Sunday, September 15, 2019

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

"Where is your mountain?"

Rev. Kealahou Alika

Exodus 34:29-35 & Luke 9:28-36

Ua kapa ia ko 'u inoa 'o Kealahou Alika. Ku 'u 'one hiinau o Kealakekua, Kana i ka moku 'o Keawe. My name is Kealahou Alika. I was born in Kealakekua, Kona on the island ofHawai'i Hazel Ko'ohoiku'uwehilani Alika and Tsugio Kitsuki. I am their first born son.

I was hanai to my maternal grandfather at the age of 3 and grew up under his care in the area known as Keauhou mauka on the slope of Hualalai. Hualalai is the third most active volcano on the island. Its peak stands 8,721 feet above sea level. Because we lived on the slope of the mountain, it was difficult to see its peak. But we were always aware of its presence.

Some say the mountain carries the name of the ahupua'a or land division known as Hualalai. Others say it was the name of the wife ofHawai'i Loa, the early navigator who found his way to our islands. Some say it is a name that identifies the mountain as a part of the five volcanoes that gave birth to the island. Of the five mountains, Hualalai is considered the middle child.

Hualalai, like Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Kohala and Mauna A Wakea, are all wahi kapu or sacred places in much the same way that we would speak of Haleakala and Mauna Kahalewai here on Maui. That understanding of the mauna should not surprise any of us who are Christians.

Our readings from The Book of Exodus and the Gospel According to Luke remind us that the transfiguration of Moses on Mt. Sinai and the transfiguration of Jesus on Mt. Tabor established the sacredness of both mountains - a sacredness that is ascribed to mountains around the world by different peoples and cultures.

In early July, thousands of Native Hawaiians and others gathered at the base of Mauna a Wakea to demand the protection of the mountain as a wahi kapu. One might conclude too quickly that those who gather at the base of Mauna a Wakea are there to protest the construction of a thirty-meter telescope.

What is happening on Mauna a Wakea is "not an issue of culture versus science. And it's not entirely about the Thirty Meter Telescope or any one telescope." The issue is about the continued mismanagement [or careless stewardship] of the mountain by State of Hawai'i and the University of Hawai'i (Ka Wai Ola: The Living Water, 'Aukake (August) 2019, Vol. 36, No. 8, pages 14-15). For our Hawaiian ancestors and descendants, the mauna is where Wakea, sky father, met Papa Hānau Moku, earth mother. It was through Wakea and Papa that the islands of Hawai'i were born.

There are cultural sites on the mountain including a sacred lake, significant burial sites and a historic quarry where stone tools were made ("Why Are Native Hawaiians Protesting Against a Telescope?" Meghan Miner Murray, The New York Times, July 22, 2019).

Kapu aloha is the movement to protect the mountain. Those gathered at the mauna are the ku kia'i - the protectors not protestors - of the mountain. While the immediate aim for many is to halt the construction of the telescope, the intention is to bring wider attention to the stewardship and care of the mountain.

Over the last three decades, management plans for the mountain have been woefully lacking in producing "a new comprehensive plan that updates the limit of astronomy development that appropriately balances science with the protection of the mountain's natural and cultural resources" (Op. cit.)

Mahealani Uchiyama is the Kumu Hula of Halau Ka Ua Tuahine. She is also the founder and director of a center for international dance located in Berkeley, California. There was a time many, many years ago when I was much younger that I had an opportunity to one of her haumana in what was then known as Hula Pa Hula 'O Lei Anuenue.

Kumu returned to Maui with the haumana of Halau Ka Ua Tuahine to participate in Ku Mai Ka Hula, the international hula gathering that was held at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center yesterday. Several years ago, when Kumu first brought her haumana to the gathering, we were able to sit down over lunch on a previous visit. At that point we had not seen each other in over twenty years.

She was kind and generous in gifting me with several compact discs that she had recorded. On one of the CDs, there was a recording with a voice-over that asked three questions: "Where is your mountain? What is your river? How did you come here?"

My hunch is that that if we were to answer the questions for ourselves, we would find that the mountains and rivers of our lives have shaped who we are today and I would also venture to say that the mountains and the rivers know that however different we may be from one another - the languages we speak, the music we sing, the dances we dance - we all come from the same source.

The photographs on the cover of your worship bulletin feature two familiar sites here on Maui. The Wailuku photograph is of Mauna Leo, the higher of the two peaks, at the entrance of 'lao Valley. The Kahakuloa photograph features Pu'u Koa'e - the high cliffs where the koa'e birds gather.

Whether we speak of mauna or the pu'u, there is a sense in which we find ourselves transformed by God's - amazing grace - in such wahi kapu. There is a sense that in such places we are transfigured by the light of God's love.

What happened on the mauna we call Sinai centuries ago was the giving of the law to the prophet Moses. It was a law given to govern the lives as a people. What happened on the mauna we call Tabor was the giving of a new law to the kumu Jesus.

A lawyer asked Jesus a question one day to test him. "Teacher [Kumu,] which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus said to the lawyer, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:34-40).

It was and is the law of aloha.

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