Keawala’i Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Sunday, April 3, 2011
We paddled out from Charley Young’s in three outrigger canoes that morning. A south swell came in the day we took his uncle’s ashes out to sea.
Kai and I were in the first canoe. We waited for a lull in between the sets of waves before we launched our canoe and were soon followed by the other two canoes.
His uncle’s ashes were in the second canoe. I turned and looked back and could see the container with his uncle’s ashes on the lap of a family member
The bay at Charley Young is bordered on the north by Kaläma Park. On the south end the shoreline stretches out to a rocky point.
The bay is usually calm but when there is a strong south swell it can be unpredictable. As I was looking back a rogue wave came barreling in flipping the second canoe over and tossing everyone overboard. A loud collective gasp rose up from those who had gathered along the shoreline.
The person holding the ashes lifted the container out of the water to let everyone know that uncle was still with us and would soon be properly released into the ocean. A cheer went up from those gathered on the shoreline and from those of us who were in the other two canoes.
The crew members quickly turned the canoe upright. Several members started bailing the water out of the canoe and after a relatively brief period of time we were all on our way again paddling out past the shore break.
Kai sat in front of me. I knew from earlier conversations we had that he had been very close to his uncle. As he put it, his uncle had been like a father to him.
We were several hundred yards offshore when the person steering the canoe gave the command “Lawa!” The command essentially means “We have gone far enough. This is sufficient. We can stop now.”
Others say it simply means, “Stop!” Whatever the case may be everyone stopped and soon we could hear the other two steerspersons giving the same command to their crews.
The canoes were side by side, not quite in a circle but close enough that everyone could observe the ashes being released into the ocean. As others began to scatter flowers in the ocean, Kai picked up a face mask and snorkel and tossed it over the side of the canoe. It made a loud splash and quickly sank to the bottom. It surprised me because of the care that is taken to never leave any debris in the ocean – plastic bags or ribbons and string from lei.
you, Uncle!” Kai said.
He must have noticed the puzzled look on my face because he began to explain, “My uncle wen teach me how for poke fish and other kind stuff about the ocean. This my gift to him.”
I understood very quickly that it was his tribute to his uncle: to offer something of value to his uncle as an expression of his aloha. We paused for a moment before making our way back to the beach.
Once near the shoreline everyone started jumping out in order to lift the canoe up and onto the beach. As soon as my feet touched the sandy bottom I felt a long, slimy object under my right foot and immediately pulled away.
“Whoooa!” I said loudly convinced that I had just stepped on a puhi or eel. It startled the others including Kai.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I dunno,” I answered. I jumped away from the canoe immediately but found myself stepping on something. I am not sure what came over me, but I stuck my hand below the surface of the water and grabbed whatever it was I had just stepped on – twice. I lifted up a face mask and snorkel identical to the one Kai had tossed over the side of our canoe as a tribute to his uncle.
He looked at me with a look of amazement. I looked at him puzzled by what I was holding in my hand.
Without hesitation, Kai bellowed at the top of his voice, “As one miracle!”
I was skeptical enough to instantly decide that it was coincidental that the face mask and snorkel were identical. There was no way that the face mask and snorkel could have gotten caught on the canoe only to sink to the bottom of the ocean beside the canoe. I decided someone else may have lost their face mask and snorkel and that it had washed up to that spot days earlier.
But Kai would have none of it. “No, no, I tell you was uncle. You see,” he confessed, “that was my favorite face mask and snorkel. Uncle stay telling me, ‘Tanks, but you bettah keep ‘em for you use.’”
With a smile on his face that outshone the sun that day and eyes as liquid as the ocean he repeated himself, “As one miracle!” Everyone else decided it was so. They had heard and had seen what had just happened.
In the days that followed I was left to ponder what had occurred. I concluded that the miracle was not the appearance of the face mask and snorkel. The miracle was about how much a young boy loved his uncle and how much an uncle loved his nephew. The miracle was love. The face mask and snorkel were signs of that love. I knew after that day and for the rest of his life his uncle would always remain an important part of his life.
Some have said the story of the healing of the blind man at the pool of Siloam that comes to us from our reading from The Gospel According to John (John 9:1-41) is a miracle. But others say the healing of the blind man is not a miracle but a sign (sëmeion) that points to a miracle of “something beyond itself, to what an encounter with Jesus signifies.” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2010, page 119)
Despite the doubts raised by religious leaders, his neighbors and his own parents, the man who was born blind insists on only one thing: “Though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9: 25) He does not try to explain how or why he is healed. Instead he recognizes that Jesus is “from God” (John 9:33) and that he is the “Son of Man.” (John 9:35-38)
Like the Samaritan woman at the well whom Jesus had encountered earlier, the blind man grows in his understanding not of what Jesus did but of who Jesus is. He goes from seeing “the man called Jesus (John 9:11) to calling Jesus a prophet (John 9:17), to recognizing he must be from God (John 9:33) to addressing him as “Lord” and worshipping him (John 9:38). (Op. cit.)
It is Jesus himself who reveals the importance of hearing and sight when it comes to faith and belief. “You have seen him,” Jesus says, “and the one speaking with you is he.” (John 9:37)
Jesus establishes a relationship with the blind man as he did with the Samaritan woman. Karoline Lewis, Assistant Professor of Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota writes: “The blind man is more than one whom Jesus heals; he is one of Jesus’ sheep, a member of the fold, a disciple. Like the sheep, the blind man hears Jesus’ voice. Like the shepherd, Jesus finds the blind man when he has been cast out.” (John 9:35)
“Jesus provides for the man born blind much more than sight. He provides him what he, as the good shepherd, gives all his sheep: the protection of his fold (John 10:16; 21:15-19), the blessing of needed pasture (John 10:9) and the gift of abundant life.” (John 10:10)
“As a result,” Lewis concludes, “hearing and seeing are much more than ways by which one recognizes and believes in Jesus. They are, in fact, expressions of (a) relationship with Jesus, and (a) relationship with Jesus also means a relationship with (God).” (John 10:14-15) (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2010, page 121)
Like the Samarian woman at the well and the blind man at the pool of Siloam who respond to who Jesus is – not what he does - we are called to respond to the One who is the Great Shepherd of all. We see in Jesus the ways in which a woman scorned and a man born blind are restored to wholeness by the power of God’s love.
As we gather this morning to share the bread and the cup we do so aware that it is in the brokenness of the body of Jesus Christ that we are all restored to wholeness. The bread and the cup are signs of the greater miracle – the miracle of God’s love poured for us in Jesus Christ.
Mahalo ke Akua. Amen.
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