Aloha, and good morning! We have just completed a spirited performance of the service, which I am sure has brought much joy to God the Parent and our beloved Oyasama. First and foremost, I would like to thank Successor Designate, Rev. Daisuke Nakayama, for gracing us with his presence today. Also to Rev. Ando and Rev. Kubo, for their attendance, as well. The Pep Rally General Meeting for the YMA 100th Anniversary was successfully held yesterday, so congratulations to the THYMA, WA, and YWC on their successful General Meetings. The strength and vitality of the Hawaii Seinenkai makes me wish I were younger and still a part of YMA. Actually, I will turn 49 on September 1st, which also marks the upcoming wedding date for Daisuke-sama and his future bride, the lovely Ms. Nobue Kamikawa. What a lucky coincidence!
I would like to thank Bishop Yamanaka and Mrs. Yamanaka, for this excellent opportunity to deliver my first-ever sermon at Dendocho. A special thank you to Rev. Tsunenori Ichise, for translating my haphazard sermon. Before I begin, I would like to dedicate this sermon to the memory of Rev. Eiko Meguro, head minister of Makiki Church, whom we suddenly lost a few days ago.
The spring and autumn grand services are commemorated in January & October, and Oyasama’s birthday celebration is held in April, but May’s monthly service is also a special one; can anyone tell me why? Yes, because it marks the anniversary date when the spot of the Jiba was identified.
Jiba is significant for many reasons:
- It is the place where human beings were first conceived; the exact center of the bodies of Izanagi-no-Mikoto and Izanami-no-Mikoto.
- It’s the place where God resides – in fact, the divine name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, by which we call God the Parent, was also given to the Jiba.
- It is the place where the Kanrodai is erected, and where prayers are focused during the performance of the Service for universal salvation.
- Furthermore, it is the place from which all salvation and blessings from God the Parent, emanates.
So important is this place, yet it wasn’t identified until the latter stages of Oyasama’s divine model. Just 142 years ago, actually, in 1875. However, the identification of the Jiba was foretold eight years earlier, when Oyasama composed the Mikagura-Uta in 1867. Interestingly, Song V, which might be correlated with the month of May, is where we find the first mention of the word “Jiba”:
Ninth, This is the Jiba, the origin of this world. Indeed a remarkable place has been revealed.
It is a remarkable place, so it follows that remarkable things shall occur when one returns to Jiba. In 2014, Bishop Yamanaka mentioned to me that Kyle Kawasaki was planning to attend the Minister Qualification Course, and he suggested that I consider attending with Kyle. The thought of leaving my wife alone with Jenna and our two little boys for a month was a bit scary, but Keiko was very supportive, so I decided to go.
I left Hawaii light-hearted, like taking a break from work to go on vacation. But when I arrived in Tenri, I felt a sudden change; something very positive and energizing. You know the feeling I’m talking about. Rev. Hinao Nagao calls it the “Ojiba Magic”: that euphoric feeling that overcomes you when returning to the Home of the Parent.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Koshu experience: my cheerful classmates, our inspirational instructors; tsumesho life; worshipping at the main sanctuary; and doing hinokishin. Even the sui-hon food tasted excellent. It was during my stay Jiba that Keiko informed me that she was pregnant with our third child. Long story short, by the end of the three-week course, I had made up my mind that I would succeed Taiheiyo Church in the following year, the same year Rev. Kyle was to succeed Aloha Church.
I imagine hearing about my decision to take over the church brought joy, but perhaps mostly relief, to my father who had already spent over 30 years as head minister. However, with 3 young children and Jenna, I thought it would be impossible for me to quit my job and become a full-time minister, the way my father and his father did.
I struggled with the thought of having to give up my career, and convinced myself that it would be best if I kept both professions. Some might say my decision was based on “worldly common” thinking, but I also feel that experiencing the rigors and stresses of secular work helps me to relate to followers and non-followers who are also working long hours to make ends meet, especially living in Hawaii.
