Good morning. I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to attend the November Service here at Tenrikyo Pearl Church and thank you for your kind and sincere offerings. I am sure God the Parent and Oyasama is really happy to see you all here today and to have performed the service with joy and in high spirits! This month is Thanksgiving month so I would like to remind everyone to count your blessings and be thankful. But I regardless of when is Thanksgiving Day we as Tenrikyo followers should give thanks everyday for our blessings through the regular performance of the service.
I have been assigned to give the Mission HQ sermon this month and since we didn’t have enough time to write and translate two different sermons, I am giving the same but shorter version today. For the full version, please feel free to attend the Mission HQ monthly service next Sunday.
Most of us like me, who grew up in a Tenrikyo church, or attended the Boy’s and Girl’s Association activities; we first hear of the word “yoboku” when we recite the pledge. At the end of the pledge we say, “Devote myself to hinokishin, help others at all times and strive to become a good yoboku.” When you hear of it the first time, you probably wondered, “What is a Yoboku?” In my childhood, I just said it without understanding the meaning.
When we hear of the term “Yoboku” we usually translate it as a “missionary.” But the literal translation of “yoboku” is timber.
In the Doctrine of Tenrikyo, Chapter Nine, “The Yoboku,” it says:
Our joy at having been saved is directed outward and is transformed into acts of saving others. Herein we become the material for the construction of the world of the Joyous Life. God the Parent calls such material Yoboku or timber.
Also, in building a strong house that can withstand storms, the timber must be straight. Sometimes you see carpenters buying wood, or picking out lumber at the hardware store. Do ever see them checking if the lumber is straight? Ever try to build something with crooked wood or uneven material? It won’t be strong and sturdy. It’s going to wobbly and eventually collapse over a short time. In the same way, we as yoboku must be straight and true to the Path so as to be suitable material in this construction.
There is a story in the Anecdotes of Oyasama titled the Measure of Heaven.
One day Oyasama said to Izo Iburi:
“Izo, will you cut down a tree in the mountains and make a straight post from it?”
Izo promptly did so. Afterward Oyasama said:
“Izo, try to place a ruler against the post,”
And She continued:
“Isn’t there a gap between the two?”
When Izo placed the ruler against the post there was in fact a gap. So he replied, “There is a little gap.” Then Oyasama taught:
“Exactly! Even the things that are considered to be straight by all the people of the world are warped when they are placed against the measure of heaven.”
I take this to mean that we human beings, when left to our own devices, we tend to stray from the path. For example, when we wander towards the path of convenience, i.e. of not making resolutions, of skipping the daily or monthly services and not making contributions, we take the easy way out and we try to fit the teachings to our lifestyle that is convenient for us. This is not the true and straight path. This is not the path of faith. It is rather a path of convenience.
If we stray too far from the Path, then God gives us guidance in the form of illness and other troubles.
In the Ofudesaki:
Day by day, I shall tend those trees which are to become My useful timber.
Never take it to be illness. Ofudesaki: III: 131
My brother who lives here in Honolulu wasn’t coming to our monthly service very often for a long time, however, early last year he was diagnosed with colon cancer. I went to his house everyday to administer the Sazuke. His operation went well and he stopped the chemo therapy. To give thanks for his blessings he returned to Jiba last October. Since then, on a more consist basis he’s been coming every month to participate in the monthly service and administer the Sazuke during the healing session.
In the Doctrine of Tenrikyo p.67,
As one progresses through the (Besseki) sessions, one gradually sweeps away the dusts (of the mind) by virtue of the truth of the teachings, corrects one’s conduct and, finally, the mind becomes clear. The desire to be saved becomes a desire for the salvation of others. This is when the truth of Sazuke, the Divine Grant of Healing is bestowed and the mind is reborn.
