Sunday, May 22, 2016
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
In 1983 an extraordinary book was published by Bishop Museum Press in Honolulu. The late Mary Kawena Pukui, a noted Hawaiian linguist and scholar, is credited with the collection, translation and annotation of ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings.
Pukui was officially appointed to the staff of the Bishop Museum as a “Translator” of the Hawaiian language in 1937. Late that year, she spoke to the Hawaiʻi Anthropological Society on “Old Hawaiian Newspapers.”
She commented: “In 1865 the realization that Hawaiian legends and facts of old Hawaiian life would be lost unless recorded led some in Honolulu to form a society called, “Ka Ahahui ʻImi I ka Mea Kahiko o Hawaiʻi nei,” or “The Society Seeking to Save Hawaiian Folklore” – a Hawaiian Anthropological Society as it were. S.M. Kamakau, (a Hawaiian historian), wrote to The Nūpepa Kūʻokoʻa, (the Hawaiian language newspaper with the longest publication history) urging his fellow-Hawaiians to record all they knew...”
As a result of Pukui’s own work it is said that “there can be little question that (she) did her utmost to follow that urging. (Her) Grandmother Poʻai and parents Paʻahana and Henry all still live on in her work. She took their gifts of lore and tradition and poetry, saved them, and documented and preserved them to be left in ʻPauahi’s house - (at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum) for those who will follow.” ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings, Mary Kawena Pukui, Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, 1983, page xvi)
Among the sayings recorded by Pukui is the following: “Ka lama kū o ka noʻeau. The standing torch of wisdom. It is said in admiration of a wise person.” (Ibid., Helu 1430, page 155)
That admiration of Wisdom is what permeates our reading from The Book of Proverbs. In our reading Wisdom is personified as a woman. As such Wisdom is not an actual person but an abstract trait or characteristic we may ascribe or attribute to a God who is “the standing torch of wisdom.”
The Book of Proverbs like ʻŌlelo No‘eau contains a series of proverbial sayings, admonitions, and exhortations. The collection of poems in Proverbs, especially chapters 1 through 9 include Wisdom instructions in chapter 8 that are regarded as examples of Israelite Wisdom thought in much the same way that the collection of poems in ʻŌlelo No‘eau that are examples of early Hawaiian Wisdom thought.
Our reading this morning has Wisdom herself speaking, primarily to give the reasons why we should listen to her voice and attend to her ways. She “recommends herself because her words are true and valuable (vv.6-11), she has qualities to be desired (vv. 12-16), and she can be trusted to reward those who follow her (vv. 17-21). In this context, verses 22-31 give “the final reason for attending to Wisdom: she was the first of God’s creation.” (Preaching Through the Christian Year C, Craddock, Hayes, Holladay & Tucker, Trinity International Press, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1994, page 280)
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. It is not so much a day for explanations as it is a day for reflection on the mystery of the fullness of God as Creator, God as Messiah and Lord, Savior, Liberator, known to us in Jesus Christ; and God as Holy Spirit. (When We Gather:A Book of Prayers for Worship – Year C, James G. Kirk, The Geneva Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1985, page 84) It is a day of reflection for the ways in which we have come to understand that Wisdom is a trait or characteristic of God and of Jesus who grew and became strong filled with Wisdom. (Luke 2:40)
More especially it is a day for reflection on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our world. Central to our celebration is Wisdom’s assertion that she was the first of God’s creation and present with God during the creation. (Preaching Through the Christian Year C, Craddock, Hayes, Holladay & Tucker, Trinity International Press, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1994, page 280)
Biblical scholars have noted that “in pointing out that Wisdom was created first, and stressing the creative power of God, the poem dwells at length, and with genuine joy, on the wonders of the created world.” These include the earth itself (v. 23), the waters of both oceans and springs (v. 24), mountains and hills (v. 25), land (v. 26), the heavens and the sky (v.27), the and the boundaries for the waters and the earth’s foundations (v. 28). (Op. cit.)
The poet marvels at the wonders of the world and so do we. While Wisdom was present with God during creation, we also know that from the very beginning, it was the Spirit of God who moved over the face of the waters and brought creation into being (Genesis 1:2). We know that it was the Spirit that came to Jesus at his baptism to strengthen and sustain him (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22) throughout his life. And we know it was in the days following the resurrection of Easter that Jesus appeared to the disciples and breathed on them and he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
As we begin this season of Pentecost, our reading from The Gospel According to John reminds us that the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of the early disciples and in our lives is defined. The Spirit leads us in the way of God’s truth.
The Spirit declares what is to come, guiding us to behold God’s glory and might. The Spirit takes what Jesus proclaimed and turns that message into relevant guidance. Through the Spirit, God’s love in Christ is eternally known.” (When We Gather: A Book of Prayers for Worship – Year C, James G. Kirk, The Geneva Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1985, page 84)
If all of this sounds a bit “heady” this morning, Pukui would have us remember that the Hawaiian word for Wisdom is naʻauao. (Hawaiian Dictionary, Pukui & Ebert, University of Hawaiʻi Press, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, 1986, page 257) It literally means “daylight mind” – not here (in our heads) but here in our naʻau (in intestines or guts). Wisdom is not simply what we think. It is also what we feel – about our lives, about our world, about our relationship with God.
Let us pray: Creator God, you are the Light of the world. We bring to you the passing cares of this day and the deeper cares of our lives and those we love. Breathe peace on all that stirs within us and around us. Breathe peace into every troubled place and every troubled heart. Shine on us, in us and through us. You are, O God, the Source, Word, and Wisdom of our lives. We give you thanks. Ke mahalo nei mākou iā ʻoe. Amen.