On Sunday, I shared with the congregation about my experience on the top of Mauna Kea with my son Palani. The photograph above is one I took near the top while facing east (away from the sunset, if that helps you get grounded). I was taken aback by the shadow of the great mountain, which extended even into the sky beyond the horizon. I had no idea that such a shadow was even possible: it was just so big, and definitely the biggest shadow of any mountain I had ever seen. Soon, Palani and I were at the summit and we watched the sun set into the clouds below us. It was a spectacular sunset! Then the stars came out and soon lit up the sky. At one point, I said to Palani, “It’s just too bad there are so many clouds up here. I wish I could see more stars.” He responded in his gentle and kind way, “Dad, that’s the Milky Way you are looking at.” I was looking at so many stars—I thought they were clouds! I had no idea what the sky looked like at 14,000 feet above sea level. And I was in awe, and grateful beyond words.
For thousands of years, people have gone to the mountaintops to experience awe and gratitude, to experience God, to experience “More.” In out Old Testament reading from Isaiah, chapter 58, the prophet tells his hearers what it takes to “ride upon the heights of the earth” (the mountaintops!). It is not about religious observances alone. It takes loosening the bonds of injustice, freeing the oppressed people in our land, and feeding the hungry. In other words, we must not just show up to worship God while people are suffering. We must also change systemic injustice and help people right now who are hungry and in pain.
Do these things, and your reward will be a ride among the mountaintops! Perhaps it is not so much a reward as a result: when you do these things, here is what naturally happens. When you do something to change unjust systems in the future, and when you help suffering people right now, and when you pause to consider awe, gratitude and God—the result is that you will bask in God’s presence, because that’s just what happens.
May we each ride upon the mountaintops each day this week, and may we ride there together. The view is spectacular!
Click HERE to see a video of the message from Sunday morning. You may see the Koloa Union Church YouTube channel to see many of his past messages and subscribe in order be notified when a new message is posted. Please share these videos with friends and invite them to church. Please feel free to “Like” any of the videos you see and share them on social media, such as Facebook, so that others will notice them.
“A Message from Kahu Alan Akana” is provided most weeks by the Kahu (Pastor) of Koloa Union Church, an Open & Affirming (ONA) congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a member of the Kauai Association and Hawaii Conference.