Third Sunday After Pentecost
Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika

“What We Perceive”

1 Samuel 15:34-16:30 & Mark 4:26-34

I first met Goldie many, many years ago when she played keyboard with a group of Hawaiian musicians. Robert played the ‘ukulele. Wayne played the guitar and Patty played the stand-up base.

Many of our nā kūpuna or elders - Auntie Mele, Auntie Bea, Uncle Donald, Auntie Jackie, Auntie Eleanor –who were living at the time knew them well. Goldie, Robert, Wayne and Patty shared their music with us many times at our annual lūʻau held each year in March. Robert and Wayne almost always sang in the falsetto style. Over time, Goldie offered her kōkua by playing the piano for us during our Sunday morning worship services.

It was in those days when we had no organist or pianist. We would often begin our services with an invitation. “If anyone knows how to play the piano, please come and play for us as we sing our hymns.”

It was because I remembered Goldie playing the keyboard at our lūʻau that I asked her if she would come and play piano for us. She agreed. In many ways Goldie was a God-send.

Although she was unable to read music, Goldie played by “ear” but in only one key. She played our piano in a style that I would say was Hawaiian – in rhythm and in tempo and with the kind of embellishments that would include runs up and down the keyboard.

Each Sunday she would arrive dressed for church – always with her hair up and with a flower or two in her hair. When one of the aunties whispered in my ear one day to tell me that Goldie was a man, I told her that I already knew.

Goldie dressed as a woman and he lived his life as a woman. That is who Goldie was to me and to those who knew her.

She died several years ago. I felt sad when I heard the news knowing we had lost a good and dear friend of our church family.

In the years that followed Danny, our organist, came to us. It happened when Goldie was no longer able to play for us because of other commitments. Danny was here one Sunday morning when the familiar invitation was given: “If anyone knows how to play the piano, please come and play for us as we sing our hymns.” With Danny’s help Stephen also found his way to us to become our choir director. By the time Stephen arrived Ellen, our pianist was already here.

I am not sure if others wondered about Goldie. She was a very tall woman. It was hard not to notice her ehu or reddish brown hair. Whether or not others perceived her as a woman, what matter most to those of us who knew her was Goldie was as a human being. She had a very kind and gracious heart.

Our reading from the First Book of Samuel is a lesson about perception – about what we see and about what God sees. We looked at the early years of the monarchy in ancient Israel last Sunday.

Our story continues today with the call and anointing of David as the new king. Saul was chosen to be the first king of Israel. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel with great fanfare.

But the rejoicing quickly turned to disappointment as Saul repeatedly disobeyed the commands of God (1 Samuel 15:11). Because of this God sought to replace Saul with a new king.

Samuel is called upon to discover who God wishes to appoint as Saul’s replacement. He is sent to the house of a man named Jesse in Bethlehem. He is told that the new king will be one of Jesse’s sons.

Samuel is wary of Saul. He is convinced that Saul may suspect his intentions and try to kill him. God instructs Samuel to treat the time spent with Jesse as a religious gathering.

He is told to bring a heifer for a sacrifice. He is also told to invite Jesse and his sons as well as the elders of the city. The hope is that this that would temper any suspicions Saul may have of his visit.

When Jesse and his sons arrive for the sacrifice, Samuel is aware a new king is to be found among Jesse’s sons. Beginning with Eliab, his eldest son, Samuel asks God if he is to be the newly appointed king. Although Eliab’s appearance is favorable, he is not the one.

Others are brought before Samuel including Abinadab and Shammah, neither of whom is chosen. Four others are presented but none are chosen.

Samuel is aware that God intends to pick one of Jesse’s sons and it is then that he asks, “Are all your sons here?” (1 Samuel 16:11). Jesse responds by telling Samuel one more son remains. He is the youngest and he is a shepherd.

It turns out that David had a ruddy complexion. He had beautiful eyes and he was handsome.

But Samuel makes clear that God did not look upon David’s outward appearance but on his heart. Samuel comes to realize that God does not see as we see. We look upon outward appearances, but God looks on the human heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

The Hebrew and Greek word for heart occurs in the Bible over a thousand times. By definition some say the heart is a person’s center for both physical as well as emotional-intellectual and moral activities. Sometimes it is used figuratively for something that may be inaccessible.

The understanding of the heart as what is hidden is reflected in our reading from Samuel. The heart of a king such as David may be unsearchable to us (Proverbs 25:3), but the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God searches all hearts to reward all according to their conduct (Jeremiah 17:10).

As God looked upon the heart of David, so God looked upon the heart of Goldie. I know there are some who may feel uncomfortable, very uncomfortable and even perhaps even resentful to suggest there was anything comparable in the anointing of a shepherd boy as the king of a nation with a piano-playing man who lived his life dressed as a woman.

It is true that the shepherd boy David is anointed by the elders as the warrior king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. David defeats the enemies of Northern Kingdom of Israel slaughtering the Philistines, Moabites, Edomites, Syrians and Arameans. He is held in high regard.

Yet we know in time David will commit adultery with Bathsheba and plot the death of her husband. As a consequence of his sins, his own ʻohana or family members would suffer.

David understood that no amount of reformation of his character would be enough to make right what he done. When he cries out to God, “Create in me a clean heart,” scholars recognize that he did not use the Hebrew word yatzar which means to “fashion” or “form” something from pre-existing material. Instead he used the word bara, a verb exclusively used to refer to God’s creation of the cosmos (Genesis 1:1). But at least while at Jesse’s house that day, God looked on the heart of a young shepherd boy and saw in him a king to be anointed.

The Hawaiian word for heart is naʻau. It literally translated into English as “intestines, bowels, guts.” It may be a bit more graphic than the Hebrew or the Greek, but it is also inclusive of the understanding that the heart is center of the physical, mental and spiritual life of our ancestors.

It is the place of the mind and the soul. It is the place of knowledge and thinking. It is the place of emotions and passions. It is the place of memory and conscience.

David’s prayer is about the cleansing of his naʻau. Despite whatever some may feel about Goldie and choice he made to live his life as a woman, next to David I would say she was a saint.

The lesson for us this morning is clear. We are not to look upon the appearance or on the height and stature of a person; for the God does not see as we see; we look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God looked on the heart of David. God looked on the heart of Goldie. If that is true then God also looks upon all of our hearts.

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