2016-01 Happy New Year!

January 2016 New Year’s Service Prayer

Appearing before you, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, residing in this shrine, I, Rev. Wesley Mikuni, head minister of Taiheiyo Church, representing the congregation, pray to you with reverence.

God the Parent, since the time of human creation, you have spared no effort in nurturing and guiding us along the path of maturity. The incredible workings that take place in our bodies throughout our lifetime, and that which has taken place throughout history, is beyond the realm of our comprehension. Though we are trying each day to keep the mind of gratitude, and to use our bodies in accordance with your intention, we cannot begin to make repayment or show you appreciation enough for this precious gift of life.

Furthermore, having waited 900 million years, patiently watching mankind’s descent into despondency before revealing yourself at the preordained time, we cannot possibly fathom your regret and sorrow as your children lived their lives unknowing of the Truth. And yet we are overjoyed that the revelation did finally come that fateful day on October 26th, 1838.

With our beloved Oyasama as Shrine, you explained in great detail, the Truth of our Origin, and the real purpose of our existence here on earth.

However, even armed with this knowledge, the evils of our self-centered thinking have caused widespread conflicts and suffering throughout the world.

Today marks the beginning of the 130th anniversary when Oyasama “Stepped out to save the world.” We followers at Taiheiyo Church, along with all Tenrikyo followers worldwide, vow to enter this New Year with a renewed passion to spread Oyasama’s teachings; and to perform the Service ever more spiritedly and joyously.

God the Parent, with our performance of the seated service and the Teodori, we now pray earnestly to you, to sweep the evils from the minds of mankind, and bless us with salvation through purified hearts.

Happy New Year, and thank you for returning to Taiheiyo Church to celebrate the start of 2016, the year of the 130th anniversary of Oyasama. I’m sure that your spirited performance of the Service, and your sincere prayers to purify the minds of the world, have been accepted by God the Parent and our Foundress. I would like to ask for your kind attention for a few minutes.

Being that this is the first of the year, other bunai churches are holding their own Gantansai, and some families may be hosting their own traditional New Year’s Day luncheon. Still others may be tired, or hung over, from ringing in the new year at midnight. So I suppose it is understandable that we have less than the full number of performers for the Service.

The human side of me always yearns for the full performance of the Service with no seats left open, and all of the musical instruments playing in harmony. Even during the daily morning & evening Services, I feel like we’re really letting God the Parent down when we have less that five of us going up to do the Service. In fact, just a few days ago I was so distraught that I had to lecture everyone living at the church how important it is to come on time to do the service. Becoming a church minister, I now have a better appreciation of why Oyasama constantly urged the followers to do the Service, do the Service.

In the Ofudesaki, there are many versus that not only stress the importance, but also teaches us WHY the Service is so important:

(I:10) When all are assembled and quickly do the Service, as those close to Me become spirited, God, also, will be spirited.

(II:9) What do you think this Service is? It is none other than the means to universal salvation.

(IV:93) What do you think this Service is about? It is soley to bring peace to the world and salvation to all.

(VI:8) I shall begin a Service which has never existed since I began this world, and assuredly settle the world.

(VII:83) Any salvation whatever is all through the Service. If only you do just as Tsukihi says…

(VII:99) By this Service which teaches the path quickly, all minds in the world will be purified.

(X:19) Day by day, hasten to begin the Service. You will escape any danger whatever.

(X:20) However serious your illness may be, you will all be saved by the Service done single-heartedly.

(X:34) If only the Service is done without error, the Gift of Heaven, also, will be given without fail.

(XII:61) However, difficult things may appear, I shall save you all by the Joyous Service.

(XVI:65) Concerning the Service: never think that I have any other intention. I have only the single desire to save all of you.

You get the picture right? God the Parent is telling us that the service is the answer to everything: illness, troubles, conflicts, dangers, even death! (Gift of Heaven…that’s another sermon all its own).

Now if we go back one hundred and thirty years ago, to the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, we recall that that most famous Service was performed with less than the full number of performers. Do you remember how many people participated? The records show a total of nineteen people, but three of them had roles described as “Management of the Residence.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, perhaps security guards? In any case, doesn’t sound like they were playing musical instruments or dancing the teodori.

If we subtract those three, we are left with just16 people: 2 singers, 10 members of the kagura, another person who replaced Shinnosuke in dancing the teodori, and just 3 people playing musical instruments. Can you guess which 3 instruments were played? One was the koto, another was the shamisen, and the only “male” instrument played was the tsuzumi. Yes, there was no taiko, no surigane or chanpon, not even the hyoshigi, which we generally regard as the “main” instrument.

I will talk more about the events of that fateful day in my January Grand Service sermon; however, the point I want to make here is that despite the fact that the Service was not complete in terms of form, lacking the musical instruments, it can be said that it represented a highpoint of the followers’ commitment to perform the service because of the known risks involving the authorities, and the possibility of Oyasama being away again and incarcerated. Only those who were willing to, quote, “risk their own lives” no matter what measures the police used to stop the Service, donned their Service attire and participated.

As I mentioned earlier, we are celebrating a brand new year today, 2016. Different countries and cultures have their own traditions to start the new year – cleaning up, returning things borrowed, making resolutions, popping fireworks, etc. – a common theme is bringing proper closure to the year ending, and renewing hopes and spirits for the incoming year.

Along these lines, I would like to encourage all of you here, and all followers of Taiheiyo Church, to take a fresh new perspective at performing the Service and understanding its significance. Since this is the 130th anniversary of Oyasama, the challenge I put to you is to visit Taiheiyo Church 130 time this year. You can join us for the daily or monthly services, or just drop by on your own to do the Service. So after today, that’s just 129 times more to go!

Once long ago, I attended a Service at the Shinyo-En on Beretania Street with a friend. I remember that followers would “check in” at the office before proceeding to the prayer sanctuary. They brought out little booklets and had the staff affix a stamp on the date they attended. I didn’t ask what that was for, but assumed it was to track the number of times a follower visited the temple – like the stamp book you get at Kodomo Ojibagaeri to mark off the different attractions you visited. I didn’t make booklets, but everyone has a pocket date book or a calendar on their phone, so you can keep track of your visits.

Thanks to those who have been bringing food donations, and please keep them coming for our daily offerings on the altar. No need to be a lot, just a couple of pieces of fruits or vegetables, every little bit helps and also gives you the opportunity to make that visit! Other opportunities are the musical instrument practices we have on Friday nights from 6:30pm – 7:30pm.

Again, thank you for joining us here today. I will close with the reading of the Shinbashira’s Instruction Three.

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Taiheiyo Church

I am a fourth generation American of Japanese descent. My great-grandfather immigrated to Hawaii in 1907, and founded Taiheiyo Church in 1931. My grandfather became the 2nd head minister in 1956, and my father succeeded him as the 3rd head minister in 1981. On November 7, 2015, I was installed as the 4th head minister.

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