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...

A Message from Our Kahu

“God Loves a Cheerful Giver” Sunday was another special day in the life of Koloa Union Church. In my message, I talked about how 2 Corinthians is a testament of generosity and joy among the early followers of Jesus. The Apostle Paul points out that the Christians in Macedonia and Corinth were both extraordinary in their generosity. When Paul wrote the letter, the Macedonian Christians had already given more than he thought they were capable of giving and the Corinthians had committed to giving an extraordinary gift themselves. Paul also wrote about the abundant joy they experienced. When he wrote, “God loves a cheerful giver,” it wasn’t to try to get them to give more, but to point out the reality of their experience. I feel very much like how I imagine Paul felt, for the people of Kōloa Union Church are already generous and joyful, already giving more than I knew we were capable of giving and already experience and sharing so much joy. My stewardship message this year: “Keep being who you are being and keep doing what you are doing. It’s working!” During Aloha Hour, we had a fantastic meal and a beautiful and delicious chocolate cake with the words: “Generosity and Joy.” We then had a fun and meaningful kanikapila reception at the parsonage, filled with music, singing, dancing, refreshments, a slideshow and plenty of sales in the gallery. Mahalo nui loa to a congregation that is filled with generous and joyful people! Aloha nui! Kahu __________________________________________ “A Message from Kahu Alan Akana” is provided most weeks by Koloa Union Church, an Open & Affirming (ONA) congregation of the...

A Message from Our Kahu

“Stories of Generosity & Joy… And Appreciation!” I was surprised and overwhelmed on Sunday morning when Penny Osuga came to the front of church for one final “announcement.” She told the congregation that it was “Pastor Appreciation Sunday,” and then explained that dozens of members and friends submitted words of appreciation for me, including some of our “snow angels” from as far away as New Hampshire! Expressions of appreciation were read, lei were placed around my neck, then Rose danced a beautiful hula while Doug sang “You Are My Strength.” By the end of all the expressions of appreciation, my eyes were moist with tears of gratitude, not only for the appreciation that was shown to me but also for the opportunity to minister alongside and among such a loving, generous and joyful congregation. Thanks to each and every person who makes Kōloa Union Church what it is, for we are a special church where every person can come and know that she or he is loved unconditionally and offered opportunities to participate in and share that love with one another and the world around us. My message was about the stories we tell which are so very important to our lives and our communities. I shared about the Mokihana Festival, which I attended just a couple of weeks ago, and how the songs, chants, dances and even the implements all told stories about these islands and the people who have lived here for hundreds of years. I also talked about how the kupuna, or elders, in Hawaiian culture passed down the important stories from one generation to another....

A Message from Our Kahu

“Abundance” We had a meaningful and joyful worship service on Sunday. We welcomed Steve Sparks and Norma Doctor Sparks into our church membership. (There are a few others planning to join later in the fall as well!) We collected over $500 for the “Neighbors in Need” special mission offering for the United Church of Christ. We celebrated World Communion Sunday, with special emphasis during the service on our abundant world. In my message, I talked about this beautiful and amazing world in which we live. In traditional Hawaiian culture, people were aware of the abundance of these islands but also knew that the resources were limited, so they only took what was needed for family and community. When the chiefs, with the help of the priests, saw that any resources were getting low, they would declare “kapu” on them, thus forbidding anyone from taking any more. These practices were part of a larger worldview of stewardship and respect for the Earth and her waters. Today, it seems that the mentality is to acquire as much as you have room for, and when you run out of room then build or rent space to store even more. Jesus talked a lot about abundance and life, believing that abundant life is found in love, generosity and joy—and definitely not in acquiring more and more and more…. In Luke, chapter 12, he said to the crowd, Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Jesus wanted people to have abundant life while they experienced God’s abundant love as they lived...