Kahu's Mana‘o

Keawalaʻi Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)

Second Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 4, 2012
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika

“Living Legacy”
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 & Mark 8:31-38

By all accounts she was a remarkable woman. I met Auntie Jane a few years ago in Waiohuli on the slopes of Haleakalā not far from where we are as the nēnē flies but very far if you have to drive from Mākena to the east end of Kula.

Uncle Charlie from Waiheʻe called to say that Uncle Chunga from Kaupō wanted his Hawaiian Homestead house and lot blessed. Uncle Chunga was also known as Uncle Charlie and from what I was told they also shared the same last name at one time so Uncle Charlie from Waiheʻe changed his last name and Uncle Charlie from Kaupō became known as Chunga.

If all of this sounds a bit confusing, there is more to tell.

But first, the house in Waiohuli. Auntie Jane and Uncle Chunga’s son, Harry, would be the primary resident since they lived out in Kaupō tending to Uncle’s pipi or herd of cattle.

Auntie had a presence about her. Although she was already facing challenges to her health when we met, she was a strong woman and it was a strength that came from a life of hard times and hard work.

When Uncle Chunga was able to acquire more pastureland in Kaupō, I accepted his invitation to make the much, much longer journey pass Waiohuli, ʻUlupalakua, Kanaio, and Kahikinui. I knew it was going to be quite a drive so I decided to take Hanu along. He was still a puppy.

Unfortunately there is really no GPS available for that side of the island especially if one is looking for a pasture. I had to rely on Uncle Chunga’s direction – look for this fence and that water tank and the Catholic Church. I saw all three but couldn’t remember if he said it was before or after those landmarks and there were numerous driveways on the mauka and makai sides of the road.

I saw a young man coming out of a driveway in a black pick-up truck. “Aloha,” I said and then asked, “You know where Uncle Charlie’s place stay?”

The young man say, “Ah, no. I doh know.”

He drove off and I drove on further to Kaupō store. I asked the same question and the woman there said, “No, I donʻt know.” She asked other local area residents who were standing nearby and everyone shook their heads, “No.”

Then I suddenly realized, “How about Uncle Chunga?’” I asked to which she replied, “Oh! Why you nevah say so. Just go up and when you get near the Catholic church and the fence where get the water tank going get one road on the mauka side.”

I drove back and noticed the driveway where I met the young man in the black pick-up truck. I drove in about a quarter of a mile and noticed trucks and cars parked along the roadside. I was relieved and Hanu looked relieved.

Out in what one would assume to be the middle of nowhere was a tent filled with family and friends who gathered around tables. A barbeque was going. Children were running around. Others were still arriving.

I saw the young man whom I had met in the black pick-up truck. I smiled and said, “I was looking for Uncle Chunga.” “Oh,” he said smiling back. “Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” I replied.

I greeted Uncle Chunga and then went over to see Auntie Jane. Those who were at Waiohuli were out in the field that day in Kaupō and it occurred to me that the bonds of family and friends in a community like Kaupō are very, very strong.

Auntie sat there amid those who had gathered and had a commanding view of the guests who had come. I began to sense then why she was known as the Mama of Kaupō.

I received a call a few weeks ago that Auntie Jane was at Hale Makua in Kahului, a home care facility for those needing to undergo physical rehabilitation and for those who need 24-hour care. Auntie was not doing well. She was now bedridden.

Despite her declining health her strength of presence remained evident. “I thought I had more time,” she said, “But the doctors told me some stuff. No can do nothing. I just wish I had more time.”

Without hesitation she continued, “I worry about my husband and son. I told Harry that he was going to have to help his father. I made him promise he would do that.”

Auntie wanted more time, not for herself, but more time so she could say to those whom she loved to make things right. What I value in knowing Auntie Jane is what I shared with you not so long ago about someone else. But I will say this of Auntie Jane as well: What is important for us to remember is not how we die but how we live.

At her memorial service on Friday, Auntie Barbara Apo told stories about who Auntie Jane was and who she loved. If someone was down and out on their luck, Auntie took them in.

If someone needed some food, she would give them whatever she had even if it meant slipping a can of tomato sauce out the back kitchen door without letting Uncle Chunga know.

