Meet Junichi & Shigeko Hanada, faithful members and deacons in our church. The Hanadas are building a new house. It will be completed around the first of the New Year. During the building of the house, each day there will be something new added to its structure.
God is building His church around the world and something NEW is added to its structure every day. “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders will have toiled in vain.” Psalm 127:1 (New English Bible) Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 (KJV)
I’d like to share with you some of the interesting things Andrea and I noticed yesterday as we participated in the celebration of the raising up and completion of the framework for the Hanada’s new house. The Bible is a book that was written in Central Asia (the middle east) by Asians. Therefore we see many Biblical customs unfold right before our eyes while we live and work in Japan. Many of these customs are difficult for Westerners to understand, but nonetheless, as we see many of them happening before our own eyes, we can understand little by little what the writers of the Bible meant. A former Bible School teacher once told us, “Half the world doesn’t know how the other half lives.” How true.
Workers began at 7:30 in the morning putting up the framework of the new house. The foundation had been laid several days before, just like the foundation of the church was laid a little over two 1,000-year days ago on Calvary. The Japanese build houses much differently than Westerners, but it is much like how they did in the days of Jesus.
The main pillars of the house are seen here standing on the foundation. Notice the Japanese writing on each pillar. The main pillar (on the right), from which the entire house is begun, is numbered #1. The second one is further down the foundation (on the left). If you look closely, you can see the number 2 on the foundation timber. The Japanese writing on the timber says #2. The entire framework of the house is assembled this way. It is much like putting a puzzle together, but all the pieces are numbered and matched. There is absolutely no guessing at all. When completed, the framework is fitly framed together, immovable, stable and strong enough to withstand earthquakes.
Paul said to the Ephesians, “ . . . which is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body (building) fitly framed together and compacted by that which every member supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body (building) unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:16
Pillars and timbers in the framework are joined together, not toe-nailed. No super-glue either, but rather deep cuts are made into each piece so that they can be tightly fit together.
As the final step in completing the framework, the chief carpenter, Mr. Okumura, has just put a cross on the highest pillar in the house at the Hanada’s request. It is a Japanese custom to usually put up a big branch of a bamboo tree and have red streamers hang from it as a sign of blessing and protection. Doesn’t this remind you of what happened in the Exodus when Moses commanded the people to place the lamb’s blood on the lintel and doorposts? It was a sign of protection and blessing of those who inhabited the house. The lintel was above, the doorposts were on the side, and when the blood was applied, it took on the shape of a cross! “And as for you, the blood will be a sign on the houses in which you are.” Exodus 12:13
When the framework of the house was complete, all those who helped during the day joined together in a toast of celebration with traditional Japanese rice wine (sake). Notice how many of those who helped during the day wore the color RED, either a towel around the neck to wipe sweat, a shirt or an apron. Red is the color of celebration in Japan.
Can you imagine how Jesus felt the night before He was lifted up on the cross and said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare (make ready, adjust) a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am you may be also.” Then He lifted up the cup and said, “This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me.”
The following day, Jesus laid the foundation and began raising the framework of the church. The raising up of the framework of a new home in Japan takes place only ONCE, just as Christ died ONCE, for all of us, thereby raising up the framework of the church that He is building.