When we were kids, there was a news story about a neighborhood family whose children were our classmates. It was about how their mom decided to throw out the television because of the amount of time everyone spent in front of the boob-tube. Today, in the era of the Internet, smartphones, tablets, and computers, we spend even more time with our eyes glued to a screen. Jenna has a thing about watching the same video over and over again, continuously, for months at a time. Then all of a sudden she’ll tire of the DVD and won’t want to watch it anymore. This year’s program was Disney’s ‘Moana.’ For the past 8 months, she’s been watching Moana 4 to 5 times a day, every single day. The boys know all the songs and probably all the lines in the entire movie. On occasion, Jenna might let the other kids watch some other cartoons, but I seriously cannot remember the last time I have watched a show on TV that wasn’t animated.
What is it about the brain that tires of the same thing after a while? Do we become bored because we miss the sense of anticipation with things too familiar? Or do we simply long for something different? My favorite movie for the longest time has been Love Actually (any Hugh Grant fans?) but I don’t think I could watch it every single day.
One thing that I can never tire of, though, is the Mikagura-Uta, the Songs for the Service. Sure, it might not have the ‘hip’ of Maroon 5, or the ‘hop’ of Bruno Mars, but what it does have is spirit…and hope. A melody that will uplift you each time you sing it out loud. A message that will reassure you of the peace and salvation that is surely in our grasp. And, the corresponding hand gestures that speak all of the truths about our lives and our creation. We should feel so grateful that Oyasama gave us such an exquisite gift – this Service – so that we can express our gratitude each sunrise and sunset, thanking God for the use of our precious bodies.
I truly hope that all of us are doing the seated service each day at home, morning and evening, whenever we cannot come to church…or at least trying to do it each day? If you have not, then take this moment to make a commitment going forward, from this day on, to perform the service each day. I can assure you that by setting aside just 10 minutes out of your busy day to do the service, you will find that your mind is more calm; you’re able to exercise more patience and flexibility toward others; your relationships with others strengthen; work goes more smoothly; and things just seem to fall into place. This is the blessing of good timing, bestowed in exchange for the offering of your time and sincerity.
The other thing I want to encourage is for all Yoboku to administer the Sazuke as often as you can, and to ask others to administer on you when you have been shown divine guidance. The effectiveness of the Sazuke is sometimes beyond belief, yet someone observed that Tenrikyo followers are some of the last people to ask others to administer the Sazuke on them. Perhaps we feel like the Sazuke should be reserved only for the most serious of illnesses, so when we catch a cold or have a minor injury, we don’t want to “waste” the prayer on ourselves. But the blessings of God are free and unlimited, so never hesitate to ask!
Whether we are the one administering the Sazuke on others, or the one receiving it, the sense of joy upon experiencing the miracle of salvation is something that cannot easily be described in words. At first there might be a sense of disbelief, then as it sinks in, we are overcome with a deep sense of gratitude for the physical cure, but also for the fact that our prayers were answered! God is out there listening and watching over us always. It provides a reassurance that we must be doing something right on the path for God to have accepted our sincerity and given us a return for our sincerity.
This year, a gentleman who was battling a serious illness started coming to church to receive the Sazuke. In the beginning, he would need to travel with a walker, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I later found out that he was in so much pain that he hadn’t been sleeping on his back for nine months. Day by day, and week by week, we could actually him getting better before our very eyes. I conveyed the teachings each time I administered the Sazuke, (an important part of the prayer,) but English was not his first language so I’m not sure how much he understood.
Nevertheless, I was surprised and encouraged by how fast he was improving. Before long he didn’t need the walker, and then I was told that he was able to lie down and fall sleep on his bed, something he hadn’t done that since last November! I was so moved by the loving care of God the Parent, bringing joy to the heart of someone who had probably been quite bitter and scared until they started changing his outlook on life, and putting his faith in Oyasama. Most recently, I was able to pray for him while he underwent radiation treatment, and by the end of the ten-day treatment, the doctor said the tumor had disappeared. He is now healthy enough to go back to work!
For myself, I had been experiencing discomfort in my hip since returning home from Ojiba in the summer. At first it was just a nuisance but I slowly began to experience more pain and less range of motion. I tried the ‘human route,’ going to a chiropractor, seeing my doctor, taking x-rays, but nothing helped and they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. Finally, one morning when the pain was particularly acute, I asked my wife to administer the Sazuke on me. In just two days, the major pain went away, and I was again able to put my leg up on my lap. It was so quick that it I was in shock and disbelief, but immediately thanked God the Parent, and spent some time reflecting on the misuse of my mind over the past few months. The pain has not completely gone away, but it serves as a constant reminder to be thankful for the blessings of a healthy body.
This power of the Sazuke should never be underestimated, as God truly wants to save all people of the world. Try it and see for yourself.