The wind made its way across the ocean. In the distance it could see the green slopes of Hawai’i Island and the great mountains rising. As it swept over the sea, it took water vapor that the sun had raised from the waters and pushed it ahead as growing clouds. As the clouds passed over Hilo, they showered the earth with rain.
The wind moved on, and now the clouds dispersed on the shoulders of the mountains, and the sun poured down in shimmering waves. The wind blew through the town and over the fields, and it cooled the stifling heat. As it did, it blew hard enough to pluck hats from heads and turn umbrellas inside out before they could be closed.
A nene near seaside turned into the wind and spread her wings. The flowing air began to lift her even before she swept them down in a powerful stroke. The wind helped carry her aloft until she turned to fly inland.
Not just birds, but seeds flew on the wind, so that new plants would grow.
In places the wind eased things, but in places I have to admit that the wind broke things. Nails in a roof popped loose. An old tree tumbled to the ground, where its trunk would nourish new trees yet to grow there. A sudden gust scattered a myna’s nest over the ground, and the parents-to-be screeched and started building again.
The flowing wind swept over the summit of Kilauea, where fumes rise from the volcano’s liquid heart beneath. It carried the sulfur and tiny flecks of glassy ash further along the island, dispersing them as it went. Oh, they smelled it and they frowned in Kona!
But when the sun set, those bits of glassy ash caught the light and glowed in red and orange and gold. The people and the creatures and the birds gazed at it with satisfaction. “It’s a Kona sunset,” they said.
The wind laughed to hear them say it, for the Kona sunset depends on the Kilauea wind.
And the wind blew on, far over the Pacific Ocean to lands far distant from our shores, blowing where it will.
It’s an old, old thing to compare the Holy Spirit of God to the winds that blow across our planet. In the ancient languages of the Bible, and also in Hawaiian (but not in English) the words for “wind,” “breath,” and “spirit” are the same: Ruach. Pneuma. Ha. Like the winds of earth, the Holy Spirit brings the things of life, for the spirit as well as the body. Like the wind beneath the wings of the birds, the Holy Spirit can lift us up. Like the wind that brings down trees, the Holy Spirit will shake our ideas and assumptions and make us consider new things. Like the wind that creates a Kona sunset, the Holy Spirit creates, helps us create, and helps us appreciate, beauty.
The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to the world, to the Church of Jesus, and most of all, to you.
by Eric Anderson
Watch the Recorded Story
On Sunday I tell the story from memory of the story I’ve written – and I rarely strive to remember it word for word. The differences are part of the creative process – or so I tell myself.
“And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.'” – Numbers 11:27
“But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.'” – Acts 2:13
Oh, what we would not give for prophecy with order. These seventy we know. These two we will ignore. Oh, what we would not give for prophecy predictable. Seventy selected to tell us what we know.
Your Spirit raises prophets without due regard to order. We’d all do well with twelve. We’ve no great need for more. With twelve we’d know the words before the prophets even voice them, saving time, so much time we might have to discern.
Why is the Spirit’s call so destructive of our order? We know our daily ways. We follow our set hours Until a strident voice, just like the nails upon a blackboard unsettles our assurance and overturns our peace.
Oh, have your own way, Spirit, in the wreckage of our order. They’ll call us drunk, you know, Or they’ll run and tattletale. With Moses, Peter, Matthias, we’ll join the Spirit’s order alongside Eldad, Mary, Justus, Medad – and Mary, too.
A poem/prayer based on Acts 2:1-21 and Numbers 11:24-30, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading and Alternate First Reading for Year A, Pentecost Sunday.
I was a little sad when I realized this week that, because of our Sunday School recognition time, I wouldn’t be telling a story. I’m told that the young people and the people who’ve been young people quite a long time – you know, those young people – appreciate those stories. So I’m sorry that there’s no story today.
Once upon a time there was a young ‘apapane who was struggling with flying.
So, OK, I wasn’t sorry about there not being a story for very long.
