Chicago Spring Grand Ceremony

Sunday, May 31, 2009 11am
Sermon by Rev Dick Dusek, Tacoma Fellowship

Good morning. And congratulations on the first grand ceremony of the new Chicago Church. Congratulations to all of you. It's a wonderful, beautiful Spring day. Our Principle Parent is showing his happiness. Thank you all for coming.

It's really an honor for me to be here. I come all the way from the Pacific Coast in Tacoma, Washington, near Seattle. I've known Rev Masanori Takeuchi for 27 years now. I've lived in Japan a long time. I raised my family and taught English in Japan for more than 20 years. And 27 years ago when I met him, I first found the Konko religion. It's an honor to come here on the very first grand ceremony, as he enters a new step in Chicago propagation and has officially become a Konko Church. I congratulate all of you again for joining this wonderful ceremony. And it honors me even more to see all of you today.

In the ceremony prayer, he talked about the wonderfulness of being connected to this Kami-sama, to this Divine Parent of our whole universe. This Divine Parent just keeps on giving blessings and blessings throughout the heavens, throughout the earth. And we, as people living in between the heavens and earth, are receiving all of these blessings without doing anything. However, as the founder discovered, as you connect with the rhythms of these blessings, as you relate and deepen you relationship with this Kami-sama, your heart opens up so that, before you know it, you're showing joy.

In the new interpretation of The Divine Reminder, called Tenchi Kakitsuke, it talks about blessings begin within the grateful, caring heart, in harmony and joy. This is what Rev Takeuchi mentioned as "the Peaceful Joyful Heart." It's the same thing, it's just a different interpretation.

How do you receive this? Where does it begin? Well, for the founder, it begun when the founder was 42 years old. For you, where does it begin? It should begin when you connect to the blessings that you're always receiving, and live in a harmonious relationship, what I call an living relationship with these constant blessings.

The founder discovered it in his own life. For the first 42 years of his life he was very religious. He practiced all types of prayers, all types of visits to shrines, visits to temples; he even walked around all the 88 shrines in Shikoku, and got very tried doing it too. However, as he grew older his difficulties increased. He lost his children; he lost farm animals. Altogether, in 17 years time, he had to dig 7 graves for the dead. Each one of these graves were in an anniversary year -- like the third, or fifth, or seventh year after the last one.

Also in those days there were superstitious beliefs called, 'the Days and Directions.' People were very fearful of the curses of Konjin-sama. Konjin-sama was an ominous deity that brought down punishment on people because they were irreverent and not respecting Kami. And what did people do? What did the founder do? He turned his head away. He prayed to not be unlucky, to not meet misfortune, to not be punished, to not be cursed. He was pushing Kami-sama away and didn't even know it.

I wonder how many of us might be doing the same thing: pushing the difficulties away even though through those very difficulties Kami-sama's work was coming about.

The founder didn't understand it, either. When he became 42, the greatest thing happened. He was almost ready to die with a throat sickness. From reading and studying his writings, doctors today say that it probably was tonsillitis, which in his day, was deadly. Doctors gave up on him. All he could do was pray. His neighbors, his relatives came and helped him, helped his family harvest his crop. Then that night, because he was so religious, they held a prayer service for him. And through the leader of the prayers, Kami-sama's blessings became known.

At the prayer service his father-in-law stood up and said that, the founder, his name was Bunji, did not commit any irreverences. He'd checked all the 'days,' he'd checked all the 'directions' when he was constructing his home, when he was doing this, when he was doing that. He wasn't irreverent. Thus his father-in-law stood up for him, for his religiousness.

Bunji was in the next room and heard the words of Kami, the words of the Divine Parent coming through the leader of the prayer service. And all he wanted to do was to apologize. He couldn't understand what his irreverence exactly was. But he just wanted to apologize, and a miracle happened.

For the past few days he wasn't able to speak, he wasn't able to drink -- he even writes later in his life that he wasn't able to drink hot water or cold water. He was just getting ready to die it seemed. But he wanted to apologize and a miracle happened, he was able to speak. He crawled into the next room and apologized to Kami for his irreverence, ignorant as he was. He was just an ordinary farmer and wanted to apologize and rectify the situation. From that point in time, he turned toward Kami and started to develop for the first time a relationship with this Kami.

If you understand Japanese, this Kami I said was called, "Konjin." Konjin becomes Kane No Kami (if you change the reading a little bit and add a 'no' in the middle -- Kane No Kami). And then It became "The Divine Parent of the Universe," when you add Tenchi in front of it.

Tenchi Kane No Kami was the same Kami that the founder had been pushing away all these 42 years of his life. And possibly we do the same thing. He began to reconnect at age 42. And what did he do? He developed the blessings that he felt, the connection he had with Kami.

Today's ceremony is celebrating the Divine Parent of the Universe that the founder found when he was 42 years old. And 4 years later at 46, the founder had developed his joyfulness so much that Kami-sama called him to begin propagating, to quit his farming career and begin to help people through what he later understood to be mediation.

When did you feel Kami-sama's blessings begin in your life? Possibly just like the founder, it wasn't anything too great at the time, but as you develop the connection, then it begins to open wider and wider. In my case, it was astonishing.

