Sunday, February 23, 2020
Last Sunday, I watched with awe as this congregation put together and then delivered an incredible church service and a beautiful luau in honor of of our beloved Kahu. It was an enormous act of selfless love, that took untold hours of work and planning. The members of this ohana worked tirelessly to create a magical moment in time, and a celebration of 29 years of memories for every person present on that special day.
As I left the church grounds last Sunday, I began to contemplate in earnest the monumental, almost earth shifting change, we as an ohana were about to experience. Taka and I, anticipating some of the difficulty of that process, had deliberately planned a few days away on Kauai, the island of Taka’s birthplace. It is the place we go when we need the time to rest and prepare for transitions in our lives. We knew it was needed and we knew it would allow us the quiet we needed to process these monumental changes in our lives and the lives of our church family.
But as the timing of life would have it, Taka’s younger brother was there on Kauai as well. And that was a good thing. Taka’s younger brother Glenn is a minister, a social worker, and in the Harada family, he is considered to be the best of the family fisherman. Not that they will admit that in front of him of course, but they will say it behind his back. And that is no small feat to be the best fisherman in this family of expert fishermen. Glenn is also a gifted teacher, which turned out to be fortuitous for all of us on this weekend of transitions, because, as God’s timing would further have it on this weekend, there was a certain operatic tenor, who’s love of fishing rivals his love of music and Mr. Daniel Rodriguez, was not afraid to ask for time with the Harada brothers to learn how to “throw net,” once he’d finished his concert last Saturday evening. And so it was the four of us found ourselves at a place called Manji pond on the island of Kauai this last Monday morning.
You know, as often happens in times of transition and challenge, many things somehow come together, often miraculously, to provide the guidance and wisdom that is needed to navigate new and rough waters. This morning’s scripture passages appeared miraculously timed to speak to the transitions we face together as a family. In this scripture Jesus began to prepare his disciples for the inevitability of his death. But even more than that, he was determined that his disciples, his students, should learn that it is in the most difficult of times, in the greatest of upheavals, we are given an opportunity like no other - the gift of transformation. It is in when we find ourselves in seemingly unchartered waters, that we learn the power of transformation, and that it is a power far greater than even death. Death and change are not to be feared, if we truly understand the power of transformation he presents in this biblical story of transfiguration.
In this scripture this morning, three disciples, Peter, James and John, went up the mountain with Jesus. It is here that they witness a series of events that would’ve been enough to frighten any of us. As the disciples witness the transfiguration of Jesus where he is enveloped in light, a cloud enveloped them and from that cloud they hear a voice say “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. LISTEN TO HIM.”
At this point, more than a little overwhelmed, they fell face to the ground in complete terror. But Jesus leaned down to touch them and said “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” And when they gathered the courage to look up again, they saw no one except Jesus.
As we face one of the biggest transitions in our church’s recent history, we have been gifted today with a clear message from this week’s scripture, a clear formula - not just for how to make it through this process, but for how to make it through this process in a transformative way. A way that will propel us forward enveloped in God’s gift of love, grace and protection.
So I want to take a moment to look at this message - this formula - that is God’s gift for us this morning.
First: GET UP. I don’t know about you, but when I encounter change of this magnitude, the first thing I want to do is sit down. Maybe even figure out how I can prevent it. We can’t do that! Coaches in transformational psychology have often shared this very same wisdom. Step toward what you are fearful of, not away from it. Miraculously what we fear often shrinks when we step toward it, rather than away from it.
Second: LISTEN TO HIM. In the midst of change, we will hear a myriad of voices and LOTS of opinions. It is God’s guidance that will help us discern the voice of wisdom, both within and without. It is our job to “listen” and discern the wisdom of the teachers he places in our path, and the wisdom he speaks directly to our heart. God’ wisdom is ultimately anchored in love, and if love is not present in any message we receive, we have a right to question the voice we are hearing. LISTEN.
Lastly: DON’T BE AFRAID. I don’t know about you, but I have the gift of distractibility. And when I encounter change, my mind can fill up with fearful possibilities about all the ways things can go wrong. Fear is debilitating. It takes a singular focus to train our eyes on the goal, not on the distractions, and not on the fear. When we learn to keep a singular focus on the immediate present, there is no room for fear.
1. Get up. 2. Listen to him. 3. Don’t be afraid.
Last Monday morning, as I turned my iphone on to capture the day’s fishing events, I did not expect to capture a profound lesson. But it was there. Daniel had already had his first lessons in throw-net from Taka, and he very quickly mastered Taka’s lessons. In fact, he caught his first net of fish on Maui before ever going to Kauai. But the transformational lesson was about to happen on Kauai. It was not only a transformational fishing lesson, but as is Glenn Harada’s way, often unwittingly, it was a transformational life lesson.
