There is something magical, something unexplainable, something Divine, that happens at the Eucharist. There is a mystery that exists beyond words when bread and wine are blessed, and God’s people are gathered. And, every Sunday, I get to be a part of that mystery.
At St. Peter’s, there is a beautiful tradition of using freshly baked, homemade bread for the Eucharist. This is offered by a parishioner, as his ministry – I can only imagine the time he must get up, the discipline and commitment it takes to do something every week, for months and years on end. I am grateful for this gift.
Every week, I help Pastor Diane to distribute the bread. I sink my fingers into the warm, soft bread, and tear off chunks (trying hard not to make them too big or too small), lift up the piece of bread and place it in the hands cupped before me, saying, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven”.
Sometimes, I look directly into people’s eyes. Sometimes they are searching my face for meaning, or smiling, or wanting to tell me they need a wafer or gluten free instead. Sometimes, their heads are down, deep in prayer. Sometimes, hands stay open after I place the bread – sometimes they close around this small pice of heaven on earth.
This Sunday, as I was moving from the end of the altar rail back to the beginning, I glanced up, and to the left. I saw, briefly, that an elder was coming up to the rail – and I saw another parishioner hold out her hand, with a smile on her face, beckoning to the space next to her, and inviting this kupuna up.
It was beautiful, and magical, and deeply moving. It, too, was a piece of heaven on earth.
Yesterday, I ran an adult forum on poetry, where I shared some of my favourite poets (Emily Dickinson, ee Cummings, Yehuda Amichai, Pauli Murray, Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry), and we talked and thought about the ways that the Spirit moves in poetry. The classes were small, but I was touched by people sharing with me that they have written some poetry. Inspired by their bravery, I share here a poem I wrote in my Pauli Murray class last Spring.
For the first people, the voyagers, the star-gazers
The ones who traveled from Aotearoa
Using the currents and the skies
And settled in Hawaii, the land that was drawn up from the ocean by
Maui and his fishhook
Birthed from Papa and Wakea, earth mother and sky father
For the lahui everywhere who are learning to Ku’e
In speaking up for the right to ‘olelo Hawaii
In our own native land
For demanding the right to conduct state business
In the language of the first people
And refusing continual colonization
For the lahui who are bending their tongues
Learning again the wisdom of the ancestors
Learning again to empty our heads of the oppressor
So that we can return, and be filled,
With the wai we come from – with what is living water
Filled with salt
For the mana wahine who are protecting our lands
Standing in defiance of those who think that
Another telescope atop our mauna will bring them knowledge
Standing in crosswalks and in ceremony,
Connecting our people back to our sources
Remembering that we have all come from the water in our mother’s wombs
For the kane who are becoming warriors
Not by wielding weapons, or using violence
But by growing tall in your beliefs
And remembering the pride of our people
Refusing to believe that we were ignorant savages
And instead looking back to see our line of monarchy
For the mahu who are taking back your rights
Recalling the ceremony that is only yours
And rejecting the restrictions of a binary
We have a place for you, and we need you for the life of the people
Come, and take up your role here
For we are stronger when we march together
For those who ‘oli
Calling out to the past, present, future
Steeping us in our ancestors, in our kupuna
Singing the words that connect, and call, and summon
Calling forth our highest selves
And birthing a new generation
For the kalo farmers
Taking care of Haloa, the first human, stillborn
Who, when he was planted, turned into taro
Which is the food for the people
Wading through the muddy fields barefoot
And massaging Papa’s back
For the keiki
Who are growing up learning about the monarchs
Standing in ‘Iolani Palace, where our Queen was imprisoned
Becoming one with those who came before
Participating in the cycles of time,
Ready to rise
For the kanaka maoli and the keiki o ka ‘aina
May our land be one of peace
Let us remember those who came before,
Telling our stories and resisting those who would tell us that
Hawaii was a Sandwich Island,
Nothing until immigration.
May we remember not to only be humble, but also to be proud
For we come from a people not only gentle, but also strong
Fierce, beautiful warriors, who learned to live on the land
And use it as a mutual exchange, remembering the responsibility of ceremony
Remembering that we rise, together
For we belong to one another, and to the earth
May we remember.
Last weekend, my family was here in Honolulu, and they came to church. It was so lovely to have them there – both to share with them the place and people of St Peter’s, but also to share with my parishioners a bit more about myself – some of the crucial parts to my existence.
Placing people is important – I find I can more easily trust someone if I feel like they are transparent – if I know where they are coming from, and a bit about their life story. In Hawaii, this placement becomes even more important – it is about mo’oku’auhau – genealogy – about roots, and ancestors, and ‘ohana. It is a way to be connected – to figure out who is family to who, and the ways we already know each other.
My mama is the best at this kind of connection.
She holds the family history, able to form family within moments of being introduced. When she came to the final meeting of the book study, she did just that – figuring out that one of my parishioners was classmates with my Grandma.
This was true at St James, my sending parish, also – a woman who served on my discernment committee was a classmate of my Grandma. The world seems to get smaller and smaller.
I adored my Grandma. I knew her as Gramma Hawaii, which in my mind separated her from my paternal Granny Jenny – but when I think about it now, Gramma Hawaii spoke also to her warmth, her openness, her laughter. Everything I love about this place now was encapsulated in my Gramma – the sweet scent of flowers, the colourful environment, the warmth of the sun.
As my mama helped to draw that connection, I felt pulled in – knitted together, as part of a bigger
picture that only God could be the author of. Only God has the patient hands to weave threads of families together like this – to create beauty like this.
St. Peter’s is beginning to be not just my home, but my ‘ohana, too.
This morning I had to go and get my car safety checked. Well, it’s not really my car, it’s my dads (thank you, dad, for my transportation!) – please note that I was only a few days late with said safety check.
Last night, I was reading a devotion about the risk of relationships. It was talking about the given-ness of Jesus, what He was willing to risk, and what we are so often not willing to risk. We are so often afraid of failure, or afraid of being broken.
But, Jesus’ whole body is broken. He is broken for us, every Sunday, in communion.
Why does it scare us so much to be like Jesus?
A car safety check is, of course, a good idea – but ultimately, our safety cannot be in material, human goods. Safety must be found in the peace of God.
There is no “safety check” for relationships – no way to gauge risk, or prevent hurt from happening. Even if there is someone in your life who you think is low-stakes – say, for instance, a neighbor – it might still bother you if they don’t like you. It might still be something you care about.
So, as I wait for my car to go through the mechanical processes of being checked, and make sure it is safe for the road – I am thinking about the risk we take in human relationship, and the ways those risks make us better Christians.
The call of the gospel is not a safe one – and there is no assurance God gives that we won’t have pain. The assurance is that we will not be alone. The call of the gospel is one of relationship – to be drawn, deeper and deeper, into a transformational relationship with the living God – one that will change us and ask us to risk what we know.
Our safety lies in God alone.