4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, New Revised Standard Version)
Today’s “Thirty Days of Thanks” challenge is to share your favorite book. When I wrote this challenge I forgot that I had to write on this subject too. This is really hard because I have a lot of favorite books. Favorite biography, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, favorite book on prayer, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, favorite theology, The Will of God by Leslie Weatherhead, Favorite techno-thriller (in general my favorite reads) Executive Orders Tom Clancey,
The list could go on and on. But, as I thought about what my favorite book might be, I would think of The Circle Maker and then think, but what about Silence. Then I might think, I love Mike Ashcraft’s book, My One Word. It wasn’t long, however, before I was thinking about Silence. It became clear in pretty short order that the book was Silence. I love this novel and it is very different from anything else I have ever read.
Silence was a “Thou shalt read this book.” When I was in seminary I took a course titled, “Preaching and Contemporary Literature.” It was my one and only seminary course that the required textbooks were all novels and short story anthologies. We each had to write a sermon from any two of the required texts.
My first sermon used, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Patton. Patton’s book is a classic I first read in high school. It is the story of two fathers, one whose son was murdered by the other man’s son. The murdered man was a a wealthy merchant. He also was white. The murder’s father was a priest and was black. The book also became a movie starring James Earl Jones. It is the story of forgiveness and grace and I do recommend the book if you have not read it before.
Still, of all the books we read, my favorite was Silence. The story is of a Roman Catholic pries/missionary from Portugal named Father Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s mentor was an illegal missionary to Japan in the 1500s. His name was Fierro and he abdicated the faith. Rodriguez wants to know why.
He seeks permission to go to Japan, find Fierro AND teach the Japanese about Jesus and having faith in Jesus Christ.
During his travels, Rodriguez encounters a Japanese man named Kiko Jiro who agrees to help Rodriguez sneak into Japan. Kiko Jiro is true to his word and gets Rodriguez into Japan but then disappears.
Rodriguez starts to work teaching the Japanese about Jesus.
Eventually, the Japanese, with the help of Kiko Jiro find Rodriguez and the Japanese Christians. He is held in his hut but otherwise treated well. His only visitor is Kiko Jiro, who seeks forgiveness for having led the Japanese to Rodriguez.
Rodriguez can’t understand why the Japanese treating him so well. The food is good. He is left alone in his hut. When guards come in he is treated well. Eventually things do change. Rodriguez is asked to follow a guard from his hut. In front of him is his church. All the Japanese Christians are in front of him. They are the ones receiving torture. At least according to his Japanese captures, the Japanese Christians have already denied the faith. “Why do you continue torturing them?” Rodriguez asks.
“For you,” he is told. “A plaque of the face of Jesus comes out and laid on the ground. “Step on His face,” Rodriguez is told. “Then it will stop.”
Rodriguez now understands why his mentor abdicated the faith. He is also faced with an incredibly difficult decision. If he is faithful to the actions of a Catholic priest, but his people, those he led to the faith will remain in the hands of their torturers.
On the other hand, if he steps on the faith, the torture will stop, but so will his life as a Catholic priest. “24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Matthew 16:24-26, New Revised Standard Version. It kind of gives new meaning to those verses.
The face seems to come alive and Jesus says to Rodriguez, “Trample, trample. This is why I came to earth, to absorb the sins of humanity.”
As I think about that, it seems to me, that Rodriguez does what may possibly be the most Christian thing he ever did when he stepped on the face. Endo’s next words are haunting, they made the hair on my arms stand up, “And in the distance, he heard a cock crow.
Other than to tell you that eventually Rodriguez does meet with his mentor. He also continues to meet with Kiko Jiro. Beyond that, I will leave it for you to read the book.
Silence also becomes a book though I did not find the book to be as good as the movie.
Take the time to read. You might find something special.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved