Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day and New Week! Thank you very much for attending today's service. This is our first monthly service for December. I hope you are all enjoying good health and in excellent spirits.
I flew to Japan on Nov. 21, stayed there for 9 days returning back to Chicago on Nov. 30. This was a sudden visit to Japan; & as always, was filled with Kami's awesome workings. I'd like to share a few of them with you in today's sermon.
The primary reason for my trip was to seek Mediation with our Principal Mediator & the head-minister of KC Airaku on a very special matter. It was necessary for me to arrive in Konko town the night before in order to accomplish this purpose in the brief time I had available. I flew from Chicago to Narita, then on to Itami. I then boarded a bus to catch a local train to reach Konko town at about 11 pm on Nov. 22.
Thanks to Kami's revelation to our Founder the worship hall of our headquarters stays open 24 hours a day. Both Konko Daijin's Memoir and Records of Revelation say, "On March 21, 1863, Kami-Sama ordered, 'Always keep the sliding shutters at the Worship Hall's (Hiromae's) entrance open." Thankfully I was able to get in & warm myself a little from the winter cold. I changed from my traveling clothes into my suit in the back of the worship hall & then, being dressed more warmly, went back outside to our Founder's gravesite.
It was cool & solemn & I was able to offer my sincere prayers to my heart's content. I was able to focus my prayers to the Founder so intensely I decided to pray in at the site of the second successor, Konko Shijin-Sama as well. Walking on the small hill of Yuzaki Mountain to reach the Konko family gravesites I offered my sincerest prayers to the Third & Fourth Konko-Samas as well. Returning to the worship hall to pray as I awaited my audience with the Principal Mediator I was so refreshed I could feel new burst of energy well up in my mind.
Whenever I visit our headquarters I prefer to stay outside overnight offering prayers in front of the gravesites. It's better for me to do this than for me to try to sleep at either a hotel or in someone's house with 11+ hours of jet-lag.
The Konko Day begins with morning prayers in the worship hall at 4:00am. That morning I was wonderfully energized by my night of prayers as I greeted our Principal Mediator going from his house to the worship hall at 3:45 am with other worshippers.
He is very disciplined & punctual. He walks to the worship hall at the same time everyday, year round, to serve at the mediation place to help people connect with Kami all day until he returns back to his house at 4:00 pm.
I sought Mediation with him after the Morning Prayer Service. After telling him the plans that brought me to seek his Mediation, he said, "It was good."
From Headquarters I took the bullet train to Kokura, where I met Mrs. Emiko Hayashi. Her daughter Yuko, has called me in Chicago from Japan almost everyday to seek my Mediation & receive Kami's guidance and blessings.
Emiko-san is 79 years old & I took her to the Airaku church to attend the monthly service there on Nov. 23rd. Prior to the monthly service I sought Mediation with Rev. Katsuhiko Otsubo, head-minister of KC Airaku about the important matter which had brought me Konko Headquarters.
I went to Imari to see my mother who was in hospital on the 26th. As soon as I saw her I gave her a heartfelt hug, saying, "Mother, thank you so very much for your faith training from this hospital bed. Because of it, we are most blessed in Chicago."
She also hugged me back as tightly as she could, with tears glistening in her eyes. Even though she is now in bed and cannot easily move, she always has a smile on her face & thanks Kami, saying, "I'm so grateful. This is too good for me."
Then it was on to Nagasaki the next day. I joined the 90th Anniversary Ceremony of KC Tsurunominato in Nagasaki city from Imari on the 27th. Tsurunominato is the parent church of Revs. Nobuharu & Michie Uzunoe who were our sponsoring ministers when my family and I came as missionaries to the USA. The Uzunoe's were pleased to see me there.
On the way back I visited my mother a 2nd time in the hospital. While I was talking with her, I felt very sleepy due to the fact that I drunk Japanese sake and beer at that 90th year celebration for a while after the service... and so... fell fast asleep on the chair.
When I woke up, I found my nieces, Kikuyo and Megumi beside my mother's bed. They had sneaked into her room without my noticing. Kikuyo lay down beside her grandmother, my mother. The next day I visited my mother in the hospital again & this would be the last day for me to have a chance to see her on this trip. So I lay down beside her & held onto her tightly. She said to me with great joy, "This is the first time for you to lie next to me, right?"
I replied, "Oh no... you always used to lay down near me when I was a little boy," & her face was the picture of joy.
Nov. 29 was the 17th year Memorial Day celebration of my mentor & parent minister, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo. I had been asked to serve as head officiant of his 17th year memorial service, a great honor. Rev. Seiji Akiyama from Brazil was the assistant head officiant. It was held at 1:00 pm at the mortuary (Enseiden) where the remains, & we believe, the souls of all departed friends & ancestors related to Airaku church are enshrined.
There are two large ceramic lanterns in front of the altar in that solemn space. Two years before Rev. Otsubo died he'd received a revelation from Kami, "Buy lanterns and then you will shine force toward the world from within them."
I'd been fortunate to accompany him to buy those lanterns in my hometown of Imari, which is known for the excellence of its porcelain & has even created pieces for the royal family. To my recollection, this might have been the first time I ever got into the same car with him. By that time in his life, he had been very challenging health issues, but even though he lay down to relax, the car was filled with the peace & joy which radiated from his heart. I was awestruck with the warm, calm atmosphere that filled that car with great dignity. I still feel it now just speaking about it.
I conducted this memorial service with all the sincerity, gratitude & intensity I had to offer. During the service I realized that our propagation efforts in the North America have finally gotten to the same stage that Rev. Tateo Suenaga achieved when he went to Brazil to do missionary work for his second effort more than 30 years ago. At that time Rev. Otsubo gave Rev. Suenaga the following message:
"Thou, tell the truth and purify people's hearts.
You don't need to be afraid.
Across the millions of miles of ocean, in the South America Continent,
You will spread the Konko faith and manifest the Airaku Ideal.
My heart is so full I am moved to tears."
Now it's North America's turn to be filled with this spirit across our continent.
I will keep this message of Rev. Otsubo in mind at all times.
I will do my best to speak out this true way of life,
And manifest the Konko way with my whole being.
May I fulfill my duty to both Kami and humanity in the North America Continent.
Early morning of the next day I left for Chicago with my faith renewed & my absolute commitment to Kami & people fully engaged.
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