Good afternoon, welcome & thank you very much for attending our 2014 Spring Memorial Service of the Konko Church of Chicago.
Memorials are a time for remembrances. This memorial service, of course, is a time to remember all our ancestors to whom we are related to us or those Mitama spirits who have been close & influenced our lives personally. But it can be even more important when we see it as valuable & appropriate time to honor all those who have gone before us into the next world.
Countless numbers of these departed souls, from beloved family & friends to complete strangers have contributed to make this great land that it is today. It is those Mitama spirits that have made our lives more meaningful this present moment. Thank you for coming as we join together to show them our profound appreciation.
So today as we honor our forebears & other departed souls let us invite them to draw close to us; their family members, living today. May they unite with us & help join the peace & joy of our hearts with theirs. May we; in this way, receive Kami's blessings which enrich us all; present & departed, in this present moment & into the future.
Ancestors are the foundation of our lives' inheritance. If we separate ourselves from these roots through neglect, the branches of our personal tree-of-life suffer & wither. Therefore it is very important to respect & honor our ancestors with this Memorial Service as an investment to our personal, future well-beings.
Shortly after midnight this morning I offered special prayers honoring the Mitama spirits of ancestors & departed souls of all those who are closely associated to this Church. I truly believe that they were listening to me then & are just as closely hearing us now. They are here with us & I know they must be pleased with your company.
I offer a prayer appreciation to the Mitama spirits that are the foundation of this church twice a day, morning & evening. I do this with special diligence during March & September because we recognize these as memorial months in our calendar. I offer special prayers to them after each evening's regular service & read teachings of my spiritual mentor, the late Rev. Soichiro Otsubo.
This year I felt closer to the Mitama spirits because I realized more that I'd die some day in the future. Not the distant future but in a future nearer than the 66 years of life I've lived so far. We humans tend to think our lives lasting into a future too distant to imagine. We forget in our daily lives that our days will end; someday! So we live a common, ordinary life without thinking of the value of life until something uncommon brings it into sharp focus for us.
On Feb. 6, my doctor told me that I had the early stages of prostate cancer & would begin the radiation therapy from around the end of May. He is now determining from my tests to see if this cancer had spread beyond of my prostate or not. This is why I have come to realize so clearly I will die some day & feel closer to the Mitama spirits.
Then the following questions flooded my mind: "What was I born here in this world for? What should I do for the benefit of this world? Why have I become a Konko minister to serve Kami & people here in Chicago? Have I ever done enough here, etc?"
I can accept my death if it is Kami's wish, with gratitude at any time. But I feel I haven't done enough to revel Wagakokoro yet in Chicago over these past 17 years... let alone to the world & beyond. So I today promise Kami & all the Mitama spirits who've joined us, to devote myself to my limits of my physical & spiritual boundaries, to a live a life of faith development to the best of my ability & support the Wagakokoro era so that I pray to Kami will give me as much life as possible to shine the Divine Heart of the Universe forth.
During my Mitama prayers this month I have always asked them to show me what is most important for we human beings to do in this world. I do this because I believe our ancestors continue to reflect on the lives they had in this world. I believe they can see more clearly it in the next world than when they were in this world. Each Mitama-spirit answer I've received is, ..."to polish the gem of our heart & do our best to develop peace & joy in this world as much as possible until it becomes unbreakable."
When I learned I had prostate cancer this February, I respected it as a blessing of Kami's love named "prostate cancer." As I said before, since then I cannot help but think: "Why was I born here in this world? What should I do through the rest of my life?"
With these thoughts in my mind I opened the Wagakokoro Sacred Book & received the following poem of Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, "When living for the divine request of the parental Kami, Even the smallest thing should not be overlooked."
Through experiencing prostate cancer, I will deepen & renew myself entirely to live a divine request toward the parental Kami's Divine wish for my time here on earth. I swore to Kami that from now on I would never fail to seek & nurture peace & joy in my heart through even the smallest thing that happens to me.
By the way have you heard the song of a Japanese kid anime, named 'Anpanman?' That song, 'Anpanman's March'' is so touching that it has greatly encouraged the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake which triggered the devastating Tsunami that killed more than 15000 people & destroyed the coast lines of the Tohoku Regions three years ago. The tune & the lyrics of it are great & very meaningful. The lyrics are:
"I realized how great it is to live, even if the scar in my heart
What was I born for? What do I do in my life?
I don't like not being able to answer the questions.
By living the present our heart burns. That's why you go with a
smile on your face.
Go! You can protect everyone's dream."
I believe all the Mitama spirits and even those of this disaster who must have felt a deep regret over their sudden death, feel now the necessity to develop peace & joy in the human heart's here on earth more & more from the next world. That thought stirs my passion to deepen my peaceful & joyful heart as much as possible.
Let us here on Earth, reverently honor these precious Mitama spirits. They are our heritage. As they are now, we someday shall be. May we so live that we too become spirits, worthy of 'being one' with Kami.
Let us begin by caring for all those who live with us between heaven & earth. Then let us add together with them the spirits, past, present & future, in a pledge that beginning now, we shall work to create a new era.
An era in which the Divine Will of the Tenchi Kane No Kami will be fulfilled! May we create an era in which peace & joy will shine forth from the hearts of all people in this world, together with the power & virtue of all the Mitama spirits who have gone from this world into the next!
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