Monthly Service in April : April 9, 2017

Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day, Week & Month. This is our monthly service for April 2017. I hope you are all in good health & in excellent spirits. Today we celebrate this service with my heart filled with deep appreciation, recognizing that 8 years ago our Principal Mediator in Japan, the most Reverend Heiki Konko appointed me as head-minister of KC Chicago.

Another joy I'd love to share with you, is that for the first time since my family & I moved to Chicago, I drove to St. Louis with my wife Kanako, to officiate the joining of Mr. Patrick Ryan Keough & Ms. Jennifer Ashton Kish's wedding.

I'd become acquainted with Ash seven years before when she was age 19. She'd heard about the Konko Faith when she was 17. The more she learned our faith, the more she was interested in it & loved it. She came to join our Tenchi Kane No Kami Grand Ceremony for the first time, all the way from the St. Louis area in May 2010 with her friend Mr. Chris George.

She was a lovely & smart girl & had an earnest wish to learn the essence of our faith. I gave her the book, titled 'Airaku,' which consisted of Rev. Otsubo's speech & teachings. Through it & the Konko book 'Voice of the Universe', she practiced faith & came to clearly realize Kami's workings around her. Then some of her friends became interested in the Konko Faith. They gathered regularly to study our faith together. Kami named this group 'The Wagakokoro Society'. Since then she frequently joined our Grand & New Year's Day ceremonies with her friends. She has an earnest desire to serve Kami in some way & help people. Having a strong interest to become a Konko minister too, she is now very busy studying to become a palliative care doctor with a focus in Oncology. She wants to try & help people from cancer, but also to support people who are dying of cancer, & show them that the last days of their lives can really be wonderful even if they know they're dying. She hopes in this way she can show many people in need, Kami's love every day.

Mr. Patrick Keough came to our church with Ash for the first time around the end of 2015 to join our 2016 New Year's Day Ceremony. At his first night here in Chicago, he had a divine dream for the first time in his life. Here is the summary of his dream: "No matter how stormy & troublesome the world becomes, there is a key down the earth to solve it & clear it up."

The earthly nature of the universe is to accept everything calmly; it's to keep silent like the surface of the earth. No matter how filthy things are, the earth doesn't say, "I hate foul smelling things like this" or "Such dirty things are out." It doesn't just keep silent, but it takes such things in for self-nourishment. Such faith is necessary to solve any human problems & can lead to true world peace.

Since then Patrick has become an earnest seeker of the Konko Faith.

I was deeply honored to be asked to participate in the joining of their futures together in marriage on April 1st, because that date had special meaning for us. It was the birth date of my parent minister in Japan, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, the ministerial guide with whom I trained for nearly twenty years. Patrick & Ash chose that date for their wedding in respect. How moving that thoughtfulness was; especially for those of us who knew the background of their choice!

The whole day was filled with Kami's awesome workings. It was predicted to be cloudy all day, but the sun came up clear with no clouds. We set up the altar on the lawn, in the fresh, open air.

Then witnesses stood in two lines beside the pathway to the altar as Patrick & Ash proceeded to the altar. The ceremony began surrounded by the beauty of nature.

As the officiating minister, I first greeted everyone with words of introduction. Representing Patrick & Ash, I read the "Wedding Prayer" I had prepared out loud to Kami, & we all recited Tenchi Kakitsuke together.

In my duty as pastor, I began, "I ask you, Patrick & Ash, to join your hands,"

Next, I asked each of them to make a solemn pledge to the Divine Parent of the Universe. They had written their wedding vows & both promised to commit their future lives to each other - with deep, obvious emotion. Their mutual promises to each other greatly touched everyone else's hearts as well. I was very happy to know Patrick included Rev. Otsubo's teaching in his vow.

They then shared the ritual of their 'Exchange of Wedding Cups'. Patrick & Ash exchanged sacred tiered cups to solemnize their wedding in a traditional Japanese wedding ritual saying, "San San Ku Do." There are three tiered cups initially stacked with the largest cup on the bottom & the smallest on the top. The couple exchange each cup one at a time, drinking a sip three times from each cup as they say, "San San Ku Do." -- 'San' means three, 'Ku' means nine & 'Do' means times.

When the ritual is complete, the cups are inverted so that the three cups are larger from the bottom to top. These cups symbolize their love for each other, the love that represents the beginning of their lives, shared; which, like the cups, grow wider, deeper & stronger from this day forward.

Then comes the ritual of their "Wedding Ring" & the "Tamakushi Offering".

I then gave a message & teaching to Patrick & Ash - known as a "Charge (or ADVICE) to the Couple".

My parent minister in Japan, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, gave this teaching to his wife, Mrs. Isoe Otsubo for her birthday:

'Praying each to the other---
Worshipping, adoring,
Together polishing & being polished.
There's nothing to compare with---
The joy of this day.'

Then I said, "Patrick & Ash! Please deepen your hearts in your new voyage as husband & wife & build your home on a foundation of Kami's Love, filled with peace & joy in your hearts, like the teaching you just heard; to be of service to Kami & people."

Last comes as the best part; I introduced this new family to their families & friends by saying something like: "By the power vested in me by Kami as a minister of the Konko Faith, I am very pleased to pronounce you, Husband & Wife together!...  Patrick as a sign of promises you have pledged to each other... would you please kiss your bride.

I am pleased to present to you witnesses, "Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Ryan Keough."

Surrounded by great company, Patrick & Ash received their memorable wedding ceremony filled with divine blessings & started a new & exciting life of voyage.

The wedding reception followed outdoors under the sunshine with abundant food brought by their attendees of the ceremony. Everyone enjoyed themselves, meeting & talking with each other. The whole scene was full of laughter, accompanied with delicious food & beverages.

Later Ash told us that their wedding ceremony was more moving than she had expected.

Today happens to be Patrick's 23rd birthday. The teaching on the 9th of the month in the Chicago calendar says, "Whatever, wherever, with a single natural heart, there's a way to climb above the clouds." Coincidentally he received this same teaching for this year among the teachings I had prepared for our 2017 New Year's Day Ceremony.

I have prayed, am praying & will pray for Kami's wish for this new couple, Patrick & Ash to be fulfilled.

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