Hello, everyone! I hope you are all enjoying good health and excellent spirits. Thank you very much for attending today's service.
Today is the 11th year Memorial Day for Mrs. Hideko Kubo. She died 11 years ago today at age 75. The year before, Rev. Takao Kishi had come here from Toronto at about this same time of year and taken me to meet Mrs. Masae Ogawa, Mrs. Shizuko Kusumoto and Mrs. Hideko Kubo; all daughters of the late Mr. Shinkichi and Mrs. Ume Nishimura who had become earnest Konko believers in Seattle. This was one year after we had opened the Konko Propagation Hall of Chicago.
When I found Mrs. Kubo lived very close to this church I asked her to come and join us at our twice-monthly services. She sincerely accepted my offer. So I picked her up and drove her back home whenever she was able to attend. She seemed willingly to come to join us in and enjoy herself here. Whenever she sought Mediation, I told her to accept every happening in her life with delight and without complaint. She often told me it was hard to always have a joyful heart but promised to do her best. Within a year of meeting her, she was gone. I believe she did take with her a joyful heart into the next world and that she is now devoting herself to more fully developing her peaceful and joyful heart. Her Mitama Spirit is the foundation of the Konko Church of Chicago today. We have just had her 11th year Memorial Service with this monthly service. This year again, I received an important reminder of the need to constantly polish the jewel of our hearts'.
Thanksgiving evening I got a phone call from a young lady, Jennifer Kish, who had come all the way from St. Louis with her boyfriend, Mr. Christopher George to join us in our Tenchi Kane No Kami Grand Ceremony last May. Her 17-year-old friend, Mr. Kevin Buck, nick named Kevo, had been in a terrible traffic accident the night before. He was very badly injured. She wanted Mediation for his recovery. I told her, "I'll do my best; praying for him and ask that it be Kami's wish for him in a complete recovery. From now on, whatever we do, let us direct our hearts toward Kami and do it with complete sincerity, for him to recover. Let us devote ourselves to deepening our hearts toward more peace and joy."
That night the Oprah show broadcasted a 1987's interview with the late John F. Kennedy, Jr. He would have been 50 years old if he and his wife had not died in a plain crash. I happened to watch the program from about the middle of it. At the end Oprah said that Kennedy's death had taught her that each moment is a gift. Then we turned off our TV. The next morning we discovered that TV had been broken. I really felt the last words we'd heard on it, "Each moment is a gift," was a divine message.
All the next day, Nov. 26, I had kept Kevo in mind and prayed to Kami. When I prayed, it reminded me of the time I had attended a special ESL program of California State University. A classmate that had come from Indonesia got his driver's license and drove to Las Vegas with his friends over one weekend. He was killed in a traffic accident on the way back to Los Angeles. I was asked to deliver condolences for him at his service. I still remember what I tried to express at his funeral. I said, "Through his death I have learned each moment that we are allowed to live is a precious gift from Kami. I would like to treasure each moment and try to perfectly live a fulfilled life moment by moment. I would like to value more and more my friends, my classmates and those who I get to know." Those words seemed to touch those who mourned him and I received many words of appreciation.
As I prayed for Kevo, I felt like I wanted to deny this image because I didn't want him to suffer the same fate. I called young Jennifer in St. Louis the next evening & sadly, she told me he had passed away the night before. Right away I prayed for him in front of Kami and Mitama altars for a while. Then I e-mailed her early the next morning, "I am very sorry to hear that your friend, Kevo passed away two days ago. He was only 17 years old. His family and friends are weeping over his death. I had been praying for his recovery so intensely and trying to keep him in mind all the time, wishing for his recovery, but---. I am now apologizing to Kami that I couldn't save this young man with promising future through my Mediation.
It is very hard to accept his death as Divine Love especially for his family, but I believe even his death is Divine Love. And we should, because we believe the Divine Parent of the Universe is always watching us, protecting us and working for the best. Through his death I have learned that each moment is a precious gift and I need to be more trusted by Kami. I have now been doing my best to perfectly live a life of each moment, directing my heart toward Kami, whatever I do.
The followings are one of the teachings in a form of poem that Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, founding minister of the Konko Church of Airaku received from Kami: "Even after the whole mountain burns, the new bracken (fern) will sprout from its ashes."
30 years ago when I prayed in front of Kami's altar at the Airaku Church as a trainee under the guide of Rev. Otsubo, Kami told me in my spiritual ears that this teaching had Divine Will to receive more Divine Virtue. When we come across such trials that it's as if a whole mountain is on fire, they contain Divine Wish for us to acquire more Divine Virtue.
By the way, when I called you last night, you told me you had questions. So please send them to me when you have time.
May the Mitama Spirit of Kevo have eternal peace and happiness!
May his family be greatly blessed by Tenchi Kane No Kami!
May you deepen your peaceful and joyful heart through everything that happens in your life in order to become a person who will serve Kami and humanity in this world!"
She replied with following questions:
"- Do deaths happen because of Kami's will? Is it fate? Kevo died, and saved the lives of 8 people in the process with his organ donation. Did Kami take Kevo to give those people life, or does Kami not plan things this way?
- Does Kami know our future? Does he know when we will die?
- I have been praying to Kevo's spirit alongside Kami's spirit, especially to keep me safe while driving. Does that fit in Konko?"
I really wish to have such absolute belief in Kami that I can instantly accept everything that happens as Kami's doing with gratitude even if I face a death of my intimate person. It is a miracle that the fatal illness or injury can be cured, but even more miracle is that we have the heart that can accept fatal illness or even death with gratitude.
