Lection Connection - Spirit Sightings

May 19, 2019: Spirit of Solidarity

From Fraser Macnaughton


The recent accession of the new emperor of Japan, Naruhito, has created great excitement across the country. In his first address after succeeding his father Akihito, whose abdication was the first by a Japanese emperor in just over 200 years, the new occupant of the chrysanthemum throne vowed to show the same compassion and devotion to the public as his father. This heralds in the new Reiwa [beautiful harmony era] as Emperor Naruhito promised to “sincerely pray for the happiness of the people and the further development of the nation, as well as the peace of the world.”


In a country that has a deep respect for tradition, it might in many ways seem quaint and old-fashioned language. Indeed, Western commentators were making much of the fact that no female members of the imperial family were permitted to attend the ceremony. The government had controversially decided to honour precedents set by previous accession rites. The minister for regional revitalization, Satsuki Katayama, was the only woman present. As the only female minister in the current government’s cabinet, Katayama earned herself a place in the history books as she became the first woman in modern times to officially witness the ceremony. According to royal historian Eiichi Miyashiro, the government doesn’t want to trigger discussions on the male-only succession law by allowing royal women to be part of the enthronement ceremony. The Empress Masako, a Harvard-educated former career diplomat who suffers from an adjustment disorder brought on by the stress of adapting to life in the deeply conservative imperial household, was officially presented at court after the accession ceremony.


Regardless, Japanese people marked the start of the new era with mass marriage registrations, a fully-booked charter flight flew over Mount Fuji at dawn, and local officials on Minami-Tori-shima Island, Japan’s most easterly point, gathering on a beach to see the first sunrise.


While the abdication and the new accession herald an era of inevitable change, the decision not to cut Japan off from its past traditions while looking to the future in an uncertain world will hopefully provide the people with a degree of stability. 


Explore…Acts 11:1–18

  • How do you feel your faith community is managing the changes of living in a 21st-century world?
  • What ways can you think of that would enable change without casting off all well-loved tradition?
  • To what extent do you think your faith community’s core gospel message is hampered by institutionalism, administrative structures, or ecclesiastical structures.



May our traditions, much loved as they are, never hamper Jesus’ imperative to be open-handed and big-hearted in loving our neighbours and living lives of abundance. Amen.


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