Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day & Week. Thank you for attending today's service. I trust you are all in good health & excellent spirits.
You know, this is the next-to-the last full week of our old friend 2013. Reflecting on this year I realized how blessed we have been in this passing year. Kami has arranged everything more than I expected for each occasion throughout this entire year, by deepening the peace & joy in my heart even though I often felt I'd failed to do so through my own will power.
My wife Kanako went to Japan in March to join in the 10th year Memorial Service of the late Mrs. Isoe Otsubo, wife of our mentor Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, founding minister of KC Airaku. She stayed in Japan for more than one month because she was able to change her return flight free, which was a wonderful blessing. She was able to see my mother, Mrs. Itsuko Takeuchi in hospital for the first time in five years before my mom passed away in June. She was also able to stay with her parents longer than she'd planned to take good care of them as well. They both are 85 years old.
My mother died peacefully at age 90 on June 23. Two years before she had been in critical condition. I was able then, to return to her bedside through Kami's great blessing to be with her as long as possible. Knowing I'd not likely see her alive again, I tried to memorize an image of her, especially her beautifully shining face, filled with peace & joy; to carry as my lasting memory of her in my mind. I'd sneaked into her bed to surprise her, as I'd see her granddaughter, my niece do, which had given her such unexpected joy. I'd told my brother Kazunori, at the time, that I probably not be able to attend her funeral service even if something would happen with her..
But I was able to share her final journey from this world to the next because I'd conducted the blessing of inaugural service of the United 787 Dreamliner in Denver on June 10. UA kindly donated me my flight to Japan as a token of appreciation to attend my mother's funeral service. What a blessing it was! But there was a problem,... because I had to fly to Japan the next day there was no direct flight from Chicago to Tokyo. Then I learned there was a connect flight from Chicago to Kansai via San Francisco. Another divine blessing. It could allow me to reach Imari on the night when the final day service of my mother's body would be held.
I could see her face filled with peace & joy one more time & extended my gratitude, saying, "I am the happiest person in the world as I have been one of your children." Everything was arranged better than could have ever hoped. 1500 people came to pay their respects to her at both the last day service & the funeral service for the old lady at age 90. I recognized my mother received a great tribute for her divine virtue by just trying to deepen her peaceful & joyful heart throughout her life. This was especially true after she was confined in hospital bed, no matter how painful it was. I could hardly find the proper words to describe how blessed her funeral was because of her divine virtue.
By attending my mother's funeral, I was also able to join the morning service prayer on the first day of the 100 days training at KC Airaku on July 1st to welcome recognition of the 130th anniversary of our founder's death. All the believers of KC Airaku would begin each of the next 100 days by reciting the following "Solemn Pledge" to do their best to develop their faith to fulfill Kami's & our founder's wishes. I decided to inaugurate this same training at KC Chicago along with KC Airaku when I returned got back home.
Here is the "Pledge":
"Approaching this 130th anniversary of the founder we pray to revive the vivid way he lived so each day we would feel Kami near us & hear the Divine voice. We seek to blaze a trail into the active world of Konko Daijin, & experience the essence of his faith -- as if by touching we'd feel its warmth & by poking we'd draw spurting blood."
The most epoch-making blessing for this year also involved in travel to Japan. Three couples from our church went to Japan to attend the 130th Anniversary Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony both at our headquarters & KC Airaku. Mr. Tim & his wife. Mrs. May Ogawa, Mr. Kurt & Mrs. Nancy Nakaoka & my wife Kanako & I traveled together in Japan for 13 days. Our Japan faith trip, like the two Kanako & I had each made on our own earlier in this year, was filled with Kami's awesome blessings. I told about them for our 130th Anniversary Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony of KC Chicago on Sunday, Oct. 27.
In order to put into practice the spirit of "Solemn Pledge" during our trip, we decided the theme of our faith trip as follows: "We are humble & honored to give our thanks & appreciation for every single thing." It was our draft translation of one of the teachings of our fourth Konko-sama. It says in Japanese, "世話になる すべてに礼を 言う心"
The highlight of our trip for me came early morning on Sunday, Oct. 13. All members of our group left our lodgings at 3:30 am to welcome Konko-sama as he proceeded in the fresh air from his house to the worship hall at 3:45 am. After the morning service prayer each couple sought Mediation with Konko-sama individually.
When Rev. Katsuhiko Otsubo, head-minister of KC Airaku greeted us, he said that the essence of all the teachings of our Founder & his father Rev. Soichiro Otsubo's 8813 speeches was described in this teaching of our fourth Konko-sama, "世話になる すべてに礼を 言う心."
Therefore we should clearly understand what our fourth Konko-sama had wished to teach by it. He added, "I am aspiring for a blessing which will embrace the world with this teaching of our fourth Konko-sama. However I could not find the appropriate English translation of it until now." Then he showed three different translations of it. Here's the translation of our headquarters: "Have a grateful heart for all that benefits you."
Rev. Otsubo explained that we should respect every happening, good or bad, with gratitude to deepen our hearts, whatever happened & no matter how difficult it might be, because everything that happened is Kami's doing & all is divine love. Then he asked to our group. After a while Mr. Kurt Nakaoka suggested this translation: "Have a grateful heart for all that happens to you." I thought this is IT!
We will celebrate the 200th-year birthday of our founder, Ikigami Konko Daijin as well as the 100th-year birthday of our parent minister Rev. Soichiro Otsubo next year. In addition we will also have our 5th Anniversary Celebration of KC Chicago on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. The New Year 2014 will be one of the most important years for us members of KC Chicago.
Mr. Tim Ogawa & I attended the House of Delegates meeting as representatives of KC Chicago that was held in San Francisco on Saturday, Dec. 7. He will give a brief report of it after my sermon. Our KCNA's theme the next year will be: "Let us receive Kami's blessings & unconditional love; living a joyful life of appreciation."
To welcome the new year 2014 which we look forward to so much, I wrote the following poem as my pledge to do my best in being of service to Kami & people in Chicago:
That I may deepen
My heart through Peace & joy
May I be grateful each day
For everything that happens.
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