United Church of Christ (USA)
Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
The road that ran along the shoreline to the wharf and pier at Keauhou Bay is no longer there. It was sealed off when the area was developed into a resort destination in the early 1960’s.
Before that happened the road provided easy access to outrigger fishing canoes that lined the beach once they returned from a day of fishing. The primary catch was ‘ōpelu or mackerel scad. And when the akule or big-eyed scad fish were running that was the preferred catch of the day.
I remember watching the various canoes returning to the bay after a day’s catch. The ‘ōpelu were kept in fish boxes in the center of the canoe that were filled with ice to keep the fish from spoiling.
I have very vivid memories of the excitement that ensued once the canoes were lifted up, placed on logs of bamboo and other tree trunks and rolled up on to dry ground. I can still hear the shouts to “push and pull.”
I can still see the look of anticipation on the faces of family and friends as the covers to the fish boxes were removed. There in the day’s sun lay more than a few kaʻau of ‘ōpelu. A kaʻau simply referred to a catch of 40 ‘ōpelu.
It was a form of measurement that gave everyone an idea about the size of the catch. So for example rather than reporting the weight of the catch or the number of the catch one would say the catch was about 20 kaʻau - or 600 fish.
on shore the task of fishermen was to separate the ‘ōpelu by size
kini or metal tubs. Most of the fish were still alive and as a consequence
there was a lot of thrashing. The silver and blue color of the ‘ōpelu would
shimmer and glisten in the sun.
The larger fish went to market. Whatever did not go to market was given to the families of the fishermen and to those who helped with bringing the canoes on shore
My dad was among the fishermen. He worked on a crew with a man named Sawada. I never learned his full name but what I did learn was that Sawada was highly regarded and respected by the other fishermen.
It was not an easy life. The work was hard and included long hours.
I suspect if Jesus lived in Kona in the 1950s and happened upon the road that is now gone, he would have stopped to watch all the commotion. It is very likely that he would have learned that the day began in darkness for the fishermen of Kona.
He would have learned that they had to prepare their nets as well as
the palu or bait that would be used to lure the ‘ōpelu into
the nets once they were let down over the side of the canoe. He
would have learned that it was a challenge for fishermen to earn a living. It
was not an easy life.
Yet in some ways that may be why Jesus was willing to call two brothers, Simon and Andrew centuries ago to follow him and to help him teach others about God. That also may be why Jesus was willing to call two more brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus needed the help of those whom he could rely on without hesitation.
Jesus made the journey to Galilee to proclaim the good news of God. “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14)
Why were Simon, Andrew, James and John willing to respond so quickly? The writer of The Gospel According to Mark does not tell us, but he does say that when Jesus called them, they immediately left everything behind to follow him.
I am certain that their willingness to leave work, family and community seems irresponsible to some of us. Yet, there was an immediacy and urgency to Jesus’ invitation that compelled each of them to follow Jesus.
Sometimes it can be hard to leave things behind when God is calling us forward. Things like hurt and grief; disappointment or success; pain and sorrow, material possessions, anger and anxiety, family and friends.
For some of us here this morning, there may be things we need to leave behind so we can move forward into God’s future. For some of us the concern on our heart might be those things our church, community and world need to leave behind in order to move on. As Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John to leave behind their nets and boats and way of life to follow and learn from him, so we are invited to discern the things we might leave behind.
God calls each of us by name to move forward in our lives. For some, like Jonah the call is a frightening experience and one to be avoided; for Simon, Andrew, James and John they must leave behind their work, their families and their friends.
Whatever the case may be, we are each called by name to proclaim the good news of God’s aloha for the world. As we venture forward we do so aware that God does not leave us alone. All we hope for comes from God.
In God, we find strength and comfort. So we trust in God at all times. God is our refuge.
Mahalo ke Akua. Thanks be to God.