A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

  The Greatest Miracle On Sunday, we took a look at the first miracle of Jesus, according to John’s Gospel, when Jesus turned water into wine. Since I am allergic to wine, for most of my life I just figured that this was another miracle that didn’t really apply to me. After spending 3 months in and around Bordeaux this past spring, perhaps France’s most popular “wine country,” the miracle is starting to make more sense to me…and there are definitely some lessons in this parable even for me. First of all, it occurred to me that a welcome miracle to one person might be a very unwelcome miracle to another. To someone who would spend $225,000 on a prize-winning bottle of Chateau Margaux—or even a more moderate $7,000 Petrus—this might actually be their favorite of all of Jesus’ miracles. But for people like me who get physically ill just from the vapors of a glass of wine, it takes a little extra thought and effort to embrace this as a great miracle—or even a good one. A second lesson is that Jesus was constantly surprising people. Changing water into wine in order that the best was served at the end was a radical change from standard behavior in that culture. This miracle sets the tone for the teachings and actions of Jesus that constantly challenged his followers to expect the unexpected and to change their behavior from what was standard, normal and expected, to behavior that is completely unexpected: Loving your enemies Welcoming strangers who show up in your community—even if they are from another culture and religion and...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

“Hospitality Above and Beyond” On Sunday, I told the congregation that I was just finishing a book called The Anza Trail and the Settling of California, by Vladimir Guerrero. I had the opportunity to meet Vladimir and his wife Deidre in May at their home in the beautiful town of Lectoure in southern France while I was on my sabbatical. His son is Chris Guerrero, Kei and Penny Osuga’s son-in-law. Juan Bautista de Anza was a Spanish explorer in the mid-1770’s, who traveled on horseback from Mexico through Arizona and California. On his first expedition, de Anza traveled with soldiers, scouts and interpreters through unchartered and sometimes dangerous territories in order to find a route between the Mexico-Arizona border and the coast of California. On his second route, de Anza took 32 soldiers and their families to resettle in a place called San Francisco. Some of the missions, founded by Father Junipero Serra were already established along the coast, and de Anza spent time in many of them. One of the things that stands out most for me in the book is the hospitality that was shown to de Anza and his fellow travelers in the various mission outposts along El Camino Real in California. When they would arrive at one of the Spanish missions, the bells would toll to celebrate their arrival; there would also be a special religious service; and then the hosts would throw a feast and offer the best of what they had. By the way, many of the native people of California were also extremely hospitable to de Anza and his party, and eagerly shared food,...

A Message from Kahu Alan Akana

Blessed by Strangers On Sunday, I talked about James and Melicent Smith, who arrived in Koloa in 1842. They had sailed from Boston to Honolulu. The journey took 142 days. For over 4 1/2 months, they lived on a small boat and slept in a tiny cabin. They had married in April of that year. After a couple of weeks in Honolulu, they boarded another boat and sailed for Koloa, where they would spend the rest of their lives. James was to be the only Western-trained medical doctor on Kauai and Niihau. He also had church duties and 12 years after his arrival was the first minister to be ordained on Kauai; his church assignment consisted of 3 regions: Koloa (the largest), Lihue and Wailua. Besides visiting these 3 places on horseback for years—almost weekly—he also frequently visited Waimea and Hanalei. Melicent taught school and took care of their 9 children—7 of whom lived to be adults. Fortunately, they were welcomed with open arms. This doesn’t mean that the relationship between their family and the Hawaiian people was always easy and without friction. Far from it! However, when the Hawaiians first showed their usual hospitality to the Smiths, little did the locals know how much they would be blessed by these strangers from a faraway place. When the infamous smallpox epidemic of 1853 spread like wildfire throughout the entire island chain, thousands of people died on the other islands. Thanks to Dr. Smith’s commitment to vaccinate everyone on Kauai and Niihau and quarantine the early victims of smallpox, there was only one death here. He made it his personal mission...

A Message from Kahu Akana

Simple Solutions On Sunday, I shared a story told by Bryan Stevenson when two police officers pointed guns at him and threatened to “blow off your head.” They threw him up against his car and searched it without a warrant for illegal drugs and weapons. His crime: sitting in his car listening to music for ten or fifteen minutes in front of his home after a long day of work…and being Black. He had just moved into the Atlanta neighborhood and, apparently, a White neighbor saw a Black man sitting in a car and called the police. As the police officers were leaving—after all the neighbors got a chance to watch him in police custody for about fifteen minutes—they said to Bryan, “Consider yourself lucky.” His response: “They were right: I was lucky. I survived.” This story was told by Bryan in the foreword of the book America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis. Bryan is a Harvard-trained attorney and endured the above-mentioned injustice after a long day of practicing law. In the book, Jim Wallis shares his discover that virtually all African-American parents have what they call “the talk” with their children as they are entering their adolescent years. “The talk” involves telling their kids how to survive an encounter with a police officer—how to live through it. He asked parents if they have this talk with their kids and discovered that 100% of the African-American parents whom he asked did indeed have “the talk” with their children…and 0% of White parents whom he asked have ever had the talk with their kids. These statistics alone should tell us that there is a huge racial injustice in our nation....

A Message from Kahu Akana

  On Sunday, we read three conversations between Jesus and his disciples (or “would be” disciples) from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9. In the first conversation, the Apostle John was very concerned about a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus. He tried to stop the man because he didn’t hang out with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus responded to John, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” There are some people who say that these were literal demons: servants of Satan who were sent by him to torment people. Other people say that these were figurative demons: causes to which we assign negative spiritual energy. Whichever way you choose to interpret this passage (literally or metaphorically), the point is that the disciples encountered some people whose lives were tortured by forces that seemed beyond their control and a man who was freeing those people from their bondage of fear and pain—and he was doing so in the name of Jesus. Apparently, Jesus celebrates any time a person shows compassion to another person—even if that person isn’t the kind of person who hangs out with him and his disciples. The way of Jesus allows people—even if they are different from us, come from different places and backgrounds, and hang out with strangers—to show compassion to others. In our Scripture reading, Jesus also pointed out the importance of making the reign (kingdom) of God our top priority in life. Those who follow in the way of Jesus put the reign of God ahead of obligations placed upon us by family and...

A Message from Kahu Akana

“Embracing Mystery” We celebrated “Trinity Sunday” this week in church as I shared more about my sabbatical in Europe. I talked about one of my favorite pieces of art which I saw in Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Paris called “Christ in Majesty” (the photo above). It is one of the largest mosaics in the world and probably the largest mosaic of Jesus. It is in the dome above the altar and the first thing you see when you walk in the front door of the church—and it is MASSIVE! It literally took my breath away! I felt that Jesus with his outstretched arms was saying to me, “You are welcome here. Come on in. I love you exactly as you are. There is nothing that can come between us.” The art affected me so deeply that I found it difficult to leave! What I didn’t realize at all from the front door of the church was that the image of Jesus was part of a larger mosaic of the Holy Trinity. You can see the dove, representing the Holy Spirit, directly above Jesus’ head, but you have to walk down one of the aisles toward the altar to see the image of God the Creator (or Father). It is truly an awesome work of art: in my opinion, one of the great masterpieces of all time. However, it occurred to me that the average visitor to the basilica never gets to see the entire mosaic. You can see all of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but there was no place I could stand and see all of the Trinity at...