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...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Love and Gratitude On Sunday, I talked about how expressions of gratitude impact people around us. In her book, Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Diana Butler Bass writes about the impact that gratitude has on the people who observe it in others. She refers to work done by social psychologists who monitor the affects on the brain and bodily functions when someone observes another person expressing gratitude. One such psychologist is Jonathan Haidt, who observed a calming response, as well as related impulses, such as awe or self-transcendence. Amazing! Our bodily functions, our emotional states, and our spiritual wellbeing actually change when we observe another person expressing gratitude! Our Scripture readings on Sunday point us toward love and gratitude when it comes to bringing our offerings to God. According to Psalm 50, it is gratitude that makes our offerings acceptable to God. Mark 12 reinforces this and also adds that love for God and others is the most important thing we can offer to God. In the story of the poor widow who places two half-pennies in the temple offering, Jesus makes it really clear that her offering is valuable and worthy because she gave from love and gratitude. There is an important lesson here for us: our offerings to God are also valuable and of great worth to God when we give with love and gratitude. God is not concerned so much with the size of the gift; God is concerned with the love and gratitude that are offered in our giving. Another lesson from the story is that we can actually give everything to God. Just like the...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Gratitude: More Than a Feeling On Sunday, I shared a story from Diana Butler Bass’ most recent book, Grateful: The Transforming Power of Giving Thanks. Diana was working as a professor of religious studies and history at the college where we both attended as undergraduates. She enjoyed her job and did good work. However, she wasn’t treated very kindly by some of the other faculty at the college. She also felt that some of the expectations of the college administration in regards to theology and personal piety were rather stifling. One day the President of the college called her into his office and told her that she was simply not a good fit for the school. He told her that she was being “let go,” even though he admitted that she did wonderful work and was an excellent teacher. Before she walked out of the room, he said to her probably the last thing she wanted to hear. He said: “One day you will thank me for this.” Let me just say that she was not having any feelings of gratitude towards him at the moment! About a week later, Diana told a friend about it. She said, “Can you imagine the nerve of him? That one day I’ll thank him?” After her friend listened to her, he gently said to her, “You know, he’s right.” He went on to tell Diana about a similar situation when he was fired, and how he eventually thanked his boss who fired him after he learned gratitude. Diana was surprised to hear that gratitude was something that could be learned. She asked...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

A Time for Gratitude and Rainbows   I want to begin by thanking my church family for taking such wonderful care of me the past week and a half while I have been recovering from vascular surgery on my leg. I am deeply appreciative of the meals, fresh produce and groceries that people have dropped off, as well as the prayers on my behalf. The surgery was necessary because of poor circulation in my leg due to a major vein not working properly. The surgeon removed most of that vein, and other veins have now taken over to keep the blood properly flowing in my leg. My surgery was successful and I am healing well. However, my leg is still quite tender where the incisions are still healing, and so I will be working mainly from home while keeping my leg elevated as often as possible, and not driving much until my leg feels better. I am supposed to walk a little more each day, and hope to walk to the church by the end of the week. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call if you would like to talk or make an appointment to see me in person. After one very long day of heavy rain at the end of August, I was so grateful for sunshine! I walked outside into the yard and saw a double rainbow right on the parsonage! “A pot of gold,” I thought. “What a treasure: this place I call home, my church, my community, my art, this island, my family and friends, my life. I am truly blessed!” As I...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

A Note from Kahu Alan Akana Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35) On Sunday morning, I talked about the increasing noise in our society. I am astounded at how noisy our lives have become, especially compared to that of our grandparents’ generation. When my maternal grandmother was born on a farm in south-central Montana in 1900, there were no cars driving by, no airplanes flying over, and no electricity or running water in the home. My grandmother grew up with the sound of farm animals, the stream which ran through their property, birds, and chores. Today, there is the constant noise of cars, machines, appliances, as well as the noise of our cellphones which we often carry with us wherever we go. It seems that the amount of noise and the noise level just keeps increasing, and the trend seems to be continuing. When the author Diana Butler Bass was asked by a student in January 2001 what she thought the 21st century would be like, her instantaneous reply was: “Noisy. It will be noisy.” And, so far, I think she has been right on target! Making time for peace and quiet seems to me to be more important than ever. Jesus certainly took time to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. In our reading on Sunday from Mark’s Gospel, we find Jesus getting up early in the morning while it was still dark and spending quiet time alone in prayer. This is sometime hard for us...