Sermon Illustrations

I have visited Japan three times in the past several years. It is a fascinating place of great contrasts – primarily – great beauty contrasted with great sadness. You see from my observation, the Japanese culture is one of materialism, self-satisfaction, rigid order and sexism – all of this amidst some beautiful country sides and majestic mountains.

Several of the businessmen – and I say businessmen because of the literally hundreds of people that I met; only one was female – have a schedule that would end marriages in the US. Most have long commutes that begin at 5:00am or 6:00am arriving at their office around 7:30am or so, work all day until 9:30pm or so, then they go out and have dinner and drinks with their coworkers and customers, then they catch the last train home sometime after midnight only to start the whole thing over again just a few hours later. Several of those that I met keep basic toiletries, a pillow and a blanket at their desk and have been known to sleep in the office rather than going home. Many only see their families on the weekend and usually only one day is spent with family – the other is spent socializing for business purposes.

When I walked the streets of Tokyo I kept my head up and tried to make eye contact with the people to no avail. Everyone kept their head down, eyes focused on the ground under their feet. When you did catch someone looking up there was this… lifelessness in their eyes. I say that specifically, because there was something there – despair, hopelessness and great sadness – all the result of living out a life searching for something that does not exist in the material world.

Christ is not a part of their culture. Their culture lacks hope. Their culture is motivated by achievement. Yet their achievements only motivate them to achieve more and more. It’s an endless cycle with no end, no great reward. They have nothing above them to look forward to. They have no hope.