Good afternoon, welcome & thank you very much for attending our 2017 Spring Memorial Service of the Konko Church of Chicago.
March & September are the months for honoring the Mitama Spirits in the Konko Faith. Ancestors & departed souls 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 & departed souls with these Memorial Services.
On March 1, the start of the Mitama month, I opened the Wagakokoro Sacred Book after the morning prayer service, praying to receive the message of all the Mitama spirits. Then I received the following teaching of our Founder's & one of the mini-interpretations for it of Rev. Soichiro Otsubo's:
"Our Founder's teaching - Tenchi Kane No Kami is a kami that has existed since the beginning of time. This kami did not appear in the middle of history. The universe is not a passing fad. Something which is not a fad will not end. It is essential to have a heart like that of the universe. Even those without faith receive Kami's blessings."
Otsubo Oyasensei's interpretation - "Even though the universe is not a fad & will not end, to give the universe life or to destroy it is up to the faith of the person. Whatever the era or the society, for the happiness of mankind, we must try to comply with the true intent of Konko Daijin's way of mediation & not relent in our efforts to receive the works of the living universe. For that purpose it is essential to have a heart like that of the universe. The nature of the universe is giving silently, just accepting silently, & living each day with sincerity."
All the Mitama exist only as spirits. Therefore I believe they keenly feel that the most essential is to have a heart like that of the universe more than any physical existence. This is the very message from our Mitama spirits as we invite them to this Spring Memorial service.
Besides this, from these teachings I realize we humans have been allowed to live through the Divine working of Kami that has existed since the beginning of time. Moreover, I realize our lives are dependant in the same reality we exist in today, without it, we would not be here tomorrow. The reason I strongly believe that is because I knew a young mother who passed away on February 21. Her name is Mrs. Asuka Sato, a very bright young mother who had two daughters. She had been diagnosed as having terminal cancer.
I was introduced her by her father, Mr. Nagayoshi Hiyoshi, after the morning prayer service at KC Airaku when I visited last June. She was a person who always had a smile on her face & always made others delighted & joyful. I saw her every morning coming to the church to attend the morning prayer service with her father, in high spirits in spite of her severe illness. Believing in Kami wholeheartedly, she tried to deepen peace & joy in her heart as much as she could. I prayed for her full recovery daily after I'd met her & prayed Kami's continued help for her to stay alive. I have continued to pray for her & have sincerely hoped to see her again in good health when I visit KC Airaku the next time I'd come to attend the 50thAnniversary Celebration this October.
When I step out of the entrance of our church & pray between Heaven & Earth every morning just before praying at the worship place at 4 o'clock, I usually begin by expressing my appreciation to Kami that I've been allowed to have another precious day of life. Then I pray to Kami that I want to totally use these blessed 24 hours of life for Kami & this faith; then I offer general prayers to be of great service to attain true world peace & create the era of peaceful & joyful hearts of all people in this world. On February 27, this year, I had a premonition about Asuka Sato & I added a prayer for her when I stepped out of the church at my usual time before 4:00 am.
When I opened my eyes as I finished the prayer for her, I saw a woman across the street; waving her hand at me. She was walking a dog. This was the very first time I'd seen someone waving at me. So I sent an email to Asuka-san. I soon got a reply from her sister, saying, "My sister, Asuka passed away on February 21. She'd hoped to recover from terminal cancer by this October & eagerly wanted to tell many people the importance of deepening their peaceful & joyful hearts. She believed in Kami thoroughly, never having given up hope; even doing her best to stay positive while her consciousness was fainting away."
I had prayed hard & really hoped Asuka-san would recover from all of her terminal cancers. If a person like Asuka-san - who had such great enthusiasm to help people in need - had been cured, she could become a messenger of hope & of great service to Kami & people. So I felt very disappointed that my powers of prayer failed to prolong her life.
But humans find it very difficult to understand how deep Kami's heart is. It is beyond measure. Our Founder taught us, "Everyone asks me to give them divine blessings. But do they understand what divine blessings are? Divine blessings are not limited to just having one's wishes granted. For some people, death is a divine blessing. Others are saved from death through divine blessings. Since everything in this world is governed by Kami, there is nothing but to depend on the Parent Kami. Even though it may seem like an inconvenience at the time, if you continue to practice faith without going against Kami's will, you will realize later what blessings you got. Faith is pointless unless this much is understood."
I find it difficult to understand Kami's will through Asuka-san's death at this time, though I definitely believe it divine love. But I can say that her Mitama spirit must surely have been lead into the wonder of Divine light in the next world, because she had totally believed in Kami & did her best to deepen peace & joy in her heart until her last moment on earth. As I said before, I saw a lady waving her hand to me when I prayed between Heaven & Earth on February 27. Now I believe that it was Kami's hint that Asuka-san's Mitama spirit would wave her hand to me from the next world.
Through this vision of her Mitama spirit & thinking about the month of honoring Mitama spirits, I have understood this time in a new special way. Our ancestors are foundational to our heritage & someday we shall join them where they are now. I have had a brand new vision of our life as it exists today, but that might be very different tomorrow. Like Asuka-san, the vision we see today may not be anything similar in next moment.
All Mitama spirits seem to be asking me each & every moment, "Is it O.K. for you to have only the gratitude that you have right now?" They say, "Is your peaceful & joyful heart you show right now enough?"
I feel I MUST live more deeply & deepen the peace & joy in my heart more perfectly each & every moment.
We human beings are born in this world to train ourselves to have unbreakable peace & joy in our heart. I believe all the Mitama spirits & even those of the 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.
Let us here on Earth, reverently honor these precious Mitama spirits. Let us pray together with 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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