A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“Who Is Wise and Understanding?” Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. (James 3:13,17)   On Sunday morning, I reflected with the congregation upon one of my favorite movies of all time: Forrest Gump. I’ve watched it more times than I can count, and each time I find myself thinking very, very deep thoughts about some of life’s simplest and most important things. Forrest was given the label “stupid” as a child. He also had a badly curved spine, which caused him to wear metal leg braces, and so he couldn’t walk like the other children at school. To say that he was teased and tormented would be a gross understatement. Fortunately, Forrest had a mother who loved him unconditionally and saw the potential in him. She made sure he stayed in his regular school and she constantly encouraged him to be and do his best. For me, one of the most profound scenes was when Forrest’s mother was at home on her deathbed. Forrest first asks, “What’s the matter, Momma?” She replies: “I’m dying Forrest.” “Why are you dying, momma?” “It’s my time; it’s just my time…. Don’t you be afraid sweetheart. Death is just a part of life, something we are all destined to do…. I happen to believe that you make your own destiny. You have to do your best with what God gave you.” “What’s my...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“Make a Joyful Noise” O come, let us sing to the Lord;      let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving;      let us make a joyful noise to God with songs of praise! (Psalm 95) On Sunday morning, I told the congregation about a special song that comes from a special place. “Mokuhulu” is a song about four beautiful villages along the Puna Coast on Hawai`i Island—the home of my ancestors and a place I have visited many times. When I first read the English translation of the song, I felt like I was there, for I could not only see the place in my mind; I could also smell the seaweed…and taste the coconut…and feel the rain and the water on my skin…and hear the music! Here is an English translation of the song: Mokuhulu in the shade of the breadfruit And coconut trees / This verdant home Of rain-rustled lehua–of the lehua flower Kaimu in the fragrance of delicious seaweed In the sweet song of the sea– This ocean home on the hilled-up sand Kalapana, the coconut trees Bent low for Queen Emma This place well-known to visitors Kapa`ahu, this pool for swimming This tingling-cold water So thrilling to the touch To sing the summary refrain from Puna Comes the fragrance That is carried here to me I have visited all of the places that are mentioned in the song as a child and a young adult. Except for just a small part of Kaimu, all of the rest of these villages are buried under lava....

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“A Leader Is Like a Shepherd” Nelson Mandela “I Am The Good Shepherd” (John 10:11) On Sunday morning, I quoted Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, who was born 100 years ago:   “A leader…is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”   What a humble, yet profound and enlightening way to understand leadership: allowing the most talented people who have special gifts and abilities to lead the way. I shared about Mandela’s life, teachings and legacy, including his commitment to make life better for all people in South Africa—a commitment that was so firm that he was willing to die for it.   In this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus called himself, “the Good Shepherd,” and his way of understanding shepherding seems to resonate with the life and words of Nelson Mandela.   First of all, Jesus said that he, as the Good Shepherd, came to bring abundant life to all of the sheep. And we know from the Gospels that he meant all of the sheep, not just a handful of them, or just the best looking ones, or the ones who looked most like him. Secondly, Jesus said that the Good Shepherd has such great care and concern for his sheep that he lays down his life for them. Jesus was willing to lay down his life and die for the good of humanity—and he did exactly that. Finally, Jesus not only saw himself as the Shepherd, but also the gate. Switching metaphors as quickly as anything else,...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“A Dancing Savior” By Cosmo Sarson “We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance.” (Matthew 11:17) On Sunday morning, I talked about dance as an important part of spirituality for many cultures and religious traditions—including Christianity. I read a poem called “Lord of the Dance,” by Jennifer Lynn Woodruff.* Here is the poem she wrote, speaking of Jesus: He was the Word, a wild and dancing Word, before the world began; he danced in flame, and galaxies were born, and songs became the sinew of our bones, and he was Lord. He danced in bread and wine, and in the bright blue fountains of the Water of our birth, and all the bells rang, and along the earth the incense of a prayer rose, fresh and light. He danced in speech, in names that had a power, in dreams with symbols vibrant and unknown, and all that was and is and is to come was whole in grace and worship in that hour. But we have fenced him in and tied him down; we think he comes as words and not as Word, as only what we prove, what we have heard— not seen, not tasted, and therefore not found. We preach a thousand sermons, and we lift a thousand prayers in motions memorized, and stumble home and have not realized: the dance is mind and heart—the dance is gift. He seeks us in the bread we fear to break, the banners that we lift with trembling hand, the images we fail to understand, the steps in God’s strange dance we fear to take. He is the...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“Countercultural Community” “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you.” (Luke 6:27, 28) Sometimes being a follower of Jesus looks very different from the culture around us. The core message of Jesus sometimes sounds very different from the core messages of our leaders in government, media and even religion. I shared with the congregation on Sunday about a book I read shortly after its release in 1989 called Resident Aliens: A Provocative Christian Assessment of Culture and Ministry for People Who Know that Something is Wrong. The authors, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, explained that the Christian Church, as a countercultural community, ought to look quite different from the rest of the world around us; and our job is not to “fit in” but to “be” the people who follow the teachings and practices of Jesus. When I look at the words of Jesus, such as, “Love your enemies,” “Do good to those who hate you,” and “Bless those who curse you,” this indeed is different from how others around us act and different from the messages we sometimes here from our leaders. Every now and then, I hear someone using the Bible, quoting Jesus, Paul and others, in order to promote an agenda that seems to go against the overall message of the Bible and the core message of Jesus, which is to love God, ourselves and our neighbors (including our enemies and the people with whom we disagree) as ourselves. This happened last month when the U.S. Attorney General and the White House Press Secretary quoted Romans 13, when asked about...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“Seven Generations” “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” (John 17:20)   In some Native American tribes, when the elders are confronted with a very important major decision, they they imagine that there are children sitting in front of them—children from 7 generations in the future. They ask themselves how their decisions might impact these children. From a bit of reading I have done on American indigenous people, I would imagine they would ask themselves such questions as: Is the wellbeing of these children truly being considered? Will the land and the water provide for their needs? Will the children look back and be grateful for the decision? The elders make their decisions only after imagining how the children will impacted 7 generations later. I shared this story with the congregation on Sunday and also stated that Jesus understood the importance of the idea of looking ahead. In his prayer for his disciples, he prayed for all future disciples as well. This is actually a prayer that Jesus prayed for us! So it is important to ask ourselves what it is that Jesus wanted for us. In a sentence, what Jesus wanted for us is that we would be one through God’s deep and unconditional love. Just imagine what our world would be like today if people seven generations ago acted in love for us and made every decision based upon the same kind of love that God has for all people! Just imagine what our world can be like seven generations from now if we can all...