Glenn asked Daniel to throw the net on the sand and watched him carefully. Then he said “Daniel, you are using your body weight to throw that net. It limits how far you can throw the net. There are lead weights on the bottom of that net. You can use your body weight to hurl them, or you can lower your body, swing the net behind you first, and THEN let the lead weights carry the net forward like a pendulum. In Glenn’s nonchalant way he said “It’s just basic physics. Let the moving pendulum of the weights carry that net into the air. You don’t have to.”
But then he added one more piece of wisdom. When you throw, your hand is holding the back of the net. It is like the fulcrum, if you hold it just a little longer as the lead weights carries the net forward, then you let go, it guides the net to open up in a perfect circle.
Daniel, gathered up his net as Taka had taught him, 1/3 over the shoulder, 1/3 in front of him, and 1/3 third in his other hand. But, this time, he lowered his body, swung the net behind him, then stepped forward and threw - the distance of that net doubled, and it landed in a perfect circle in the water.
What a perfect lesson in dealing with change. We can learn to flow with the pendulum of change as it swings forward, or we can dig in our heels and weight ourselves down, resisting change or using the force of our will to make it what we want it to be be, rather than what God intends. When we become untethered from God’s fulcrum, his guidance and wisdom, then the net, as the Harada’s would say, lands papaya - all funny kine - and the fish escape. That lesson was the gift of wise teacher.
But a wise teacher is only half of the successful equation. It takes a singularly focused student with the discernment of knowing how to both listen from deep within and recognize and connect with the wisdom without. Now I would’ve been sidetracked with wondering who I might accidentally hit with those lead weights, are there tourists watching me, am I gonna trip, my arm hurts, maybe I should take my slippers off. But not Daniel.
In this case, I saw a student with a singular focus. As singularly focused as he was with his music on Saturday night, so he was with that fishing net on Monday morning. Every characteristic our scripture talked about this morning was present in the student. He got up and walked toward change, not away from it. He recognized that particular voice of wisdom and he listened intently and with a singular purpose in mind. And lastly, he was not afraid. He clearly heard the message that you can step into the flow of energy and make a change that lands that net twice as far and twice as effectively. And he did exactly that. I am not surprised that Placido Domingo asked him to become his student.
But you see the beauty of these lessons this morning, is that mastering transformation isn’t just for the opera star. Each of us, this moment, is more than capable of remarkable transformation. Each of us bring gifts to the table that are unique to us, and that need to be developed, and nurtured, and that ultimately can be transformed if we are willing to go with the flow of energy and not against it. Not only are we capable of transformation, but we are being called to transformation, as individuals, and as a church family.
Last week, each of us worked together with a singular focus to create a service and a celebration that brought tears to the eyes of everyone there. That was not Kahu’s doing. That was each and everyone of you, who, with a singular focus, created a transformative experience. You see, that fulcrum, that centering power, that hand that guides the net into a perfect circle, runs through each of us. We stepped into that “pendulum of energy” together, and threw the net together, to create an extraordinary event. When together, we move forward with a singular focus, we attract everything we need to make Keawala’i a wondrous and spiritual place of worship.
You see it was only a few months ago, in August, while our Kahu was away on vacation, that Mr. Rodriguez came to this church. It was not Kahu, the one we often thought of as our franchise player, that impacted Mr. Rodriguez. He wasn’t here. It was you, the ohana of Keawala’i that he connected with. It is each one of you that help to create a spirit of such warmth and such love, that people like Daniel are drawn back, time and time again. It is your spirit of wisdom, your willingness to move forward with the pendulum of energy, that has made this a place of transformation for those who enter those doors. And it is because we’ve allowed God’s hand to work as the fulcrum in our lives as a family.
When Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure, he said something that was very, very powerful.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am.
But let me read that again in light of today’s lesson with a few added comments:
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me (listens) will (get up) do the works I have been doing, and (not being afraid and with singular focus) they will do even greater things than these, because I am (the fulcrum).
May this beloved family continue to keep God’s hand as its fulcrum. May we each be willing to move with, not resist, the pendulum of change, and may we maintain a singular focus in perpetuating God’s love and in pursuing the power of God’s transformation in our lives together as ohana, and as the ministry of Keawala’i. For it is in that way, that we preserve the miracle that is Keawala’i. Amen