Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day, Week & special, "Thank you" for being part of today's service as we express together blessing us with the gift of enjoying February, 2016. I hope you are all enjoying good health & in excellent spirits.
Today, February 7th, as we begin I want to wish Mr. Ben Vose, a good friend of KC-CHI a very Happy 78th Birthday.
I got to know Ben in 1994, a few months after my family moved from Japan to Portland, Oregon, to serve Kami as an associate minister of KC Portland. Ben was a 4th grade teacher in a Portland elementary school near our house. After going through a few months in an introductory program called "New Comers'" which oriented all immigrant students who came from outside the United States to 'American Culture.' Ben was Mitsunori, our son's 1st classroom teacher. Ben was surprised to know that Mitsunori joined his class without any formal training of English. When Ben retired from teaching at the end of the school year, he wanted to help Mitsunori to continue to improve his English, so he called me to ask if he would visit us once a week to tutor Mitsunori. I soon realized that he could help me understand & improve my English as well.
So for the last 33 years Ben has kindly edited all my sermons & writings so wonderfully that I'm proud to have uploaded them to our church's website since 2009. Ben! Thank you very VERY much!
He has been a member of the Presbyterian Church since 1963. So we talked a lot about our religions with each other over the years. He's been very interested in the Konko faith & Japanese culture in general. As a teacher he taught himself about it very well. A couple years later, one day, he told me that by studying the Konko faith with Christianity & Judaism side-by-side it helped him better understand the great variety of these faiths, especially in their earlier stages of development. He also told me at that time he could call himself Konkobyterian. Our friendship has gotten deeper & deeper since then. I sincerely pray that Ben could have his healthy life with Robin-san for many more years & we can have greater friendships with each other than ever before.
As you know we had a wonderful New Year's Day Ceremony last month that turned much better than I had expected it to be. I sent my sermon & our group photo of it to many people. To my surprise some of them sent back e-mail replies, saying that they were moved by the smiles on the faces of all attendees in that photo.
Two of those happy faces' were Ms. Jennifer Kish & Mr. Patrick Keough who came early as trainees; all the way from St. Louis on Dec. 29, to help us prepare our New Year's Day Celebration. Thanks to Kami's arrangement & their help we were able to prepare for the big day more smoothly & beautifully than I had expected. Through their generosity, I believe they too learned a lot about how to prepare these services. With their extra help, we had a more wonderful New Year's Day Ceremony filled with the joy & gratitude of all 13 adults & 6 children who witnessed this beautiful ceremony.
I'd like to tell you about something special Kami did to respond to Patrick & Jennifer sincerity. The first night they were here, Patrick had a divine dream. When he woke in the morning he was able to clearly remember his dream. He said it was the first time he'd ever had a dream like it. I believe he received that divine dream because of the sincerity of his heart. Here's what Patrick wrote about his dream:
"During my first night at KC Chicago, I had a strange dream. Even when I woke, I could still remember it so clearly & vividly. In my dream there was a great stone tower that stretched far into the sky. Attached to the tower were many floors with people gathered on them, & a staircase that lead down the tower into the earth. In the dream the sky was dark & full of menacing clouds. There was the sound of thunder & a great storm, & lightning would often strike the tower & cause pieces of it to fall off. The people knew that deep under the earth, there was a key that would cause the sky to clear up & end the storm. So they travelled down the staircase of the crumbling tower to search for the key. This is when I woke up."
What a great dream it was! Don't you think? There have been many important, divine messages received by sincere believers, of course in this dream of Patrick's. Our founder taught one of his disciples: "Though they say the world is being civilized, it is not. It is collapsing. Hence Konko has come forth to save the world."
The Meiji government was making efforts as hard as possible to catch up with & surpass the European countries at that time. So the Japanese society seemed to be rapidly civilizing. People thought happiness had to be obtained on the higher level of the place. So they worked very hard to become wealthy & gain higher status. It was at about the same time Konko Daijin gave the teaching I just mentioned.
Human beings have discovered & invented an uncountable number of things, believing material possessions would bring happiness. There have even been revolutions against poor government, the loss of many lives, but after all this there has still been no peace and the world is being in turmoil.
