Hello, everyone! Happy New Day & Week. I hope all of you are enjoying good health & excellent spirits.
September is the month of transition in our annual calendar. It is the month of fulfillment when we gather in the blessings of Kami's harvest which we store for the lean months of winter which lie a few months away from us. And it is the month we set aside time during our harvest to honor our Mitama spirits... all departed souls who have gone before us. Thank you so very much for attending today's Autumn Memorial Service. That is why we are joined together on this beautiful September, Sunday Morning. As our lives are built on foundations given to us by our ancestors, our memorial service is our gift of respect to glance back & extend our appreciation to each & every one of them.
Everyday beginning on September 1, I offer my special prayers for all Mitama spirits, especially those who are closely related to living members of our church. Each evening after our regular evening prayer service I read our parent minister Rev. Soichiro Otsubo's speeches. I do this in the wish to deepen joy and peace in all our hearts by linking them together with divine hearts of Mitama spirits dear to our church family.
During these prayers this year I felt the world of the Mitama spirits much closer than I ever have before. I found I could pray for them more intimately & intensely than ever before. I think that was because I lost a most precious life to me on July 28. Rev. Kiyokazu Suenaga died of cirrhosis at age 48, an example, if ever there was one, of a precious life cut short too - too soon. During trainee-years under the guidance of Rev. Soichiro Otsubo at KC Airaku, Kiyokazu was probably my closest friend in seminary. He was less than 20 younger than me & like a younger brother among many trainees.
When I received word of his death, I shouted out loud without thinking, "How foolish you are to die at such young age! You had such a bright future as a mediator to be of such great service to Kami and people!"
Then immediately I sat in front of the Kami altar at our church and prayed, prayed, prayed. Many images and thoughts came and went in my mind.
Kiyokazu visited Brazil at age 21 and stayed for half a year at KC Birigui where his uncle, Rev. Tateo Suenaga served as head-minister. When one of the leaders of the Konkokyo Headquarters visited KC Birigui to know how greatly KC Birigui was growing, Rev. Suenaga one day took him to the farm land where his believer owned. There were horses there. Kiyokazu tried to ride the tamest one to show how. After a while this horse suddenly ran. Kiyokazu was thrown away and crashed with the fence. He had severe damage with his head as if he were killed instantly. He miraculously escaped death and recovered from fatal injuries. Then he decided to become a Konko minister to serve Kami & people, & became a trainee under the mentorship of Rev. Soichiro Otsubo.
He was appointed successor to KC Konoha Church five years ago after completing his training at KC Airaku. He served there with great sincerity & ability. He learned the most important things in life & faith from Rev. Soichiro Otsubo & served as head-minister for five years to his fullest limits of his abilities. Thinking of such life of his, Kami motivated me say to his Mitama spirit in front of the Kami altar at our church, "What a wonderful life you had! Congratulations! From now on I will make it my dream to follow your vision of faith to be of great service to Kami & people in this world; as much as possible."
Kiyokazu Sensei's death at such a young age is why I felt the world of the Mitama spirits so much closer than ever before during my special evening prayers this year. It was like looking death in the face & realized so clearly that death is all around & so it possible I could die some day in not too distant future.
I can accept death with gratitude at any time, if it is Kami's will. But I feel deep with my soul that I have not done nearly enough to reveal Wagakokoro over these past 17 years, nor have I done nearly enough to display an unbreakable peaceful, joyful heart in Chicago... let alone to the world beyond!
So, humbly I leave everything up to Kami. I've promised Kami to devote myself to living life in faith development. With every breath I will do my best to the limits of my ability; both to the limits of my physical & spiritual boundaries. My goal is to cooperate in creating an era of Wagakokoro in this world & the next with our Mitama spirits. I pray Kami will give me as many life challenges as possible to polish my heart & reflect forth the Divine Heart of the Universe.
I now leave everything up to Kami & try to do everything as sincerely as possible with gratitude toward Kami in my heart as long as I am allowed to live. I feel more closely & intimately Kami's workings all around me & sense a growing vision of the world beyond populated by our Mitama spirits.
During September I received two notices about death: One is that Mrs. Neana Leki passed away peacefully on Sept. 7 at age 77. She was the grandmother of Mr. Jamal Leki-Albano.
The other is Rev. Haruko Ishiwata who died on Sept. 12 at age 97. She was the head-minister of KC San Jose. She served Kami & people through her ministry for 52 years. She was a model of our female ministers. When I received these notices I realized this world & the next one, are one. As I should continue to develop peace & joy both in this world & in the next, I come to realize I will be blessed & protected by Kami. So I don't have any present fear of death.
From this moment on, I sincerely hope that you too will understand the importance of Kami's greatest wish for us humans to do our best to deepen peace & joy in all our hearts, with all our Mitama spirits in the next world to have hearts ultimately joined to our Divine Parent of the Universe's eternal peace & happiness!
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