Keawalaʻi Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
The following sermon was presented at the 2012 Baccalaureate Service for the Kamehameha Schools Maui Campus on Friday, May 25, 2012. The sermon was based on the reading from Philippians 2:1-4 and the theme “Hoʻokahi I Ka Pilina: Coming Together, Working Together as One.”
“Hoʻokahi I Ka Pilina”
I was hānai to my tūtūkane at the age of three. I grew up with my grandfather in a household that included my auntie, three uncles, and five cousins. I attended kindergarten through fourth grade at Keauhou School and my fifth and sixth grade years at Konawaena Elementary School.
Around the age of eleven, my tūtū informed me that I would be taking “the test” to go to school on Oʻahu. I took the test and I managed to do well and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the Fall of 1961, I boarded a Hawaiian Airlines Convair flight for Honolulu. As we drove up to the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Campus I had no idea that the next six years would change my life forever.
Among one of the lasting memories I have of that time over forty years ago is sitting at the dining room table with the Rev. John Mulholland and his wife, Beulah. Rev. Mulholland was the Kahu of the Bishop Memorial Chapel.
As a boarding student we were required to attend chapel on Sundays. Over time I became accustomed to the hymns and prayers and to Kahu’s preaching. I wish I could tell you I remember every word of every sermon. I can’t.
But what I can tell you is I remember he was a kind and gentle man. He reminded me of the kūpuna in our families and communities who themselves are kind and gentle. There was a spirit about him, about them that was and is a spirit of kindness and gentleness, of tenderness and compassion.
The season of Easter comes to an end this week. This Sunday marks the start of the season of Pentecost - a time when we remember and celebrate - the birth of the Christian church in the first century.
We remember when the first day of Pentecost had come, Jesus’ disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit . . . (Acts 2:1-12)
At that moment I imagine they were all reminded of what Jesus had said to them not long before. Aware of his impending death, he said to the disciples: “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me.” (John 16:4-5) The disciples, fearful of the future, pleaded with him to remain with them.
The Spirit will guide you
But Jesus responded by saying, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the (Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send (the Spirit) to you. When the Spirit . . . comes, the Spirit will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:7, 11)
Jesus sought to reassure them by saying: “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you. When he said this, he breathed on them, (and said) ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22)
In the Baibala Hemolele or Hawaiian-language Bible what Jesus said is translated in the following way: “A pau kana ōlelo ana i kēia, hā iho la ʻoia iā lākou, i mai la i lākou, ‘E loaʻa iā ʻoukou ka ʻUhane Hemolele.’” (John 20:22) Jesus breathed on them, he passed on to them through his hā, through his breath the Spirit of God and it changed their lives forever. That Spirit is available to us to guide, protect, comfort, help and encourage us through all our days.
In one sense this service is a celebration of what you have been able to achieve individually as graduates and what you have been able to achieve collectively as the Class of 2012. Within the rising and the setting of sun over the next day, you will each step away from this familiar place and into a future of numerous possibilities.
In another sense this service is an acknowledgement that as you leave this place you will carry within you not only the knowledge you have acquired, but the wisdom that comes from knowing you will be sustained by the power and presence of God’s Spirit in your lives. It is God’s Spirit that will guide, protect, comfort, help and encourage you through all your days.
In our reading from The Letter of Paul to the Philippians, we are encouraged by the Apostle Paul to remember that the Spirit of God made known to us in Jesus Christ admonishes us to be not only one in mind but to also be one in spirit. Tomorrow you will be presented with a diploma that will certify the completion of your years of study.
Many of you will continue to further your own education. Others of you may choose to work. Some of you may choose a career in the military and others may choose to travel. Whatever you choose to do, may you be guided by the knowledge you have acquired here at Kamehameha and by the wisdom of God’s Spirit.
In the end, you may achieve great success in your careers. You may accumulate your share of wealth and possessions. You may receive acclaim and recognition for your talents and skills.
The measure of our lives
But the ultimate measure of your lives, of any of our lives will not be measured in how much we were able to achieve or accumulate, but in how much we loved and how much we were loved. The Apostle Paul is very clear about this - if there is any sharing in the Spirit, any tenderness and compassion, any kindness and gentleness - then let love be what binds us together in one mind and one spirit.
Let it be said of the members of the Class of 2012 Kamehameha Schools Maui Campus that they did nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. They did nothing just to puff themselves up. They were not hōʻoio or conceited. Let it be said that each of you valued others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but to the interests of others.
When I graduated from Kamehameha in 1967, we were engaged in a war in Asia and here at home others struggled over the social, economic, religious and political changes that swept across the U.S. and Hawaii. We had no laptop computers, no iPhones or iPads. There was no Facebook, Google or Amazon.com. It seems like such a long time ago.
Our aspirations are the same
Although times have changed and things have changed, what remains the same from generation to generation are the aspirations we all share for a life of meaning and purpose. As the years go by, our bodies grow older yet we hold fast to our hopes and dreams and in doing so, we remain young at heart. Hold on to your hopes and dreams.
A blessing and a benediction
Singer, songwriter, musician and artist Bob Dylan offers the words I want to share with you as a blessing and benediction. The lyrics come from the song “Forever Young” that he recorded in 1974 on his album Planet Waves. They are as pertinent today as they were almost four decades ago.
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
Refrain: May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
You are the sons and daughters of Hawaiʻi. You are the sons and daughters of Pauahi. You are all children of God.
Mahalo ke Akua. Thanks be to God. Amen.