This young ‘apapane’s problem was not, in fact, flying. He had mastered all the tricky business of holding his wings just so, and moving them down just so, and moving them back up just so, so that he moved forward through the air without diving or climbing or veering off to the left or slanting off to the right. Straight and level – it was so pretty to watch.
It was also, to some extent, the problem. Straight and level works just fine when you’re above the treetops or there’s short trees or bushes or grasses beneath you. When you’re in the trees, though, straight and level is a recipe for straight into a painful encounter with a tree branch.
He could turn just fine, and go up and down. Somewhere along the line, however, someone told him to fix his eyes right ahead, and not to look to either side. “Keep your eyes on where you’re going,” they said, and that’s what he did. It was kind of an accomplishment, actually, because an ‘apapane’s eyes are on the sides of the head, so they’re always looking all around. But he learned to focus, and he kept his focus, and it worked just fine until he whacked a wing on a cluster of leaves to one side, or smacked his feet against blossoms just below, or clocked his head against a tree branch that was just out of the tiny circle where he’d been looking.
He struggled with flying, and it was a painful struggle.
One evening as he was nursing a headache his grandmother asked him what he thought he was doing. “I’m keeping my eyes on what’s ahead of me,” he said.
“Then why do you keep flying into things?” she asked.
“Because they’re off to one side,” he said.
I will spare you the long lecture she gave him about the need to pay attention to more than what’s just ahead of you. Although maybe I shouldn’t – because you and I, we have to pay attention to more than just what’s right in front of us, too, don’t we? There’s the things that are coming from one side or the other. If we keep our eyes on our footsteps we’ll bonk our heads on what’s above. If we think only about what’s just in front of us, how can we ever be ready for what’s coming farther along?
The long lecture from his grandmother stung, I admit. But not as much as his head and his wings and his feet hurt from all those collisions. He learned to look ahead, and to the side, and up and down, and beyond.
by Eric Anderson
Watch the Recorded Story
This story was told from a copy of the text above, so the usual warnings about differences due to memory don’t apply. Instead, there are differences because there are differences.
A peaceful morning on a Hawaiian beach was… less than peaceful. There were birds screeching – at least two birds and birds of different kinds screeching. There was also a sound that was harder to identify because it’s so rarely heard. A nearby cat decided she had to find out what was causing all the ruckus.
Besides, it was interrupting her first nap of the day. She’d really prefer that it stopped.
The loudest voice was, predictably, a myna. The other bird voice turned out to be a koa’e kea, and it was nearly as loud as the myna. The third voice wasn’t a bird at all. It was a honu, and although she wasn’t as loud as the two birds, she put plenty of passion into her part of the argument. Because it was a three way full scale all out argument.
The cat really wanted them to stop. She briefly considered a hunting charge, which would certainly drive off the myna and might startle the koa’e kea into flying away. She decided not to, though. It would just add more chaos to a chaotic morning.
“What,” she asked, “are you three arguing about?”
“They do it all wrong!” said the myna, and was promptly echoed by the other two.
“They do it all wrong!” they shouted in chorus.
“They do what all wrong?” asked the cat, who really wanted to bury her head in the sand and take her early morning nap rather than ask about an argument she didn’t care about.
“Eggs!” “Chicks!” “Hatchlings!”
“Children!” all three said at once.
“This one doesn’t even build a nest!” shrieked the myna, indicating the koa’e kea. “She just lays her egg on any old shelf in the rock.”
“That one buries her eggs in the sand!” shouted the koa’e kea, “and goes away and doesn’t take care of them!”
“The mynas build their nests in a tree!” rumbled the honu. “Anybody could find those eggs and break them!”
The three continued to explain – well, argue – that their method for laying eggs and raising children was the only right way to do it, and how the others’ failure to do it that was indicated a complete lack of good sense and proper parental responsibility. The cat, who didn’t lay eggs at all, was getting a headache.
“Can we find some common ground?” she said.
“Like what?” they demanded.
“Like the common ground of this island. You all lay your eggs on this island, even if they are in different places in different ways.”
