A Message from Our Kahu

“Nothing Will Be Impossible” Luke 1:37 On Sunday, I talked about the two times I attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions: in Salt Lake City in 2015 and Toronto in 2018. While attending the first one, it occurred to me that I was doing something for peace, for I was gathering with people from many faith traditions from all over the world to listen to and learn from one another. I am convinced that the world would be a more peaceful place if we all listen to those who are different from us and we are willing to learn from them. In Salt Lake City, I attended the movie Nuclear Savage, which documented the testing of atomic bombs in the Marshall Islands by the United States from 1946 until the 1960’s, thus leaving some of the islands uninhabitable for the Marshallese people. After returning home, I looked up the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation online, since that was the organization that showed the movie and led a presentation and discussion afterwards. I was impressed with their mission, commitment to educating young people, as well as their list of supporters, including Jane Goodall, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Peter Yarrow and Noel (Paul) Stookey from the legendary folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. I was so impressed, in fact, that I decided to make a donation to the organization because I wanted to do something big for peace. I’m sure it was not a big donation in terms of what some of their larger gifts must have been, but it was big for me. I thought...

A Message from Our Kahu

“Never Give Up Hope” Luke 1:5-25 On Sunday, I told the congregation about a beloved friend Dwayne who died earlier this year while I was on my sabbatical. By the time I met him nearly 20 years ago, he had lost nearly everything that was important to him. His two sons died, his wife left him, he lost his job. He also faced some huge challenges in some of the jobs where he worked after his world seemed to come crashing down on top of him. Nevertheless, Dwayne was one of the kindest, most helpful and hopeful people I had ever met. One day I asked him how he remained so positive and hopeful. Here is how I remember his response: You know, Alan, I know that I could have chosen to have been bitter, angry and resentful, and I’m pretty sure that anyone who knew me at the time wouldn’t have blamed me because that was a really tough time. But I also knew that I could choose to trust that God had always been with me in love and would continue to be with me and continue loving me. I just had to believe somehow that my best days might still be ahead of me. And so, I chose to be hopeful. It was a choice I made. I knew I didn’t have to make that choice, but who wants to be around a bitter, angry person? Dwayne’s response was a reminder to me that hope is something we choose. In fact, it is something we get to choose every single day, regardless of the circumstances all...

A Message from Our Kahu

“Expansive Gratitude” On Sunday, I shared about two recollections from my childhood. When I was quite young, I remember someone saying to me: “Why can’t you just be grateful for what you have?” I felt extremely guilty for wanting more than I had. A few years later, I wore a bracelet with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” This not only increased my guilt, but I began believing that God did not want me to have desires, that desires were a bad thing, and that any desires pointed to the fact that I was ungrateful. I now believe that I can be profoundly grateful for God’s grace, the gift of life and all of the blessings I have, and at the same time want something more. This past week, I was walking along the Poipu Beach just before sunset and came across some turtles…and then some monk seals…and then saw my first whales of the season. I was overcome with gratitude to be walking in such a beautiful place and seeing such amazing creatures. However, my immediate reaction after feeling gratitude for seeing the whales was a desire to see them again, and so I stood there and looked until I did see them again—several times, in fact—and then I saw a whole other pod even further away by the horizon. I was filled with a sense of wonder and awe—and felt even more gratitude! There was absolutely nothing wrong with my desire to see more whales. I can hold both gratitude and desire at the same time. There is a kind of gratitude...

A Message from Our Kahu

“Prophetic Imagination” On Sunday, I shared with the congregation my love for Disneyland as a child—a love that remains as an adult! I still remember the feeling I had when I first visited the park around the time I was in kindergarten. I also remember the sights and sounds, as well as the tastes and smells. It is remarkable how all of the senses of an experience as a very young child can stay with me all these years later. Walt Disney was a genius when it comes to imagination. He began imagining Disneyland in the 1930’s, continued imagining through the 1940’s and 1950’s until the park opened in 1955. What impresses me the most is that he imagined a place to bring great joy and happiness to children and their families during very difficult times in our nation’s history: the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the early years of the Civil Rights Movement. These are times I would describe as fearful, dark, confusing and anxious. Disney did not let the overall mood of those years dictate his life or his vision. Furthermore, the impact his imagination had on the world has continued long after his death. This is the case with so many creative and imaginative people of long ago. It is certainly the case of the writers of the book of Isaiah. Look at some of the things one of them imagined some 600 years before the birth of Christ (chapter 65): New heavens and a new earth Eternal gladness and rejoicing No more tears and no more crying No more death at...

A Message from Our Kahu

  “God of the Living” In nearly every church I visited during my sabbatical in southern Europe this past spring, I saw paintings, murals and statues of saints. Some of the pieces of art were over a thousand years old, reminding me that Christians have been honoring those who have gone before us for a very, very long time! Remembering and honoring loved ones and legends keep us connected to our past and grounded in the present. On Sunday, we read from Luke 20 that God “is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” Jesus said this to the Sadducees after mentioning Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection or the afterlife, so they asked Jesus about some of his beliefs in the particulars of heaven. Jesus’ response to them makes me think that those who die never leave us completely. Their spirits and memories remain. It also makes me think that Jesus wanted his followers to focus on the here and now. Even as we carry our beloved ones with us in our memories—and perhaps even in our conversations—when we live in the present with a firm faith that God is with us at every moment and with every breath we take, we can actually help to answer Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I closed my message by reading a poem written by Jan Richardson—a gifted artist, poet, author and minister—as she approached All Saints Day (November 1) after her husband Gay died:...

A Message from Our Kahu

My Study Leave Retreat on Oahu “Study Leave” I returned to the church office yesterday from my 2-week study leave in California and Oahu. I spent 3 days in Berkeley, beginning with a welcoming/training session and dinner for new trustees and staff at Pacific School of Religion, where I have been a trustee for four years and am a member of the Board Membership and Effectiveness Committee. I then spent 2 days in board meetings, considering important matters such as academics, finance, recruitment, enrollment, innovation in education, and, of course, advancement, which is the committee I chair that oversees our philanthropic endeavors. I also attended chapel on Tuesday where I listened to students share about the saints in their lives. (All Saints Day was November 1.) That evening, I had dinner with PSR’s President David Vasquez-Levy as the two of us planned his next trip to Hawaii in January. After dinner I attended a talk at First Presbyterian Church Berkeley to hear Jim Wallis, who is one of my favorite authors and heroes of the Christian faith. He spoke about his newest book Christ in Crisis, focusing primarily on the parable of the Good Samaritan and how Christians in America today have missed the point of being neighborly to those who are considered “other.” After the talk, David Vasquez-Levy participated in a panel with Jim. By the way, Jim authored the book America’s Original Sin, which our church’s book group discussed over the summer! For the remainder of the two weeks, I spent most of my time reading, writing, focusing on our church’s vision and mission statements (and how they might guide us...