Seventh Sunday of Easter
Festival of the Christian Home • Mother's Day
Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
My mother saved them – they were stamps. They were perforated with a gummed reverse. My mother accumulated the stamps whenever she went shopping.
She would moistened the reverse side and mounted them in books that contained 24 pages and to fill one page required fifty points, so each book contained 1200 points. Once filled the books could then be exchanged for premiums, including housewares and other items.
My mom said they were Gold Bond Stamps. In other places they were known as Green Stamps. Although we did not have a local Green Stamps store or access to a catalog, we knew about Green Stamps too.
I did not realize until years later – in fact until just yesterday when I “googled” Green Stamps - that they were trading stamps made over a fifty year period from 1930s to 1980s. They were distributed as part of a rewards program operated by Sperry & Hutchinson Company founded in 1896 and were formally known as S&H Green Stamps.
Their popularity gave rise to many other stamps including the Gold Bond Stamps that my mother collected. References to the Green Stamps began popping up in popular culture during the 1960s. In March 1969, Don L. Lee published a poem in Ebony magazine that finished with the sentence: “Jesus saves, Jesus saves, Jesus saves – S&H Green Stamps.” (Ebony, March 1969)
Someone else tells the following story: “My brother walked past a long-haired hippie in the 1970s with a placard that read ‘Jesus Saves.’ My brother asked him, “Green stamps?’”
In both instances, the sarcasm is blunt but gentle. It was not so the first time I heard someone say “Jesus saves” to which someone else replied, “Oh, yeah, what? Green stamps?”
The answer may be that “Jesus saves.” But the question is: “What does Jesus save us from?
In our reading from The Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16:16-34), a jailer approaches Paul and Silas and asks, “What must I do to be saved?” Whenever the question is asked - whether by a jailer or anyone else - the counter question is “Saved from what?”
It requires a personal answer because it is a personal question. Such questions may include: What must I do to be saved from what destroys me – whether it is an addiction or emptiness or boredom? (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky 2009, page 524) What must I do to break the chains from which I am bound; that I may be saved from being consumed by hurt or pain; jealousy or bitterness; sorrow or despair?
We may be inclined to simply say that our souls need saving. But there are things going on in all of our lives every day that are far more visceral. A father and son are estranged from one another. No one can remember how it happened or why.
A daughter has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. A son is bipolar.
Divorce seems the only option for a troubled marriage. Is it too late to save the marriage?
An unexpected death of a loved one occurs. A friend commits suicide. The loss and the grief are too much to bear.
We find ourselves facing the inevitability of our own mortality as our own health declines – the knees go, the hips go; the diagnosis is cancer or diabetes – and we find ourselves praying.
In 1967 Fred Pratt Green wrote the lyrics to the hymn “O Christ, the Healer, We Have Come.” Verse two reads: “From every ailment flesh endures our bodies clamor to be freed. Yet in our hearts we would confess that wholeness is our deepest need.”
It could also be said from every ailment we endure it is also our minds and spirits that yearn to free. On a day such as this we come to receive the anointing of oil for our loved ones; for ourselves; for those whom we may not even know so that salvation, that healing may indeed come to each one. We offer a blessing with the oil from the kukui nut out of a koa bowl.
The kukui - a symbol of light. The koa - a symbol of strength. In a moment we will invite those of you who wish to come forward to do so.
You will be asked to name the person or persons for whom you wish a word of blessing to be offered. You may include yourself. The anointing will follow and a prayer will be offered for “light and strength.”
Mahalo ke Akua. Thanks be to God.