A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

On Sunday, I called attention again to the painting “The Holy Trinity” by the 15th century Russian artist Andrei Rublev. (You can see the painting below.) It a picture of three Persons sitting around a table in love, trust, vulnerability and intimacy. I pointed again to the small rectangle on the front of the table just below the dish. Art historians are aware that there are remnants of glue in that space and believe there used to be a mirror there. The author Richard Rohr tells us in his book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, that his purpose in writing the book was to call his readers to reposition themselves so that they could see their faces in the mirror. Just imagine really seeing yourself as a true reflection of God, for that is what you are! Genesis tells us that human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God We are God’s reflection—not just me…or you…but every single person in the world. Imagine the peace we would have if we truly saw ourselves—all of us—in the mirror! Rohr writes, “We always become what we behold.” So let’s spend some time during this season of Advent beholding the true nature of God, which is a relational God, relating to the “selves” of God with love, trust, vulnerability and intimacy. And let us ask how we might “reposition” ourselves so that we can clearly see that we are actually a part of this loving God. Just imagine God looking upon us in the same way that the three Persons in Rublev’s painting look upon each other! There...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

  We began the Season of Advent on Sunday! The church is decorated with the Christmas tree, Advent wreath, poinsettias, and the beautiful Nativity seen on the communion table. Shellee Riggio shared personal words about “hope” (our theme for the day) and then danced a stunning American Sign Language interpretation to the song “I Hope You Dance.” Kathleen Dahill sung a perfect solo for the day and taught the congregation a new song about waiting for the Lord (another Advent theme). In my message, I talked about preparation for the many ways Christ comes to us (and, yes, another Advent theme!). I said that it was a bit like when my son Palani used to visit me after I moved to Dallas and how I anticipated and prepared for each visit. It was also very much like when he came to live with me full-time in California just before his junior year in high school. God, in Christ, comes to us over and over again, and yet, God also comes to stay and never leaves. The question to ask is: “How do we constantly prepare for his presence among us—today, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives?” I also shared a famous Russian painting by the 15th century artist Andrei Rublev called “The Holy Trinity.” (There is a picture of it below.) It is a very different image of the Trinity than the pictures I saw growing up, in college where I studied philosophy and religion, and in seminary. In most of those pictures, the figures are typically very masculine: an old man with a long white beard,...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

The Quilt of Belonging Reflections on the Parliament of the World’s Religions On Sunday I shared with the congregation about my experience at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada, where I was last week. I spent an entire week attending plenary sessions, workshops, movies, exhibits and concerts—all having to do with the various religions represented—which numbered right around 200—and the importance of religious people gathering, welcoming one another, and working together to address some of the world’s greatest challenges, including racism, intolerance, violence, hunger, global warming and environmental destruction. One of my favorite exhibits was called the Quilt of Belonging—definitely the largest and perhaps the most striking quilt I have ever seen. It is 120 feet long and consists of 263 blocks, representing all of Canada’s aboriginal groups and every nation in the world. I met the lady who came up with the idea and oversaw the entire project. Her name is Esther Bryan. She started the project in 1998 after a trip to Slovenia with her parents. Her father had left that country after World War II, and they went back to find the home and family he had left behind. During that trip she recognized that everyone has a story to tell and each person has a past and a place that forms who they are today. As she thought about all of the indigenous and immigrant people of Canada, she began wondering about an art project that would truly represent everyone in the country and give each person the opportunity to find a place and sense of belonging in the overall design. Esther...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

No Matter Who You Are… On Sunday, I told the congregation about a friend of mine that I knew back in high school. He was gay and struggling with his sexuality. He found it particularly difficult facing his feelings and attractions on the one hand, and hearing at church that his desires were sinful and disgusting to God. He became quite depressed and eventually suicidal. When he ended up in the hospital after having a breakdown, our pastor went to visit him. As the pastor listened, my friend shared his feelings, struggles to do the right thing, and wanting to please God. The pastor told him that it would be better to kill himself rather than to be intimate with another man, for at least that way (according to the pastor), he would more likely end up in heaven. When my friend told me this story, I was beyond angry. “How could someone’s life become completely worthless because of his desires for love and intimacy,” I thought to myself. When my friend refused to admit that his desires were sinful and agree that he would never act upon them, it became apparent very quickly that he was no longer welcome at that church. One reason I became ordained in the United Church of Christ is because we proclaim toeveryone: No matter who you are or where you have been on life’s journey, you are welcome here! I was so pleased on Sunday when our congregation voted unanimously to begin the process of becoming an Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation of the United Church of Christ. Over the next several months, the...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Gratitude and Politics On Sunday, I told the congregation about the final section of Diana Butler Bass’ book, Gratitude: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. It focused on gratitude, community and politics. I get the connection between gratitude and community; that totally makes sense to me; but gratitude and politics? Those aren’t two themes that often go together in my mind. Diana’s book was helpful in understanding the importance of bringing those two things together. However, it was Jon Meacham’s book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, that really helped me to see the significant role that gratitude can have in the midst of politics—even if those politics seem far from what we want or imagine the world to be. Meacham points to many dark times in our nation’s history and refers to certain Presidents, Governors, Senators, members of Congress, and others who said and wrote some of the most surprisingly hateful and intolerant things about African-Americans, Asians, Jews, Eastern & Southern Europeans. He names those elected leaders who owned slaves, those who ordered the massacre of Native Americans by the thousands, those who imprisoned innocent people, including over a hundred thousand Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII. He also writes about those who would build great walls to keep immigrants out of our country, such as Georgia Governor Clifford Walker who said these words to the KKK in 1924: I would build a wall of steel, a wall as high as heaven, against the admission of a single one of those Southern Europeans who never thought the thoughts or spoke the language of a democracy...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Gratitude and Abundance Sunday was such a special day at Koloa Union Church! We celebrated with gratitude our many blessings and imagined ways to share them with others in the coming months. Our children presented a fun and meaningful skit on the importance of gratitude. Rose danced two beautiful hula on the theme of “gratitude and rainbows.” Most people offered a blessing that we might share with others in the coming year. I talked in my message about the meaning of the rainbow—traditionally a sign of hope and diversity. It is also a symbol of blessing, gratitude and abundance for me, for a rainbow requires both sunlight and rain in order to exist—the two necessary ingredients for life on earth. Just like the rainbow, every other blessing is dependent upon them. I am so grateful for life in all its fascinating diversity, and all of the blessings that come to us in our lives! The next time you see a rainbow, I invite you to give thanks for your many blessings and for God’s abundance on this amazing planet on which we live. In our Gospel lesson on Sunday, Jesus said that he came that people would have life and have it abundantly. When we gather together as followers of Jesus, we celebrate the abundance in our lives and also share that abundance with others, for our blessings are meant to be shared, especially with people who have the greatest need of the basic blessings in life. As I consider our theme for the coming year, “With Gratitude, Welcoming All and Sharing Our Blessings in 2019,” I am especially...