New Year's Day Ceremony on Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! Thank you for joining us to welcome in the New Year. Thank you also very much as always, for the prayers & support you've given for KC_CHI during the past year. May each & every one of you enjoy a happy, healthy & prosperous New Year - 2017!

There is an old Japanese proverb which says, 'Fortune comes to a merry home with laughter.' So I'd like to start today's 1st sermon of 2017 by inducing your laughter as I did last year; remember the story I had told you a year ago? I'm sure you haven't forgotten it. But I'd like to repeat it once more because there was one part I forgot to tell you last year.

As you may recall, Mr. Yoshio Mori, the "then" Prime Minster of Japan, visited the USA, as PM Shinzo Abe did a few days ago with President Obama. He met with President Bill Clinton. Mr. Mori didn't have a very deep understanding of the English language. But, he wanted to exchange greetings with Mr. Clinton in English to show his respect. So for this important meeting with Mr. Clinton he asked his interpreter what he could memorize in English that would be appropriate.

The interpreter told him, he thought the sentences, "How are you?" & "Me two!"... would be simple & memorable. These words were easy to remember & a perfect starting place for their conversation.

In America there's humorous Rule of Public Speaking called, "Murphy's Law" that says, "That which can go wrong... WILL!" So when Mr. Mori met Mr. Clinton in person, Mr. Mori 'drew a blank!'... that is: he forgot what he wanted to say. So he said to Mr. Clinton, "Who are you?"...  instead of "How are you?"

Mr. Clinton was surprised to hear that greeting. President Clinton is a man of wittiness. & he answered Mr. Mori, "I am Hillary's husband," to which Mr. Mori replied, "Me too!"

The following part is an addition. What makes this even funnier, the Prime minister is called 'Sori' in Japanese. Then Mori Sori realized he'd made another mistake & said, "I'm sorry."

Around the beginning of last December the assistant head-minister of KC Airaku Japan, Rev. Keiki Otsubo asked each member in a meeting, 'how would you describe your faith during 2016 in one; Japanese character."

About fifteen lady ministers were gathered in that meeting. Interestingly enough I realized that there were no kanji characters repeated. Then I thought, the reason there were no duplicates in this group is because each minister did their best, to deepen their heart by each of them respecting a personal happening & all individual experiences are different.

When I heard this, I thought what is my character. Thanks to reciting the following three sentences 1300 times a day: "Ikigami Konko Daijin-sama, thank you very much! Ikigami Konko Daijin-sama, please forgive me! Ikigami Konko Daijin-sama, I will be Your faithful servant!" I really felt my unbreakable peaceful & joyful heart at last sprouted this year. So I chose '和.' It means 'peace' or 'calm.'

What could each one of you describe your year of 2016 by one Japanese character or one English word?

My wife Kanako chose '調.' It means 'rhythm' or 'harmony.' That was because the scales fell from her eyes when she listened to one of our parent minister, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo's speeches. He talked of a revelation about hydrangea. A hydrangea is said to change its color by the surroundings. Rev. Otsubo did his best to be in harmony with his surroundings. Kanako thought even Rev. Otsubo had made great efforts to harmonize everything as Oyasensei, a husband and a parent.

When the Japanese characters that Kanako and I chose combine together, they became '調和.' It means 'harmony.' I could say that, through practicing faith, my wife and I finally could build a foundation of a peaceful & joyful family as our founder said, "The foundation of faith is to be in harmony with one's family."

My sister Emiko's husband Rev. Mitsuaki Otsubo threw up blood last April when he brushed his teeth. The doctor said he had stage 4 of stomach cancer. Mitsuaki Sensei totally accepted it with gratitude as divine love.

He has devoted himself to deepening peace & joy in his heart and renewing himself through respecting his stomach cancer. Through this faith practice he has wished to change 'cancer cells' into 'peaceful & joyful cells." Since then his lifestyle has been totally changed and improved. He has worshiped stomach cancer from the bottom of his heart. That's why he described his year of 2016 by one Japanese character as '癌, cancer.'

When I heard of it, I was moved so much. At the same time it seemed to strike my head with a sound of 'Gan.' It has the same Japanese pronunciation as '癌, cancer.' That was because I realized my heart was so narrow-minded that I thought only 'good' to describe my faith.

I don't know when it started, but the social condition of Japan for each year has been described by one Japanese character in December each year. The priest of the Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto beautifully writes it by a big brush on a huge paper. What do you think he wrote for the last year. He wrote "金, gold" none other than anything else. Who on earth expected this?  I didn't expected it at all. When I heard about it, I thought it was a sign for the Konko faith. Kami has great expectations for our Konko believers in the face of such catastrophe where natural disasters become huge and anywhere in the world becomes dangerous day by day. It is the time this year 2017 for our Konko believers to devote ourselves to putting the Divine Reminder into practice and making this world bright.

My parent church in Japan, KC Airaku will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Oct. 16 this year. The members there are doing their best to develop peace and joy in their hearts through precisely respecting each and every happening in their daily lives more than ever. They wish to manifest the Konko way of life in their daily lives to make this event epoch-making and embrace the whole world with this faith.

With honoring their efforts here in Chicago we dedicate ourselves to deepening peace and joy in our hearts, helping others by sharing the blessings of the Konko faith and working for the fulfillment of divine will to achieve a real, lasting peace in the world.

With such strong determination in my mind, I wrote the following New Year's resolution of mine:

"Two thousand seventeen –
Half century has passed since
Airaku started.
A Way of golden light –
Come, let us shine through the world!"

『合楽の 半世紀なる 今年はも
                      金光る道 世に輝かん』

"The New Year has come!
I shall swear with all my heart,
For my peace & joy
To shine through Heaven
And to last eternally."

『新玉の 年に誓わん 和賀心
                      天に貫き 幾世久しき』

Young people are treasures in the world. They are expected to most constructively pursue the truth of life, but now may be in struggle. We sincerely pray that we may be of great service for many young people in the world to know the essence of the Konko Faith which will surely lead to true world peace and fulfilled lives with Kami. So I would like to continue to recite the following poem from the last year:

"To you young people!
Your true Way to happiness
Is found in this Faith.
Come & learn it faithfully;
Become a light of the world!"

『若者よ 真実の道 ここにあり
                      来たり学びて 世の光となれ』

Beginning this first day of the brand new year 2017, let us deepen our understanding of the true nature of the peaceful, joyful heart & together let us help each other to develop our faith more & more perfectly in the coming 365 days. May this Konko Church of Chicago be filled with the peaceful & joyful hearts to welcome all who enter here. May this spot on our miraculous earth become a place where Divinity & Humanity will meet together in prayer, rejoice together in gratitude & delight together in mutual satisfaction.  Thank you!

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