Second Sunday in Lent
Sunday, February 24, 2013
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
It has become a tradition in our congregation to do two things following the death of a member of our church ‘ohana or family. The first thing that we do is place a lei in the pew or chair where that person usually sat each Sunday. It is not to say that seats and pews are reserved, but that as creatures of habit, we often find ourselves sitting in the same place each Sunday morning.
Roy Weaklend died on Valentine’s Day at his home in Kīhei. He was 88 years old. As I looked out through the mauka window last Sunday, I could see the folding metal chair where Roy sat in recent years. His daughter Suzanne said her dad wanted to make sure our visitors had an opportunity to sit inside. A lei kukui was draped over the chair.
The second thing that we do is listen as Danny Brown, our organist, and Ellen Caringer, our pianist, play “Heaven Medley” at our 10:00 a.m. service as the morning offering is received. When Danny and Ellen began playing the medley last Sunday, Auntie Edie Kapiko caught my attention from where she was sitting in the soprano section of our choir.
She leaned forward and whispered, “It’s raining outside.” I looked out the side window and noticed a light rain falling across the sky. About a hundred members and visitors were sitting under the tree.
I worried for a moment about what to do if the rain began to fall more heavily. While it was evident that some were feeling the light rain, the branches of the tree seemed to absorb most of what was falling and so no one stirred, no one moved from where they were sitting.
As Danny and Ellen concluded their playing, I could hear Auntie Eleanor quietly singing, “When we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus we’ll sing and shout the victory.”
Auntie Edie leaned forward a second time and said, “It’s Roy.”
I smiled and in that moment I felt the rain was a hōʻailona – a sure and certain sign – that Roy was okay; that all pain and suffering was gone; that even death itself was pau – no more. For me the rain were the tears of a tender and loving God.
Among the many wisdom sayings of our Hawaiian kūpuna or ancestors is an ‘ōlelo noeʻau I have shared with you before. It reads: “Uwē ka lani, ola ka honua. When the sky weeps, the earth lives.” Or “when it rains the earth revives.” (‘Ōlelo Noeʻau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings, Mary Kawena Pukui, Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1983, page 315.)
But there are occasions when the sky opens up – as it did earlier in the week – and we are overwhelmed by the deluge that follows. Weeping turns to mourning and mourning to deep lamentations.
We know of such weeping, such mourning, such lamentations. I learned recently that a mother was diagnosed with leukemia and told no treatment was available. I also learned a husband received the news that only a few weeks remain before the cancer would take its final toll. We know of such lamentations.
One of the Hawaiian words for lamentation is uwē. It even sounds like what the word means - Uwē!
That sense of uwē is what strikes me about our reading from The Gospel According to Luke this morning. It was only a few weeks ago that we celebrated the birth of Jesus and now we must come to terms with the final weeks of his life.
“Jesus is moving closer to Jerusalem – the City of David – where the great prophets of the past have more often than not been ignored, reviled and killed” (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2009, page 68). The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that when Uriah spoke out against King Jehoiakim, he was killed (Jeremiah 26:23).
Jesus knows that he is moving toward the same end (Op. cit.). Very soon his disciples will be overcome with the burden of knowing he will soon die.
But if there are tears to be shed, Jesus insists he will not shed them for himself but for the city that will ultimately reject him. Daniel Deffenbaugh, a Professor of Religion, reminds us that “Jesus’ harsh words for Herod reflect his utmost confidence in the providence and will of God in the task that he, the Son of God, has been called to complete” (Ibid., page 70).
As he looked toward Jerusalem, Jesus lamented how often he desired to gather its children “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (Luke 13:34). It is a striking image that is all the more remarkable when the most common avian reference in the Old Testament compares God with an eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11).
Deffenbaugh offers us a tantalizing point of view. Rather than offer us the example of an eagle, Jesus offers us the example of a mother hen.
Could it be that Jesus wanted to offer an image of a new creation? Deffenbaugh continues: “Jesus, who was with God in the beginning and through whom all things were made (John 1:2-3), would have known intimately the manner in which the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep on the first day of creation (Genesis 1:2)”. (Ibid, page 72)
The Hebrew word in The Book of Genesis is clear: God “brooded” over the waters, as a hen might brood over her young. It would not be a far stretch to say that the eagle, a symbol of imperial Rome and the fox as an image of Herod, would not have been looked upon favorably by Jesus.
So Jesus laments. He broods over the city that he loves - not a city of brick and mortar – but of flesh and blood – a city filled with those to whom he had come to “bring good news to the poor . . . to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
In the same way Jesus broods “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (Luke 13:34), so he broods for us with his care and aloha – and for that we are grateful. Amen.