Thank you very much for attending today's service. My heart is filled with gratitude to have this service. I believe the Mitama spirit of Mr. Kevin Buck will be pleased most to see all of you here in the Konko Church of Chicago where I have been praying for his spiritual happiness every morning and evening.
Thanks to your kind consideration for Kevo, today we are able to have not only his Memorial Service but also the Year-End Service of the Konko Church of Chicago on New Year's Eve. During the service I extended my appreciation with him and prayed for his eternal peace and happiness.
This year I have especially wanted to have our New Year's Eve "Year-End" service express my heart-felt gratitude to Kami for the tremendous divine blessings received in the previous 12 months.
For me it is not just a mere religious formality to welcome Kami's gifts once a year. Each & every moment is a precious gift from Kami. By celebrating these accumulated gifts as they happen, all year long, it makes more meaningful for me to welcome this brand New Year. This anticipation became the inspiration on which I wrote my New Years poem I'll share in a few minutes.
But at first I thought it was impossible to have the Year-End Service on New Year's Eve. I thought we'd be too busy preparing our New Year's Day Ceremony the next day. We've usually had our year-end service & our last monthly service held on the third Sunday in December. Today I feel as though Kevo is teaching me that nothing is impossible. Thanks to his Memorial Service we have also had our Year-End Service today.
In Japan we eat buckwheat noodles on New Year's Eve called ‘Toshikoshi Soba." Today my wife Kanako has prepared this traditional dish for all of us to enjoy together after this service. I decided to see what the dictionary had to say about buckwheat noodles. When I found the word "buck" of buckwheat noodle, I was surprised to understand it was Kevo's family name. It occurred to me that Kami was bringing all of you here today New Year's Eve as a memorial for Kevo. Kami's workings are a very vivid demonstration of Divine Love for Kevo.
In the dictionary I discovered the main reason Japanese people eat buckwheat noodle on New Year's Eve is to celebrate each of our lives. It's expressing the wish that our thin, narrow little lives may be long, like the individual strands of buckwheat.
Konko Daijin taught us, "Be prudent. Any undertaking, even a small one, will be considered successful if it continues over a long period of time. Even a narrow path is advantageous if it becomes wider by being traveled on frequently. Do not let grass grow on your path."
My parent minister, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo interpreted to mean: "There are those who have continued in faith for a long time, but have not been blessed with prosperity. It's just that a very, very narrow way has been continually stretched out. For faith you must always have the spirit of widening what you traverse. Widening where you travel means that you carry out the teachings. If you are unsuccessful, consider it proof that you haven't carried out the teachings, and then you must renew your efforts to practice the teachings anew.
"There are many who only seek the way and do not carry out the teachings. By following the teachings there will be no imprudence."
In order to be in eternal harmony with Heaven and Earth this teaching shows us that we need to have a heart like that of the Universe. In other words, to emulate the heavenly, earthly and orderly nature of the universe.
I understand that to do this means to reflect the nature of the universe by living each day with sincerity, in giving & accepting silently.
In that spirit, here is my New Year's poem for 2011:
From now on I would like to have our New Year's Eve "Year-End Service" every year in memory of today's service for Kevo. Thank you!
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