Keawalai Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
Sunday, August 1, 2010
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
Family members, friends, neighbors and members of our church family gathered in this sanctuary on Friday morning to remember and celebrate the life of Auntie Caroline Kalama De Lima. Auntie Caroline was born on April 24, 1917 in Waikiki on the island of O’ahu.
She was hānai, raised and cared for by the Kauwekane family here on Maui. The Kauwekane home with Tūtū Lepeka and Grandpa Kauwekane was at Pauhoa in Kanahena, an area located midway between Mākena and Ke‘oneo‘i‘o.
In time the family built a home near Pu‘u Ola‘i. It was at their home at Pu‘u Ola‘i that Auntie Caroline grew up. In time, she married Uncle Abner De Lima and raised their family which included three sons and two daughters – Abner, John, Ashford, Erma and Carol. In later years Auntie and Uncle moved to Kahului. It was at their home in Kahului that Auntie Caroline died on July 20, 2010 at the age of 93.
When I drove in from Wailuku early Friday morning to begin setting up for her memorial service, I noticed a cloud bank that stretched from the slopes of Haleakalā over the channel towards Kaho‘olawe. The sky was gray filled with dark clouds.
I worried it might rain. Then I found myself thinking that the dark clouds were a sign that Akua, that God was mourning the passing of a remarkable elder of our church. By the time the hearse arrived carrying the casket in which Auntie Caroline lay, the morning sun broke through the clouds and a bright light flooded the church yard. Auntie was back.
I met Auntie Caroline twenty years ago on the first Saturday of December 1990. Earlier that summer I made the decision to return to Hawai‘i after living in Berkeley, California for sixteen years. I was on Oʻahu in June of that year visiting with several churches on Molokai, Hawaii island, and Oʻahu with the hope of being called to serve as pastor of one of the churches.
I was aware that Keawalaʻi was looking for a pastor but learned while in Honolulu that they had already interviewed and called someone. However, later in the year I received a telephone call letting me know that the person they had selected decided not to accept the call. So the position was open.
I met with Auntie Caroline and other members of the church at her home in Kahului for an interview. Part of the interview included my having to preach here at the church the following morning. By that afternoon I was on a flight back to California.
Before the year ended I received another telephone call. I was told that a decision was made and that the church wanted me to come and serve as their pastor. I let them know that I needed at least four weeks to prepare for the move back to Hawai‘i. That was acceptable to the committee and on Sunday, February 17, 1991 I stood at this pulpit for the second time.
I am grateful to Auntie Caroline and those who were at her home that night over twenty years ago. They took a risk in calling me to serve as their pastor. In many ways we barely knew each other. But I wanted to serve the church and they needed a pastor and the rest as they say is “history.”
Over the years that followed I came to appreciate Auntie Caroline’s commitment to the ministry of this church as a deacon. She was always here with Cori-Ann, her grand-daughter, to open the church doors and to make certain everything was in order for the day.
In all the years I knew Auntie Caroline, I never heard her utter an unkind word about anyone. She was ha‘aha‘a; she was humble in all her ways. If it is possible in my lifetime to become the kind of person she was then I will have lived a life worthy of the faith we share in Jesus Christ.
Auntie was not the kind of person who was interested in storing up possessions for herself. What mattered most to her was her care for others. In many, many ways she was a person who was “rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)
In our reading from The Gospel According to Luke Jesus cautions us to “Take care! Be on (your) guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Auntie would offer us all the same word of caution whether we are family to her by koko or blood or family to her by the faith we share.
In our reading a person comes to Jesus to settle a question about a family inheritance. But Jesus chooses not make a judgment. Instead he shows a new way of living as God’s people.
Greed is a problem because its focus on the self – what I want, what is mine, what belongs to me – keeps us from being “rich toward God” and rich toward others. This stands in sharp contrast to God’s care for all. (Feasting on the Word, Bartlett & Taylor, Year C, Volume 3, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2010, page 316)
In the parable of the rich man, there is “concern only for himself, not for his neighbors, for those who have no land to produce their own crops, for the alien, the widow, and the orphan . . . (Exodus 22:21-22) for any whose lives are at risk . . . ” (Ibid., page 312) The man in the parable is so self-centered . . . he cannot see beyond what he considers to be ‘his’ harvest, ‘his’ barns, and ‘his own life.’” (Op. cit.)
In many, many ways we are like the man in the parable. Some of us may protest and say we are not rich or wealthy. But one does not need to be rich or wealthy to be greedy. Nor does one need to be rich or wealthy to forget that God is creator and that our life and our living and all that we have belong to God. Whatever wealth or possessions we may accumulate in our lives will have no meaning or value to us when death comes our way.
Rather than set our hearts on an abundance of possessions, we are reminded by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1) We are to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth . (Colossians 3:2)
When family members and friends were invited to share a memory of Auntie Caroline, it was Auntie Lowaena Hau of Ka‘ahumanu Church in Wailuku who said that for Auntie Caroline, “church was always first” in her life. It was not about the church as a building or an institution. It was not about the church with its dogma and doctrines and about rules about what was right and wrong but about relationships; about our aloha for God and for others and ourselves. Auntie Caroline’s faith and faithful service to the church was the way in which she was “rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)
A pā‘ina or reception followed the memorial service. There was lots of food including poi, lomilomi salmon, kalua pig, squid lū‘au, poke, and haupia. Family members and others gathered around tables to share in the meal and talk and visit with each other.
A representative from the mortuary announced prior to the service that the burial would take place at the Maui Memorial Park in Wailuku at 2:00 p.m. Around 1:30 p.m. Auntie’s grandsons returned to this sanctuary to help guide and carry the casket to the hearse.
Just as that was occurring a gust of wind swept over the church yard. I looked up and saw the branches of the coconut trees swirling in the breeze. Kiawe leaves broke free and scattered in different directions.
Folks grabbed onto table cloths and napkins and other things to keep them from being swept away by the wind. Comments could be heard from many who were caught by surprise. Within a few seconds the wind stopped as abruptly as it began.
Ashford, one of Auntie Caroline’s sons, came over to where I was standing. He had a big smile on his face as I heard him say, “Kahu, did you feel mama pass by?” I smiled back and answered “Yes, I did.”
It was time! Auntie would soon be on her way. So the mantle has been passed on to us. The kuleana, the responsibility of the care of Christ’s church here in Makena and from the churches which others of you have come from is ours.
May we be rich toward God through our care for one another and for others. May we be faithful as Auntie was faithful that future generations may say of us “well done, good and faithful servants.”
We think of you today, Auntie Caroline, and as we think of you we set our “minds on things that are above, not on things that are earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Mālama pono. A hui hou!”
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