Seventh Sunday of Easter
Sunday, June 1, 2014
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
I think it’s because of my mother that I tear up very easily whenever I watch a movie with even the slightest emotional content. I think it is a trait that I inherited from her. It’s probably genetic; somehow coded in my DNA or it may be a learned behavior from having observed her crying in front of the television – sometimes out of the sorrow of the moment; sometimes out of joy.
My wanting to ascribe such a trait to my mother is a feeble attempt to deal with what happens when I find myself sitting in a movie theater surrounded by others. A darkened scene comes up and it is evident that the climax is meant to cause everyone to shed tears.
If you are like me, you pretend that there is something in your eye or if your nose starts to run you start scratching as if you have an itch. The darkened scene – whether at night or in the shadows of the day – is usually followed by a screen lit up by the lights of a room filled with people or by a brilliant sunlit sky.
No amount of scratching can conceal what the director of the movie intended. So to avoid such moments, I am a little more selective about the movies I see in a theater. But in the privacy of my own home and in front of my own television, it’s not a problem.
“The Color of Rain” is a Hallmark Movie Channel Original movie based on a true story that aired yesterday and I managed to catch most of it in the early evening. The notes describing the movie included the following:
“When Matt Kell, husband and father to two young boys succumbs to terminal cancer on Christmas Day 2005, his widow, Gina, is left to cope with the pain of his loss. Wanting to be close to her kids, Gina starts to volunteer at their elementary school and meets the Spehn children, Jack, Danny and Charlotte.
In a tragic coincidence, just weeks after Matt’s death, the Spehns’ mom, Cathy, was also suddenly taken by cancer, leaving her distraught husband, Michael to care for their three kids on his own. Sensing the hopelessness in Michael that she so recently saw in herself, Gina reaches out to him and his kids and the two families begin to forge an unlikely friendship. During the year that follows, the lives of the two families become intertwined as they learn to lean on each other beginning to heal with laughter, compassion and faith.” (www.hallmarkmoviechannel.com)
But the healing does not come so easily. Other family members and friends think that Gina and Michael are moving too quickly in their “new” relationship and that they have not allowed enough for themselves or their children to grieve. Troubled by what others are saying, both Gina and Michael, decide that it may be best for both families to step back from spending time together.
There is a scene in which Gina plays a video recording that Matt recorded for their two sons so that when they are older they can watch and listen to what he hopes will guide their lives. Gina knows that it is important to Matt that the boys are aware of their father’s care and love, even though he will not be alive to speak to them in person as they grow up.
In a way our reading from The Gospel According to John provides us with an account of Jesus’ most urgent hopes for his disciples in the same way that Matt sought to convey his most urgent hopes to his sons. It is not a video recording that Jesus leaves behind but a prayer meant to be heard by his disciples then and by us today.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Ramsay, Professor of Pastoral Theology & Pastoral Care at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth, Texas writes: “For (Jesus) the culmination of his work is that we know God through his life and ministry. His final hopes are not a celebration of himself, but the recognition that this life and ministry are windows into God’s love and saving purposes. So, Jesus prays that people will come to know God through him.” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2010, pages 539-540)
Jesus offers an intimate prayer. It is a prayer that comes prior to his arrest while he is with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. In spite of the suffering that is to come, Jesus’ prayer focuses on unity and for the disciples to be blessed in their work. (Seasons of the Spirit, SeasonsFUSION, Lent/Easter 2014, Wood Lake Publishing, 2013, page 182)
Our reading from The Gospel According to John raises the question for the early disciples: “How do we move forward?” The power in Jesus’ prayer is his request that God will protect the disciples (the church) and keep them (it) unified.
It is a fervent and hopeful prayer that the disciples will not be divided in vision or purpose. The emphasis on unity does not mean that they are all expected to agree but that they will recognize that what unites them – God’s love – is far greater than what divides them.
“The Color of Rain” is the name not only of the movie but the name of the book written by Michael & Gina Spehn that has found its way onto The New York Times best seller list. Gina said, “It’s been a very, unexpected journey. We didn’t know where this was going to go. When set out to write a book, it was in part because we need to get this down for our children. And in part for ourselves, as part of our healing process,” she explained.
“But it took off. It grew wings and took flight on its own. And we know, our faith tells us, that it’s God’s hands working through our lives.” (www.wxyz.com)
As for the movie Gina said, “There are things that go into the movie that didn’t really happen in our lives that they create for the sake of movie-making. But . . . I thought they were able to capture the essence of the story, which is a hope-filled story, and a story of real love and what it means to, as Michael says, grow new hearts. To me, that’s what’s it’s all about, loving people well.” (www.wxyz.com)
As the Easter season comes to an end, the question for the early disciples is a question we must ask for ourselves. How do we move forward as the church here in Mākena?
Like the early disciples, we wait and we pray again to be strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) to be his witnesses in South Maui, in all of Central Maui and West Maui, in Upcountry and “to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) We join with other churches near and far as we go out into the world secure in the knowledge of God’s love. We go out into the world, called as witnesses to a hope-filled story of loving people well; of growing new hearts.