Keawala’i Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
“Hele aku: Go”
First let me offer a word of thanks to the woman who responded to my invitation last Sunday to correct anything I may have said in the message I shared that morning. In the aftermath of a very, very long week that included the tragic earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan and the hard work of hosting our annual lū‘au on the weekend that followed both disasters I felt certain that the message I shared last Sunday would be in need of some correction.
After the 10:00 a.m. service a woman approached me and said that the name of the character that comedian Flip Wilson played on his television show was named Geraldine not Josephine. I thought it was Josephine but she was right. We had a good laugh. Whether or not there are going to be any corrections to what I say this morning remains to be seen.
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Archaeologists tell us that the first human migration to Hawaiʻi originated in the Marquesas. The second migration came from Tahiti. It is unclear what prompted the people to leave their homes, their families and their countries to cross the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
Some say that an increase in population or drought and famine or and wars among the chiefs may have been among some of the reasons that compelled our Polynesian ancestors to make the long journey in double-hulled canoes. They brought with them provisions that included plants and animals. They brought their cultural traditions and their religious beliefs.
When I think about my family I am aware of my tūtūwahine, my maternal grandmother who was Hawaiian and my tūtūkane, my maternal grandfather who was Portuguese. I am also aware that my paternal grandparents were Japanese.
Some say the promise of work on the sugar plantations and a better life is what drew many from distant lands to Hawai‘i. They came not only from the Azores and Madeira Islands of Portugal and the islands of Japan but from China, the Philippines, Korea, Puerto Rico and many other places.
They brought with them their religious beliefs and their cultural traditions. They left their homes, their families and their countries.
Work in the fields of the sugar plantation was not easy. Many eventually found themselves indebted to the plantation store and the plantation clinic. Whatever hopes they may have had of returning to their home countries faded over time. Hawai‘i became their new home and their new country and it is here that they would create new families.
stories of our ancestors – of mine and of yours – are in some ways no different
than the story of Abram and Sarai. The story of the people of Israel
began with a call and a promise, with someone chosen and blessed by God.
It is a story that includes a family, a whole people or nation and finally the whole world. Abram and Sarai were called by God to leave their home, their family and their country for a journey that would take them to a new country. Our reading from The Book of Genesis is about that journey.
Abram and Sarai have no children. In their day and time being unable to have children was considered a sign of God’s disfavor. Yet God promises to make them a great nation.
will give them a multitude of descendants and will bless them so that through
them all the nations will be blessed. The world will want to know
about this God. (Seasons of the Spirit, Congregational Life,
Lent, Easter, RCL Year A, March 13, 2011 to June 12, 2011,Wood Lake
Publishing, Inc., Kelowna, BC, Canada, 2010, page 38)
What compelled Abram to hele aku – to go - and to make the perilous journey with a great caravan of relatives, servants and possessions across the vast expanse of desert between Haran and Hebron? Biblical scholars point out that the place of Abram in the history of the ancient Near East is difficult to assess. (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Paul J. Achtemeier, General Editor, Harper & Row, Publishers, San Fransico, 1985, page 7)
stories, including the one that comes to us from our reading this morning,
“are by their nature family tales with little material that would
have been included in the public records.” (Op. cit.)
In a later story, Abram and Sarai will be given new names – Abraham and Sarah – as a sign othat God has established a covenant, a relationship with them. It is a solemn and binding agreement.
Some assert that Abraham was an historical figure. Others maintain that Abraham was a person whose name is taken for a people.
Whatever the case may be, what we do know is that from the early writings of the Christian church Abraham is identified as the patriarch (Matthew 1:1, 2, 17; 3:9) and an important figure not only for Christianity but for Islam and Judaism. He becomes a symbol of compassion (Luke 16:19-31) and the one who makes legitimate the claim of Jesus’ disciples that they are descendants of Abraham. (John 8:33-38)
But perhaps more significantly Abraham comes to be regarded as the pioneer of someone who places his trust in God. (Acts 7:2-50; Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:1-29; Hebrews 7:1-10; 6:13-14; 11:8, 11). It is a trust in a promise that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)
Abraham and Sarah respond to God’s call to venture into the unknown. They do so with confidence in God’s Blessing. They were able to do so because of their growing relationship with God and their faith in God’s love and care.
What would we say of our own lives and our own journeys? Most of
us know about difficult and uncertain moments when decisions must be made. “Whether
it be about choosing a vocation or finding a new job, looking for a new
location to live or finding the right sort of medical treatment, there
often appears to be no clear signposts or even a safety net if all goes
horribly wrong. Moving ahead with faith and in faith is like that. We
take tentative steps forward in trust . . . ” . (Seasons
of the Spirit, Congregational Life, Lent, Easter, RCL Year A, March
13, 2011 to June 12, 2011,Wood Lake Publishing, Inc., Kelowna, BC, Canada,
2010, page 39)
During this season of Lent, may we move toward a greater openness of heart and mind, of soul and strength. We embark on this journey – we hele aku, we go - not by double-hulled canoe or caravan but by faith.
Like our ancestors who have gone before us we carry with us our beliefs and traditions, our own anxieties and uncertainties. May we find strength and courage in the daring response of Abraham and Sarah to place our trust and our hope in God for a greater vision for life that we too may become a blessing to others.
Let us pray: God of love and care, we have gathered here in Mäkena in the hope and beauty of this day, to be further opened along the pathways of faith you set before us. Question our safe decisions, prod our imaginings, and walk beside us into the unknown, yet promise-filled future. Be our journey and our destination. Amen.
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