What do each of you think? In spite of all the wonderful advertisements we see all the time have we found the happiness those adds promise? On the contrary what we've received is self-centeredness, envy, hatred & distrust. We say we are filled with, doubt, communication gaps, wage differentials, struggles for existence, global warming, racial prejudice & war.
In Patrick's divine dream a great stone tower was built, but the sky was dark & full of menacing clouds. There was the sound of thunder & a great storm, & lightning would often strike the tower & cause pieces of it to fall off. In his divine dream Kami taught us that the modern world that we love so much was collapsing, no matter how greatly it was civilized.
In his divine dream Kami also pointed out, "Deep under the earth, there was a key that would cause the sky to clear up & end the storm."
There surely is the key to solve all the problems in the world deep under the earth. It is the earthly nature of the universe（土の心） & the heart of deep basin or depression （くぼみの心）.
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.
The heart of depression is the realization that we have no power, no ability & no talent before Kami （吾、無力無能無才の自覚）. When we have such realization, there is no other way than to make earnest efforts to emulate the earthly nature of the universe. We human beings cannot help but do our best to respect each & every happening to deepen peace & joy in our heart, whatever happens & no matter how difficult it might be. Then Kami's glory surely will appear, the sky will clear up & true human fulfillment will be attained. I realized these above-mentioned divine messages through Patrick's dream.
Have you ever had a divine dream? I believe all dreams are divine since the one I had for the 1st time at age 18. Since then I have dedicated myself to finding out what Kami wants to teach me through all my dreams.
Our Founder's second successor, The Most Reverend Ieyoshi Konko, Konko Shishin-sama once said, "Kami says even in popular songs or in dreams."
Sometimes I forgot what the dream had been. But even in those cases, I gave appreciation that Kami had tried to communicate with me through my dreams anyway.
When I failed to pass the entrance exam of Tokyo University at age18, I became a trainee under the mentorship of Rev. Soichiro Otsubo. Rev. Otsubo started his missionary work in 1950 without any official recognition as a Konko minister, because people gathered to him to seek his Mediation for help. Our Founder's third successor, The Most Reverend Setsutane Konko, Sandai Konko-sama named this gathering, "Kabame Shinaikai (椛目神愛会)."
When I became a trainee at Kabame, the church was under construction at Airaku, two kilometers away from Kabame, where Rev. Otsubo had been born. The morning service prayer in those days began at 5:00 am. So I woke myself up at 4:00 am, ran to the construction site, prayed there; & then ran back to Kabame & joined their morning service prayer.
I'd often overhear that so-and-so believers had such & such divine dream. & they sought Mediation with Rev. Otsubo to understand Kami's messages to them. So I thought I wished I could have a divine dream if there was really any so-called "divine dream!'.
On May 15, 1966, one month after I'd become a trainee; it was raining when I woke up at 4:00 am. But I ran to Airaku to pray as always & then back to Kabame as usual. I felt a little bit tired. So I thought I'd sneak a nap after the morning service & went back to bed, while it was still raining. I woke up with tears in my eyes when the awe-inspiring morning sunlight showed brightly in my face.
As I woke up I realized in awe, that I'd had a vivid dream which I only describe as being a divine dream.
In my dream Rev. Otsubo was on the ground & praying toward the Mino Mountains & I was also praying a little bit behind him. There was a small pond of water beside me. Then Rev. Otsubo appeared & grew from the pond like Aladdin's magical lamp. I was overwhelmed by this & bowed as deeply as possible. Then Rev. Otsubo said to me, "When being filled with deep emotion through apologizing, blessings do follow （詫びて悲しゅうなれば、おかげをやる）." Then Rev. Otsubo started shrinking & disappeared into the pond. I was deeply moved to tears by my dream. That's when I woke up with tears in my eyes surrounding by the godly atmosphere as I mentioned.
Kami knows me better than anyone else. That divine message toward me in my dream has always led me to deepen my faith throughout my life. Then I now have the strongest determination to develop my unbreakable peace & joy in my heart through each & every happening in my life. & I will do my best to fulfill my mission to serve each of the young people in the world who wish to know more about the Konko faith, to be a light in the world. Thank you very much!
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