Keawala’i Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
“The Promise of the Spirit”
Donna Barion was my eighth grade teacher when I was a student at the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Campus on the island of O‘ahu in 1962. Back then she was known by her maiden name and so we knew to address her as Ms. Borgnes.
I have my school yearbook at home. Whenever I look at our class photograph I am reminded of what she looked like over forty years ago. Her hair was a very, very bright blond and her lipstick was almost always a very, very bright red.
I remember her as a stylish and impeccable dresser. Her jewelry was always color-coordinated with what she wore. If she wore a red skirt, she would wear red earrings – the kind that dangled or the kind that would be clipped on - and a red bracelet – big and wide. Sometimes she would wear several bracelets at one time. If she wore a yellow or a green blouse, the color of her jewelry would be the same.
About two years ago I received an email from a classmate living in Florida letting me know that Ms. Borgnes, now Mrs. Barion, was planning a trip to Hawai‘i. She decided she was going to make an effort to track down and visit as many of us as she could who were students in her eighth grade class.
She stopped by one day here at the church and we had a chance to talk. She had already visited several of my classmates. It was good to see her again and to hear her speak so fondly of those of us who were her students.
In March of this year I received a card from her along with a few photographs of those she had met during her visit. She now lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Along with the card and photographs were six essays that I had written during the 1962-1963 school year.
Although I do not remember writing them the evidence is there – in my own handwriting and with my own signature. The visit with Mrs. Barion reminded me that our memories often provide us with lasting images of those we have known in our lives.
In many ways what I initially remembered about her – her hair, her dress, her jewelry, her lipstick – are superficial memories. It was during our visit that I remembered that she was also a very kind and compassionate teacher. It occurred to me after our visit that it was her kindness and compassion that brought us back into one another’s lives.
the back side of the photographs she sent of herself with my classmates
were a few notes she had written: “Mel is a math teacher; Dana received
a degree in education; Darlene and her husband are involved in work with
the homeless.” As students of Kamehameha we were always reminded
that in establishing a school for the education of Hawaiian children, it
was Princess Pau‘ahi’s vision that all of us would become “good and
industrious men and women.”
Such a vision has come to fruition because of Mrs. Barion and other teachers. Their kindness and compassion is what mattered most.
Monica Simone ‘ānela Medrano, Riley Hunter Kanoa Yap and Ryan Alika Brem have all graduated from high school this year. They were all “born and raised” in our church and will soon be on their way to college in the fall – Monica and Kanoa to the University of Nevada – Las Vegas and Ryan to California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.
Like all of us Monica, Kanoa and Ryan have sat at the foot of their own teachers – whether it was in preschool, kindergarten, elementary school or high school. They have also sat at the foot of their Sunday School teachers here at Keawala‘i. What lessons have they learned? What lessons have we learned from those who have been our teachers?
In some ways the eleven disciples who gathered on a Palestinian hillside with Jesus in the days after the resurrection were about to “graduate” themselves. They had spent three years with their teacher and now watched in amazement as Jesus disappeared from their presence.
What were they to do now that he was gone? It seems there was yet another lesson to be learned. They returned to Jerusalem and went to the place they were staying to join others including Mary the mother of Jesus and other women. In the days that followed they learned the value of staying together and praying together.
They remembered what Jesus had said to them: “ . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7) But what was it that they were to bear witness to? If we are to be his witnesses in our day and time, what is it that we are to bear witness to?
In his own moment of prayer for the disciples and others, Jesus said: “Give eternal life to all whom you have given (to me) . . . and this is eternal life, that they may know you . . . Now they know that everything you have given me is from you.” (John 17:2-3, 7)
To know God is to know kindness and compassion. It is this kindness and compassion, this love, this aloha that they were to bear witness to in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8) It is this kindness and compassion, this love, this aloha that we are to bear witness to the ends of the earth.
It is something more easily said than done. We cannot do it alone. It is something that we must do together.
The Rev. Dr. Randall Mixon is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Palo Alto, California. We were classmates in seminary over thirty years ago in Berkeley, California. He was registered as a seminarian at the American Baptist Seminary of the West and I was registered at Pacific School of Religion.
Rick made the following observation about our reading from The Acts of the Apostles: “It is not enough to go it alone. They (the disciples and others) met, traveled and worked together. We too must meet, travel and work together in Christ’s name. We need each other’s witness and support, challenge and care, in order to live into the possibilities and expectations of God’s realm.”
“This text,” Rick adds, “calls Christians to be both Great Commandment people – loving God with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves; and Great Commission people – carrying the good news of God’s love in Christ to the ends of the earth.” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2010)
We do not do it alone but together as the Body of Christ, as the church. We do not do it alone but with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Our view of education may be vocational in the sense that we are expected to prepare ourselves for a career that will mean securing gainful employment once we graduate from college. The questions come our way as college students: What is your major? What kind of work do you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?
But vocation in the truer sense of the word is more than securing a job. It is instead a calling of the kind of person or people we hope “to become.”
My word to Monica, Kanoa and Ryan and to all of us this day is this: That we become people of kindness and compassion whatever our life’s work may be; that we will be sustained by the memories we carry with us of family, church, school, and community; that we will be strengthened by the kindness and compassion of teachers past and teachers yet to come.
Mahalo ke Akua. Amen.
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