Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
“Gathered and Scattered”
I drove up towards Wailuku Heights at sunrise yesterday morning with my dog Kiko. We pulled over near the top of Kehalani and went for a long walk through a neighborhood where some homes are still under construction.
We found our way to a lookout at the top of the subdivision. The view towards the slope and summit of Haleakalā was breathtaking.
Oblivious to the view, Kiko tugged at her leash with her nose to the ground as if to say, “There’s a lot for me to smell. Let’s get going.” So we headed down a footpath that was overgrown with grass at least four feet tall.
We were quickly swallowed up in the dense vegetation. The spring rains over Wailuku last weekend were enough to trigger a bloom of tassels across the vast field of grass.
As we walked along, I could feel the occasional brush of trade winds. It would only be a matter of time when stronger winds would come and scatter the seeds from the tassels down the hillside. Once on the ground they would take root and grow.
Before we disappeared completely into the field, I did my own bit of tugging at Kiko’s leash. “Mai, Kiko, mai. Come. We need to go back.”
She was too close to the ground to see the early morning light over Haleakalā. But I imagine she heard the whisper of the wind through the tassels and found a measure of satisfaction in being able to sniff her way along the path as we made our way back to the lookout.
The presence of wind I felt during our walk is what we find as a metaphor for the Spirit of God in our reading from The Acts of the Apostles. It is a striking image of the Spirit’s presence and movement in the lives of the early disciples.
Following the resurrection, they gathered to pray. Once fearful for their own lives, the disciples are now reassured by Jesus that they will be empowered by the Spirit to proclaim the good news that salvation is available to all and that the church exists to proclaim it. They return to Jerusalem and it was while they are gathered in a room that they felt the rush of a mighty wind sweep through the house where they were sitting. It was the “visible” sign of God’s presence in their lives and in the world.
The story of Pentecost is about how important the church is and how inseparable it is from Jesus. We are “reminded of who we are as the church, what we proclaim and the source of our proclamation. It is a message to the church from the church,” a message that is passed down through each generation. (Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster Press/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2009, page 4)
What becomes evident in the story of Pentecost is the church’s universality. The church does not belong to one congregation, denomination or cultural tradition.
The church belongs to everyone. The Statement of Faith that we share here at Keawalaʻi when we celebrate The Lord’s Supper makes reference to the universality of the church and its relationship to the power of the Spirit.
The statement acknowledges our faith in God’s saving action in the world by declaring: “You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues and races.” (The New Century Hymnal, The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1995, #885) It goes on further to say: “You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be your servants in the service of others, to proclaim the gospel to all the world . . . ”
Pentecost reminds us that while we gather as the church to worship and to be renewed as individuals, we also gather to be strengthened for the work of proclaiming our faith in Jesus Christ – it is a proclamation we are to make to the ends of the earth. How can that be?
Over the last decade, many of young adults left Maui to further their education. Some traveled to O’ahu, others to New York, Kentucky, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and California. Some like Eli Nygren studied and worked in Japan for a year returned to Oregon, graduated and just this year went back to Japan.
Within the last two years many who have been a part of our church family have also moved to be closer to family and for other reasons – to Arizona, Washington, Ohio, California, and other places across the U.S. This summer others have traveled or are traveling to other states and other countries including Aotearoa, Denmark, France, and Italy.
Like the tassels gathered in the fields on the slopes of Mauna Kahalawai that will be scattered by the trade winds, I have come to realize that there are those among us who will be scattered in places distant from this island. Wherever we may find ourselves we are called by God to proclaim our faith. Some of us may feel that the measure of our faith is small as a mustard seed – but the Bible makes clear that the seed of such faith is enough to move mountains.
For those of us for whom Maui is home, the question may be how are we to proclaim the gospel to all the world if we live in Wailuku or Kula or Pukalani? Two things come to mind. First, a few weeks ago when Joshua Nelson was with us sharing his music as an African American Jewish Gospel singer, I shared with you that the world has come to Mākena. As challenging as travel may still be for many today, there are greater opportunities for people to travel and so we welcome those who come to us.
Second, for several years we have looked at the ways in which we might strengthened our witness and proclamation through the use of technology. Before the end of year we hope to announce the first of an ongoing podcast of our Sunday morning worship service.
Members and friends throughout the U.S. and Canada and around the world will be able to share in our time of worship. Like the presence of the wind on the slopes of Mauna Kahalawai yesterday morning, so we give thanks for the presence of the Spirit in our lives and in our world.
Mahalo ke Akua. Amen.