As all of you know, at Pearl Church on the monthly service day, after the sermon we have a healing session, when all the yoboku in our church, administer the Sazuke to those who have illness or physical condition. We usually have five or six people administering the Sazuke at the same time. It’s a sight to behold! You probably have heard the story of two groups of people in separate rooms with long chopsticks and lots of food. One group is unhappy because the chopsticks are so long they cannot eat with it. But the group other group is happy because they are feeding each other with the long chopsticks. This is what the Sazuke is about. We cannot administer the Sazuke on our self. It can only be administered to another person. I’d like to think that we as yoboku are the group that is happy like the one that is using the long chopsticks to feed each other. Yes, this is the true path that will bring peace to this world!
During my recent Jiba Pilgrimage, I conducted the installation ceremony for my brother’s home shrine in Tokyo. A couple years ago he started attending the services of a nearby Tenrikyo church and from late last year he started to return to Jiba on a monthly basis trying to attend either our upper church monthly service on the 23rd or the church headquarters monthly service on the 26th when it fell on a weekend. Last month he attended the 3-Day Seminar Course I at church headquarters…and just recently he administered the Sazuke to his father-in-law. You could say that he is advancing step by step in realizing the truth of the teachings.
Also during this past pilgrimage, I met a Ukrainian family whose daughter married a Colombian Tenrikyo follower. I asked the father in this Ukrainian family, what were his impressions of Tenrikyo. He said that before he came to Tenri, he didn’t like what other religions were preaching and he developed his own idea of what a religion should be. When he heard the Tenrikyo teachings for the first time, he found that his religion already existed! I was really encouraged to hear that coming from a person so far from Jiba.
Also, for this past October pilgrimage I heard that over 800 people from overseas attended the October Grand Service and that the Shinbashira’s prayer and sermon were interpreted in 8 different languages. People this is not a Japanese religion, it is a world religion and it is spreading.
Here in Hawaii, where we have people of many different races and cultures, we have an opportunity, as another stepping stone so to speak for the teachings to spread around the world. Also, with the election of the first African American President who was born in Hawaii, we are in a seasonal time, when many barriers are being broken.
The Sazuke is such a precious gift! Let us yoboku take advantage of this seasonal time, a time of limitless potential, to administer the Sazuke as much as possible perhaps with the confidence and boldness exhibited by the new president of the United States, but even more so, staying on the straight path aligning our minds with God the Parent and with true sincerity as expressed in Oyasama’s Divine Model.
- The Young Men’s Association is celebrating their 90th Anniversary this year and Hawaii chapter held a park cleanup on Saturday, October 18, 2008 from 9am – 11:30am at Magic Island with 18 people from Pearl Church participating and later that night a dinner reception at the Hawaiian Waikiki Beach Marriott with 17 from Pearl Church and an overall total of 240 persons. Thank you to all of you for your support.
- Due to your support I was able to join the October Pilgrimage this month to attend the Tengen and Church HQ grand services, the YMA Convention and also to attend the new head minister installation service for Saino Nishi Branch Church in Tokyo. Saino Nishi Branch Church, of course is the church that made 500 rolls of sushi for Tenrikyo Bazaar this past August. The new head minister is Yuki’s brother. I also attended the 3-day Seminar – Course Two in Jiba on 11/1-3 as an observer at the Bishop Hamada’s request in hopes that the MHQ of Hawaii may start a similar three day seminar here in Hawaii.
- Last month was UNICEF month. Please turn the UNICEF collection boxes today here at Pearl Church or tomorrow at MHQ. I would like to thank everyone for their support given every year.
- This month on Saturday, November 22, the Hawaii YMA will be conducting another Cleanup Hinokishin at Ala Moana Park from 9-11am, with a BBQ lunch after in which hot dogs and hamburgers will be sold for 50 cents each. Please join us in this thankful and joyous activity. Please let me know if you can make it so that we can submit an accurate count of the participants from Pearl Church.
- Just a reminder that we are working to purchase a new drum and small gong for monthly service use. The estimated budget is $8,000. From next month, I will submit regular reports on the progress we are making in meeting our goal. Again, I would like to ask everyone to take this opportunity to renew your efforts to practice the four “R’s”. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Remind; and bring your deposit containers to church to support the fundraising effort to purchase the new drum and small gong. We also offer yard service as another fundraising activity. If you know of anyone who needs yard service and tree trimming, please let us know.