To which, I answered:
"You are now doing your best to direct your heart toward Kami and trying to find Kami's heart through Kevo's death (true meaning of his death). The more sincerely you do this, I believe, the more accurately Kami will answer you.
Kami only wants each human being to have a fulfilled life. Kami's will is not death. We can change our fate through faith. However sometimes such sudden death occurs to us as a great shock. In order to make such death most meaningful, the best way is to accept it as Kami's will or Divine Love. Through his death we should learn again that each moment is a precious gift from Kami and make much more of each and every moment of our own lives. Then we can change our lives, through his death, toward more fulfilled lives with Kami. We will be able to extend our appreciation to Kevo's life and death & his Mitama spirit will be fulfilled and rest easier. Through his death we can learn how fragile our life is. We can realize that we have no power, no ability and no talent before Kami. That realization is the foundation of true faith. With this realization we can walk the true way with Kami's will.
Konko Daijin taught us, 'Everything that happens is Tenchi Kane No Kami's doing. This includes major upheavals.' Konko Daijin accepted each and every happening as Kami's doing with gratitude throughout his life. That was why Kami trusted Konko Daijin completely, saying, "There is no other way to test him."
My parent minister, the late Rev. Soichiro Ostubo's younger brother died in action. His death made Rev. Otsubo's faith of life changed completely. Rev. Otsubo often told that he had always extended his gratitude to his brother's Mitama spirit, because he could change his faith of life completely through his brother's death and received now divine blessings of mutual reliance between Kami and him more wonderfully than ever.
The followings are Rev. Otsubo's interpretations about our Founder's teaching # 16 (It is said that death occurs without respect to time. In this faith, death respects time.): 'The enlightened world is where you're able to perceive heartlessness as, namely, sentiment. You change from trying to accomplish something to wanting to accept it. Today, to be held this afternoon, is the special thirty-year ceremony for my younger brother who died in action, as it were. Even with that, I am so awed-inspired by the depth of Kami's divine will. However, with human feelings, being the year the war ended, moreover, as it was July thirtieth, if he had the blessing of surviving fifteen more days, he could have returned alive and safe. Up to this point it's a senseless death. From when my brother died, the faith of my family changed totally into being thankful. Thinking now of the divine favors of Airaku, I cannot but feel that heartless is, namely, sentiment.'
I think it was not Kami's plan to donate his organs to save 8 people, but how kind and warm-hearted it was for him to do so! I believe Kami knows our future. We don't know it, however our future depends upon how we live our life. It is sweet, isn't it?"
Jennifer is now having a difficult time and often cries when she thinks about Kevo. He was like a brother to her. But she has recently been extending her thanks to Kevo for continuing to change her life. She feels he is now helping her to cherish her friends more. She wrote in one of her recent messages: "Despite it, all of us have taken up the sayings, "What would Kevo do?" and "Do it for Kevo, that's what he would have wanted!" So, he is constantly improving our lives. I know he's improving mine already. Every free moment that I have, I try to dedicate it to my friends and the people I love, because I'll never know when they'll be gone."
Today, in that same spirit, let us pray together that the Mitama spirits of both Mrs. Hideko Kubo and Mr. Kevin Buck are on the Divine Path to eternal peace and happiness. Thank you!
<The following is the story related to Kevo that Jennifer wrote to me. My wife, Kanako and I were moved to tears to read this story. The kind and thoughtful hearts of Kevo's friends touched Kami so much that Kami arranged this so wonderfully. I believe that Kevo's Mitama Spirit is also receiving such wonderful cares from Kami in the next world. It happened on the same day I delivered this sermon.>
"I want to tell you a story. Kevo had a favorite band called "Minus the Bear". When Kevo's life started to get very difficult and hard on him, He listened to the album Planet of Ice by this band. http://www.canyouseethesunset.com/uploaded_images/minus-the-bear-planet-of-ice.jpg
The music was his comfort. When he was anxious, worried, or scared, he would listen to it and feel better. It changed his life.
On December 12th, Minus the Bear came to play in concert. Kevo had tickets to go. We all decided to go instead. So, despite the snow, we drove 2 hours in a 15-passenger van and made it to the show safely. We had posters of Kevo that we held up as we listened to them play. It seemed that the one playing the bass guitar, Cory, was looking at us and giving us thumbs up.
After the show, I insisted that we go into the back alley to find the band. We did, despite the cold, and tried to get backstage to meet them, but we were stopped by security. We thought it was hopeless, and that we never would see the band and tell them our story. But, that's when the lead singer came outside. We quickly approached him, and I tried to tell him our story, but I began to cry. My friends helped to finish the story for me, and the singer hugged me. He signed our poster of Kevo for us and everything. I had fulfilled one of Kevo's biggest dreams, to meet someone from Minus the Bear.
The next day, Kevo's father got this e-mail:
Dear Mr. Buck,
My name is Cory and I play bass for Minus the Bear. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your son. I've seen a couple of posts about him and it seems like he was quite a guy that touched a lot of people. It's an honor to hear that he enjoyed our music, and to know that something we created managed to make him as happy as it did is quite humbling. I thought of him last night as we played and what a tough loss this is for you and your family, and my thoughts and prayers go out to you. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet anyone that came out to the show, but thank you so much for being there. Feel free to get in touch next time we are in the area.
Thank you for getting in touch and take care.
Your son was touched by our music but now I'm touched by his spirit.
It was so amazing! Soon, the leader singer also sent an Email. It was really wonderful. The band that made Kevo so happy now knows who he is! He would have been so excited."
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