Good morning and thank you all so much for returning to Taiheiyo Church today. As I mentioned in the Service Prayer, we are joined today by several students from Kyoko Gakuen high school, along with their instructors. Thank you very much for your participation in today’s service. Valentine’s Day is coming upon us again. This year we are so lucky to have the Hawaii Seinenkai offering to provide a babysitting service at Taiheiyo so that couples can enjoy a nice Valentine’s dinner. I’m looking forward to that. May I ask for your kind attention for a few minutes while I share with you some of my thoughts on some recent events.
By show of hands, how many of you have seen any of the daily videos I have been uploading to Facebook from the Taiheiyo Church homepage? How many have been tuning in regularly? How many are not on Facebook?
For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, I may have mentioned that part of our morning service ritual involves studying about Teachings – as the Shinbashira advised in his Instruction, we as Yobuku should study and internalize the Teachings. In November of last year, around the one-year anniversary of my succeeding Taiheiyo Church, my childhood friend and classmate suggested that we take videos of our morning readings of the Ofudesaki, and post them on social media. So, we started doing that on November 20th of last year and we’re into our 3rd month now.
There are various reasons for these postings: 1) It provides an opportunity for those who cannot attend the morning service to be able to watch the video and study along with us; 2) You can start your day on the right foot by thinking deeper about God’s blessings, and keep Oyasama in your hearts throughout your day; 3) You can comment to share your thoughts or ask questions on a certain topic; 4) You can ‘like’ or ‘share’ the video as a form of nioigake – we’ve had up to 200 people viewing the video, and reaching up over 600. So if you want to do nioigake, but hesitate going door-to-door, this is an easy way to sprinkle the fragrance. With all of your help we can easily reach thousands of people who may otherwise never hear of Tenrikyo.
Unfortunately, up to now it’s only been me on the daily videos, but hopefully I can get my dad, my wife, or others to take turns getting in front of the camera someday soon. In any case, I urge you to join us on Facebook (search for Tenrikyo Taiheiyo Church) each morning, just for 5 or 6 minutes while you get ready to go to work, school, or otherwise start your day.
In one of the verses we read recently, God says: “I do not force you to come along if you do not wish to, but if you should, you will be blessed forever.” This is from Part III, verse 6. But what does it mean to be blessed forever? Does it mean to be blessed with good fortune? Always having the perfect timing, and always having things go in your favor? To be blessed with the perfect job and enormous wealth? Or does it mean living a long life with lots of experience and exceptional health? Or does it mean finding your soul mate, and having wonderfully happy children? Maybe it means playing for the New England Patriots and pulling out a stunning victory on football’s grandest stage? Perhaps it could be all of these things, or a few of these things, or maybe even none of these things. You see, being blessed forever means that those who eagerly come to explore and adhere to these teachings shall be able to arrive at the broad, trustworthy main path, that is free from all worries, for all future generations.
Let’s face it; we can’t all be Tom Bradys, or Gisele Bundchens for that matter. There will be times when each of us face difficulties in our lives, maybe through illness, injuries, work, relationships, our families, etc. This is because we have gone through many lifetimes of accumulated innen. However, if, by whole-heartedly following the path, and really delving into the teachings, and immersing ourselves in the faith, we are able to attain a level of spirituality that frees us from the worries of the worldly common (sekai nami), then we don’t have to rely on living the perfect life because regardless of the situation, we can still find something to be happy and grateful about. And this merit, this toku, these blessings, can then be passed on from generation to generation.
I was sharing a story with the Kapaa Church members at their monthly service last week. My friends invited us to take the kids and go to the Punahou Carnival last weekend. Since we knew it would be really crowded, Keiko decided to stay home with Jenna and Swann and I took the two boys with me. Sure enough, it was packed. The line for malasadas was so long looked like the line for Space Tours at Disneyland. So as soon as we got there we bought our scrips and went to the food line. But my sons were restless standing in line so I asked a friend to buy us something to eat and I went and took them to play some games. We get to the first game and I want both of them to get a chance to play, so I reach in my pocket to grab scrips and pay the lady, then I turn around and one of my boys is not there behind me. I thought he was right there but he must have wandered off. My heart stops as I gaze through the crowd of hundreds. Now, I don’t want to lose the other one either so I ask the lady at the game booth to watch him as I start searching through the sea of people.
I walk over to the sound booth and just before I ask them to make an announcement, I realize, I can’t remember what he was wearing! I know it was a blue shirt, but which one? I’m terrified to call my wife, so I end up calling my friend instead. “Do you remember what he was wearing?” to which my friend replied, “What you lost him? No, I don’t remember…” Now I have no choice; I have to call my wife and give her the bad news. I’m more scared of her reaction than I am of my son gone missing. “Honey, something terrible has happened…” She starts screaming in disbelief, “What??!! I can’t believe it, how can that happen?” I just need to know what he was wearing so I can make the announcement. Oh yeah, the blue superman t-shirt, of course. Ok, I’ll call you back. By this time she was in a full panic, imagining the worst that he had been kidnapped and we would never see him again.
But just as I’m giving the announcer the information to call over the P.A., my friend calls back and says, “I heard the announcement, I’m heading toward the sound booth.” I was thinking what announcement? I didn’t even give the guy all the information. Then the person in the booth said they found him, and there he was at the back of the booth. My heart leapt and I thought to myself “Dainan wa shonan” – A large misfortune has turned to a small misfortune. I was able to thank the young couple who found him and, although they said he was crying when they found him, he had stopped crying by the time I saw him. In fact, he didn’t seem traumatized at all, and wanted to stay at the carnival despite my wife saying she would immediately pick us up as soon as I called her with the good news.
I cannot help but think that I was able to find him so quickly and safely due to the blessings of God. I thought back to that Ofudesaki verse, saying “I do not force you to come along if you do not wish to, but if you should, you will be blessed forever.” At times when we need God the most, and sometimes even when we least expect it, we are shown blessings that relieve us of our worries. This is why it is so important to carry on the faith, generation after generation; because the blessings will continue to grow and flourish.