Sunday, April 1, 2018
"On The Road"
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
I am not afraid of the dark anymore. But I was once afraid long ago when I was a child growing up on a coffee farm in Kona.
At the time if someone asked: “Where do you live?”, I would have answered, “We live in a coffee shack” in Keauhou mauka. There was no shame in saying so because that was the truth. They were called coffee shacks and there were many of them scattered across the slopes of Hualalai.
We had electricity but there was no plumbing to speak of. The water we drank came from a wooden tank that caught the runoff from the roof of the house whenever it rained.
We had a stove but there was no water heater. When it was time to take a bath we would boil water then walk the pot back to the washroom just outside the kitchen door and combine that with a tub or bucket of cold water.
Our toilet was an outhouse located about 25 yards from the house along a footpath through the grove of coffee trees. There was definitely no running water out there, a small outhouse with a hole in the ground.
It was there as night fell that I learned to conquer my fear of the dark. With flashlight in hand and a cousin in tow, we would find our way to the two-puka outhouse. I sat on one seat and my cousin on the other.
There was too much going on at night to worry about the dark – insects of many kinds venturing out into the night. There were the high pitched sound of female mosquitoes and the loud chirping of geckos. But it was what we couldn’t hear or see that were of greater concern – centipedes running across the floor of the outhouse, spiders lurking in corners and cockroaches scurrying in every direction.
There was no time to be afraid of the dark.
I slept in a room with two beds that were shared between four or five of cousins at a time. It was the old metal framed beds that provided a convenient place for our daytime chewing gum to be stored overnight. We kept our chewing gum even as the flavor of sugar diminished. I noticed over the years that whatever we may have forgotten to retrieve for further chewing the next day inevitably became a part of the bed frame.
Our house was a lived-in house – at times messy, at other times very mess.
I was up in Lāhainā last week to offer a blessing for a new residential community which will offer families a range of high quality affordable homes. The planned community will feature 203 single and multi-family unit townhouses.
At least 102 of the units will be available as affordable, workforce housing. Although construction continues on units that still need to be built, the blessing was for three of the model homes that were completed.
I took time to walk through the models after the blessing and during the lunch reception which followed. One unit had four bedrooms and two and a half baths; the other two with three bedrooms and two baths.
All of the models included stainless steel appliances. Each was “staged” with furniture and a multitude of accessories.
There was not a mosquito or gecko to be heard or a cockroach or spider be seen. No chewing gum.
It was clean. But I also thought it was almost too clean. They were really model houses, not model homes. There was no mess.
I found myself wondering why it was that I came to appreciate the “coffee shack” I lived in as a child and then it occurred to me, it was because of the mess – not simply the mess of things being soiled or dirty from a day playing outside in the rain and mud – but the mess that comes with living life. Whether at work or in school; at home or in the church we faced a myriad of challenges in our lives.
It is tempting to avoid the mess of Holy Week on Easter Sunday morning.
We dress up in our finest. We want to feel the warmth and glow of the morning sun wash over us. We convince ourselves that the triumph of Easter is what brings us here.
But we diminish the power and significance of this day when we fail to recognize that we cannot help but bring the messiness of our own lives to this moment - all of the pain and suffering we have known; all of the anger and regret; all of the envy and jealousy. If there is a lesson to be learned from our reading from The Gospel According to Mark, it is this: The joy of every Easter comes through the sorrow of Holy Week and especially Good Friday.
Worry was on the minds of Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome when they brought spices to tomb where Jesus was buried. “Who will roll away the stone for us?” they asked.
When they were instructed by a young man at the tomb to go and tell the disciples that Jesus was no longer there but that he had been raised up from death, they are stunned. They did not simply leave the tomb, they fled in terror. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.
Worry and anxiety. Terror and fear. Doubt and shock. We know of such feelings.
Later when Mary Magdalene told the disciples what had happened, none of the men would believe it. I can only imagine her frustration and the frustration of the other women.
We may tend to be critical of the disciples and others on that first Easter Sunday morning. But given the events of the week prior to Jesus’ death, is it any wonder that the women ran away and initially say nothing to anyone [and when they do, the men], miss the point. Those who carried out the trial and crucifixion laid the fault or blame on the people for their pettiness. (Christian Century, March 14, 2018, page 22). What we take for the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem was short-lived.
The power and promise of the resurrection on this Easter day comes to all of us through the sadness of Holy Week and the sorrow of Good Friday. The road to Jerusalem and the way to Calgary is narrow.
We are all on that narrow way.
I am not afraid of the dark anymore because I know that out of darkness, there has come a great light. Our friend Anthony Pfluke is right to call us to “make the most every breath” we take; to “make the best of every moment” of our lives; to “make the best for our children;” to “live a life of intention, to arise.”
We “look to the light” on this Easter Day. We look to the light out of the darkness of Good Friday. We look to the light out of the darkness of our own lives.
Let us open our eyes and not be afraid. Let us dry our tears.
Let us drive out the darkness with the light of Ke Akua’s love and in doing so, come to know the power and promise of the resurrection.
“We will rise!”
[ Today's photo accompanying this sermon is courtesy of Karen Rollins, who took it during this morning's service, and posted it the church Facebook Group page. Mahalo, Karen! ]