Sunday, January 5, 2020

Second Sunday After Christmas

"ʻOliʻoli : Joy"

Rev. Kealahou Alika

Ephesians 1:13-14 & John 1:10-18

I passed by Mary one morning along the sidewalk just outside the makai door as we were about to begin our time of worship. I knew that she and Willard were about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary and so I offered a few congratulatory words and added, “How wonderful it is that you’ve been married for 60 years!”

At the time, they had been married longer than I had been alive. They were both faithful members of our church.

Willard had a workshop in his garage. I was told that not all of the pews we have in our sanctuary came pew holders. It was Willard who took on the task of constructing the holders that were needed.

I had an opportunity one evening to sit down with them over dinner at their home in Maui Meadows. During the visit, it became apparent that they were “joined at the hip.” Yes, they were husband and wife. But they were also mother and father and grandfather and grandmother.

When I congratulated Mary on their 60 years of marriage, she looked at me and with a slight grin said, “Well, Kahu, you know it hasn’t been all good!” as if to say a lot can happen in 60 years. Whatever may have happened over those years, it was very, very clear that they were now friends and companions to one another and that amid the struggles and the changes, their “flesh and blood” relationship brought great joy to their lives. Willard and Mary are no longer with us. But the memory of the joy they had become to one another is a memory I now cherish.

A few days ago I came across a story that, at first, seems an unlikely example of the joy we may experience in our everyday lives. But as I read the story several times over, it reminded me that joy is to be found in the “flesh and blood” relationships we share with others.

This is the story: “Dobson, an American aikiko student, was riding the subway in Japan when a drunk and belligerent laborer boarded the train and began harassing passengers. Dobson was about to put the angry fellow in his place when an old man sitting nearby, asked the laborer what he’d been drinking.

Sake, the laborer replied, cursing him. The old man calmly spoke of the pleasure of drinking sake with his wife in their garden every evening. The drunk man said he had no wife and no home.

The old man said, ‘That is a very difficult predicament, indeed. Why don’t you sit down here and tell me about it?’ Within minutes the laborer was lying on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. (“Become a Friend of the Sun,” Krista Bremer, The Sun, December 2019, page 24).

Mary and Willard spent a lifetime together. The old man and the drunk laborer on the train met in a passing moment. What both stories share in common are lives lived in “flesh and blood.”

Our reading from The Gospel According to John this morning is about “flesh and blood.” It is about the far-reaching implications for our thinking about God, our life in the world and what it means for us to Christian (Preaching the Word, Year A, Craddock, Hayes, Holladay & Tucker, Trinity Press International, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1992, page 70). The Bible proclaims, “ . . . the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

The God whom no one has seen is both known and available to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals God and makes God available to us in gracious ways (Ibid., page 71).

It was the late American evangelist, the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, who said it plainly. “If you want to know what God is like, take a good look at Jesus.” Our belief in God is shaped by what we have seen and heard in the person and work of Jesus.

When Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) he does not simply tell us what he is like but what God is like. In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, we have all received grace upon grace in moments when God has turned our sorrow into gladness and our mourning into joy.

This morning marks our annual ‘Aha ‘Aina Wai Maka or Feast of Tears.

It is a time when we remember family members and friends on the first anniversary of their deaths. This year, we remember the following:

Brenda Albright, Albert Anderson, Daniel Carlson, Yansi Casis, Joy Gentil, Beata Gorgan, Robert Hobson, Faye Kamai-Visaya, Ilse Klehr, Calvin Kuamo‘o, Frederick Lulof, Ranette Melemai, Rita Miyagishima, Gloria Noren, June Richter, Damyan Sandoval, Karen Sirling and Cristina Firmignac.

We also include in this time of remembrance Maryreba Kircher, Norma Nelson, Phil Christopher, Joe Noland, Adolph Piltz, and Auntie Caroline De Lima. The tears we shed at the time of their deaths were tears of sorrow and mourning. Today the tears we shed are tears of gladness and joy. For each one, there is no more pain and suffering, even death itself has passed and for that we give thanks to God.

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