Then in June of 2015, Rev. Sparky Shiiba said something in his sermon standing right here at Dendocho that helped me with my decision. He was speaking about the many jobs he’s had over the years, sometimes as many as 3 or 4 jobs at once. He said, “One good method to maintain the correct mind is not to think of work as a place to earn money, but as an opportunity to do missionary work, nioigake.”
Sadly, until then, I never thought of work in this way. Perhaps many of us are the same. We tend to live dual lives, one at the church and the other outside, and we’ve become adept at compartmentalizing our different personas. But armed with this enlightenment, I was able to change my perspective about having to be away each day, and now have many opportunities to sprinkle the fragrance and administer the Sazuke on people I may not ordinarily be able to reach if it were not for my job: co-workers, business colleagues, vendors, and customers. So a belated “Thank you” to Sparky, for your words of inspiration!
However, that still leaves the problem of being away from the church 10 hours a day, leaving little time to connect with followers, and reach out to other people. This forced me to think of non-traditional ways of conveying the teachings. I created a website to which I could refer people even if I don’t have any pamphlets. It’s www.taiheiyochurch.com in case anyone wants to visit the site.
Then my childhood friend, Craig Nishio, moved back to Hawaii and suggested I post morning sermons on Facebook. This way, I could reach out to our congregation for 5 minutes a day and connect them to the church & Oyasama, even if they can’t attend daily services.
Through social media and power of “friends of friends,” we’ve been able to reach many more people than just Taiheiyo followers – sometimes over 600 people with a single post – that’s like passing out 600 pamphlets! For anyone on Facebook, please search “Tenrikyo Taiheiyo Church” and ‘Like’ our page.
In this electronic age, online media is the most effective and efficient way of distributing information, and we can quickly spread the name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, all over the world. We never know who we’ll reach.
After becoming the installed as the fourth head minister of Taiheiyo Church in 2015, I was informed of another gathering for newly appointed head ministers and spouses, which Keiko and I attended in May of last year, along with Rev. Kyle, and Yoko Kawasaki. It was another great experience, and inspiring to see so many other couples in attendance. There were some very young reverends, some around our age, and some senior couples, too. Some of reverends were women, supported by their husbands. Even newly installed head ministers of daikyokais attended this gathering. At the conclusion of that 2-day gathering, all 250 participants were seated inside Oyasama’s Sanctuary to receive a talk by the Shinbashira.
In that address, Shinbashira-sama spoke about our predecessors who established churches throughout Japan and the world. He spoke at length about their single-hearted efforts in spreading the teachings and doing salvation work; building up their respective churches; and nurturing their members. Nioigake, otasuke; nioigake, otasuke. Day after day, sprinkling the fragrance and saving others. Tireless were their efforts, and it is because of that unwavering spirit that God responded and blessed them with followers who would stay loyal and devote themselves to the Path.
The Shinbashira also emphasized the truth of a church name, which is granted by the everliving Oyasama, as a result of the true sincerity of those who have pledged to work for single-hearted salvation with their minds united in faith. These early pioneers who established the thousands of churches throughout Japan and the world, did not do so for the sake of the next 10 years, or 20 years; not even for the span of their lifetimes. Rather, they established the truth of the church name to continue on for generation after generation, far into the future.
Therefore, the responsibility is now on us for continuing their mission of conveying the truth of single-heartedness with God, and practicing single-hearted salvation at our respective churches. Let us endeavor to keep our churches active and lively, so that we can set the example of the joyous life in our neighborhoods and attract those who may be interested in discovering why smiles and laughter pervade at our places of worship. Let’s pass along our devotion to the faith to our children and grandchildren: bring them to church and don’t worry so much if they run around and make a little noise. Let’s also reach out to the community and offer to help those in need. In this way, let us turn the tide of our meekness, and surge ahead toward a new era of growth and prosperity in Tenrikyo. Thank you for your kind attention.