She took in those whom others would turn away. It didn’t matter if they were lepo or clean.

She loved to cook. Her lunch wagon became world famous. People read about her in travel books. They would come and have their hamburger and then sit and talk story with her for hours on end and then come back the next day for another hamburger, but mostly to talk story. Although everyone knew her as the Mama of Kaupō, some also knew her as the “Hamburger Lady.”

Her aloha extended not only to people but to the animals out in the ranching community of Kaupō. If there was a cow or a pig or a goat or horse that was sick, everyone said “Take ʻem to Jane.” She would take care of them and they always recovered.

What a remarkable life she lived. Yesterday she was laid to rest in the cemetery at Huialoha Church in Kaupō. Auntie Barbara said, “I knew her as a friend for fifty years of my life. I loved her. She loved us – all of you – her family, all of the children of Kaupō. She love the young and the old. Now she is gone and Kaupō will never be the same.”

I understood what Auntie Barbara was saying. It is true that because Auntie Jane is gone, Kaupō will never be the same. All will miss her physical presence. But a part of her lives on in those she loved and in those who loved her.

Some may wonder if Auntie Jane was a saint. It would seem she came pretty close to being one but if she was like any of us, we know about our own faults and shortcomings. It is likely that she had her own.

In her dying, she reminds us that what matters most in our living is that we live our lives every moment and every day in aloha, in love. We must create memories now that are filled with love so that when death comes the pain and sorrow we feel will, in time, give way to healing and joy.

But if we only make humbug, are hard head and filled our lives with pilikia, then ʻauwē, poho. Too bad, such a waste.

Yes, Auntie Jane is gone but we are here and her descendants are here. By living our lives now in love, in aloha - we become her living legacy.

The same could be said of Abraham and Sarah. In our reading from The Book of Genesis, we are reminded that Abraham is the ancestor of “a multitude of nations.” (Genesis17:4) As Christians we lay claim to Abraham and Sarah as our ancestors.

But we know that we share this claim with Jews and Muslims. We all count Abraham and Sarah literally or spiritually as our ancestors and we all recognize Abraham and Sarah’s line as a legacy of God’ grace. Which makes, if you will forgive me digressing, the current discussion among politicians in the United States, Iran and Israel all the more disheartening since we seem bent - not on affirming a living legacy - but on pushing ourselves toward another catastrophic war.

The Genesis story enshrines God’s grace to two women – Sarah and Hagar - the mothers through whom Abraham’s legacy descends. For the Jews that legacy will come through the birth of Isaac; for the Muslims it will come through the birth of Ishmael. In time we will lay claim to Abraham and Sarah as the kūpuna or ancestors of Jesus.

We remember the story of how Sarah was not able to bear Abraham a child. So as was the practice in their day and time, Sarah takes Hagar her Egyptian servant and gives her to Abraham as a wife. Hagar gives birth to a son and soon after the relationship between the two women deteriorates.

Sarah deals with her harshly. Hagar runs away with her son and in time God makes a promise to Sarah that she will bear a son. God makes a promise to Abraham that together with Sarah, they will be the ancestors of many nations. But God also makes a promise to Hagar, that she along with Abraham will become the ancestors of many nations.

We may look upon the relationship of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar and their squabbles and shake our heads. What was Sarah thinking by having Hagar serve as a surrogate for a child? What prompted Hagar to look upon Sarah with contempt? Why was Sarah so harsh in dealing with Hagar? And where was Abraham while all of this was going on?

In some ways, we have our own family squabbles to deal with.

Ironically it is out of the muck and mire of our human condition that the mystery and miracle of God’s grace is made transparent. Somehow despite ourselves, God seeks to point us to the way of love. Even Hagar is told to return to Sarah.

Auntie Jane lived and worked a hard life in Kaupō. But out of such a hard and difficult life, we have come to know about the love of one woman that touched the lives of so many.

Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Auntie Jane are no longer with us. By faith, they are all our ancestors. By faith, we are all their descendants and we know that if we live our lives in love – we become their living legacies.

As we gather around this table to share once more in the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup, we give thanks to the God who is the God of all generations. Mahalo ke Akua!

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