship of the Creator to worship a created thing. We ascribe power to another being that is really due only to God alone. So being religious happens. We're all religious in one way or another and it is a reflection of our bent natures and broken condition.
So today I saw elements of worship at the temples and shrines. Incense was burned to obtain a blessing. Water was poured to purify oneself. Prayers were made to the specific deity that fit whatever your need was. Offerings were given to support the priests and "ministry" of the shrine. Crowds were gathered to chant and sing the religious songs appropriate to the local religion. These places were filled with worship and religion.
For the Japanese however they would not tell you that they are "religious" people. The practice of Bhuddism and Shintoism are so deeply ingrained into their societal culture that they would not consider it religious but rather part of what it means to be Japanese. Like a fish in water so a Japanese person must worship at the shrines and temples. They must celebrate the dragon that gave birth to their village and pay homage to their ancestors lest they bring shame to their family and earn a lower spot in the afterlife. They might say or believe they are religious, but it is very much part of their everyday normal life. Even students pay to buy prayer cards to ask the gods for enablement to pass their exams well. Religion is found in everything.
As we continue to explore Japan and its need for the gospel as well as see where the Holy Spirit is at work today brought into focus the depth of need spiritually that the Japanese people have. The spiritual darkness of this land is great, and the obstacles that stand in the way of the gospel in their culture are great too. But the cross and resurrection of Christ are far greater and compelling realities and are worth us laying down our lives in a long obedience for the love of God and the people of Japan.