I think back 27 years ago when I met Rev Takeuchi. I was going to an English teachers' meeting. It was a three-day conference for about 50 teachers. I was just attending that conference. The first person I met when I got inside was this minister right here, Rev Takeuchi. By the third day, he and I had spoken a lot about the head minister who's picture is right there (pointing to Rev Soichiro Otsubo of Airaku Church).

Rev Otsubo has taught that the most essential quality for your faith-life is this peaceful, joyful heart; or a grateful, caring, harmonious, and joyful heart.

This is what the founder felt when he first recognized his mistake of going the wrong direction with Kami-sama. He turned around. And later in life, in his 60's, he began to write his biographic information. At the very point when he shifted and changed -- he's writing the account of being sick at 42, and then receiving the prayer service, and then receiving the miracle of speaking and apologizing; and Kami-sama gave him so many blessings, that just remembering that episode he was so overjoyed that he just stopped writing the account, and he just drew a big circle of joy.

I always wondered what that circle was. What does it mean?

When you have this peaceful, joyful heart everything comes together. Like this one circle. It goes all-l-l the way around, but it becomes one whole circle.

When I first met Rev Otsubo -- after hearing so many praises about his wonderful teachings and the many people that he was helping at Airaku Church -- I was amazed, awe-struck. It was the last day of the English Teachers' Conference. I was resting my legs and walking around not knowing where anything was. I began to hear over the intercom Rev Otsubo speaking to the famous speaker of the conference. Wanting to go there, I started looking all over. Luckily I finally found it at the other end of the church. I opened paper doors to the tatami room called, the worship hall. Inside I saw a lot of ministers sitting around Rev Otsubo. Right in front was the guest speaker who had just finished and was leaving.

I raised my hand to say something, and was ushered up to the front. I ended up right in front of Rev Otsubo. Kneeing down in front of him I looked up with all respect and spoke my bad Japanese. Now my Japanese has improved over 27 years, but 27 years ago he couldn't understand me. However, he gave me one special word, and I couldn't even understand what it was. I had to go home and ask my wife what it meant.

He had said, En -- This is en. What is en? I later found out it was 'relationship', 'connection'. But I didn't know what it was. I was an American with long hair down to my shoulders, a beard and mustache I kept trimmed. He extended his hand to me.

Can everybody see me? What do you do when the hand comes like this -- palm facing down? I didn't know what to do. He's sitting there extending his hand to me. I respected him so and heard so many great stories about him.

I come from a Catholic background. And what do Catholics do when the famous minister extends their hand like that? Well, first of all, I looked for a Bishop's ring. Because a Bishop in the Catholic Church wears a ring that connects him to God. Usually it's a standing procedure. The believer will kneel on one knee and kiss the ring.

Well, that's what I tried to do to show my reverence to the Konko minister that had no ring. There I was with my mustache and beard. I shocked him. I kissed his hand and he jerked it back quick.

That was my connection to the Konko faith 27 years ago. But I didn't even know it. Because after that I left. I did try to explain it was an honorific custom that I was trying to do. So that it wouldn't just end in a shock.

I found out much later, that after I had left Rev Otsubo talked about me to all the ministers who had gathered for the afternoon study session. He also talked to the believers who gathered for the monthly service. What he said was: "I met this young American. If this young man masters the peaceful joyful heart and returns to his country that he would save many, many people."

I didn't even know what the Konko religion was. I was just an English teacher. I just kissed his hand and shocked him. Years later, I listened to the tape. Of course, people had told me about it many times. In his inner eye, his spiritual eye, Rev Otsubo received the image of a pomegranate, ZAKURO (in Japanese). Now you know it's a large red fruit. And in his spiritual eye it was burst open, and you could see separate yellow walls inside with many little seeds in every room or section. There's a saying in Japanese that means, if this one thing is saved that thousands of people will follow. [shoji hito e ni kozo sen nin]

Even before I knew anything about Konko faith, he was saying I would come to America and save many, many people. Well, I don't have a church, and I don't have a congregation. It's just me and my wife in a small apartment. We've been practicing for almost 4 or 5 years in Tacoma. Developing our faith and keeping this connection going so that our shine would attract and help other people.

Now what is interesting is that when you try to help other people if you don't have enough shine you get dull very fast and tried out. But if you keep pulling in the attraction and absorb it like the soil, then the shine sticks within you and the rays that shine out are what help other people. You don't get tried because everything still stays inside you. It takes a little bit of practice, but it certainly is a wonderful way of life. Because who doesn't want to be peaceful and joyful? Who doesn't want a heart that is grateful and caring? that's in harmony with all the blessings of the heavens and the earth? It's a natural joy that just sprouts up from within.

And what does it take to do that?

Just before the ceremony I opened to a Konko teaching: It's important for the believer to get closer to Kami. Not to shy away from Kami, but stay close to Kami.

Now different things happen in our life. The joyful things we talk to many people about and we spread the blessings. But even the difficult things in our life can open up the spirit. Though it takes a little bit of time.

(Equipment mistakes led me to delete this sermon before completing this typing.
Sorry I cannot send the whole speech.)

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