They had to agree that was true.
“And do you get children who thrive?” asked the cat.
“I do.” “Of course I do!” “I’ve got over a hundred children swimming in the ocean,” said the honu. The myna and the koa’e kea looked startled.
“And do you do the very best you can to make your eggs and your children safe, even if those ways are different?” asked the cat, and watched each head nod, and a thoughtful look come into each pair of mothers’ eyes.
“Then I think you’ve got some common ground,” said the cat.
“I guess we do,” said the myna. “More than I thought,” said the koa’e kea.
“Good,” said the cat. “Talk to one another. Maybe you’ll find more common ground. Maybe you’ll learn something from each other. Keep talking.”
“Quietly,” she added as she turned away to resume her early morning nap.
by Eric Anderson
Watch the Recorded Story
I tell these stories from memory of the text I’d prepared (which you’ve just read). My memory isn’t that good and my delight in improvising is so great that the story as told may be rather different from the story as prepared.
Photos of a myna (left), koa’e kea or white-tailed tropicbird (upper right), and a honu or green sea turtle (lower right) by Eric Anderson.
Blessings on the mothers rejoicing in their children. Blessings on the mothers in deep fear for their children. Blessings on the mothers whose children remember to call. Blessings on the mothers whose children refuse to call. Blessings on the mothers whose children are not related by blood. Blessings on the mothers heartbroken because they could never become a mother.
Blessings on the children rejoicing in their mothers. Blessings on the children in deep fear for their mothers. Blessings on the children whose calls end with “I love you so much.” Blessings on the children whose mothers keep breaking their hearts. Blessings on the children with more mothers than they can count. Blessings on the children still seeking a mother’s love.
Blessings on those who have lost. Blessings on those that have. Blessings on those that have never had. Blessings on those who seek.
The ‘elepaio was hungry. He had been up and down, back and forth, and side to side on his favorite koa tree. He’d found a caterpillar, a few smallish bugs, and no spiders at all. This was unusual. His favorite tree was normally a favorite place for caterpillars, bugs, and spiders as well. On this day, however, they’d mostly decided to go someplace else.
He was hungry.
He searched the tree once more from top to bottom and all the way to the ends of its long branches. He found a couple more bugs, but no spiders at all. He was particularly fond of spiders, at least he was on this day when he couldn’t find any. He perched on a branch and sang a short, sad, “I’m hungry,” kind of song.
“What’s wrong?” came a voice from a neighboring tree. It was a friend of his, another ‘elepaio, and she seemed concerned.
“I’m hungry,” he complained, “and all I’ve found are a few bugs, one caterpillar, and no spiders at all.”
His friend was puzzled. She was not hungry. She’d been foraging in a couple of ohi’a trees all morning and had quite a nice breakfast from them.
“How strange,” she said. “I’ve been having a nice breakfast, myself.”
“I’m not sure I believe you,” he said. “It’s been such a miserable morning.”
Fortunately his friend decided not to be insulted. “Where have you been looking?” she asked. “Perhaps you’ve just been unlucky.”
“Right here,” he said, “here in my favorite tree.”
“Where else?” she asked.
“Where else would I look?” he said.
She was silent for a moment before she suggested, “Well, anywhere else, I would think.”
“How would I find spiders in anything but a nice koa tree?” he asked. “Why would they want to be anywhere else but this, their favorite tree?”
“There are plenty of them over here in this ohi’a tree,” she said.
“Show me the spiders,” he said, “and I’ll believe.”
For a moment his friend was offended this time – it feels bad when your friends tell you they don’t believe you. She decided to make allowances because he was hungry. Sometimes when creatures are hungry they get hangry, you know. She took a quick look around, made a hop or two to the side, and plucked something off a cluster of ohi’a leaves. Then she spread her wings and flew over to settle beside her hungry friend.
She said nothing because she had a spider in her beak. She set it down next to him. He looked at it.
“Sometimes you’ve got to look in more places than you expect,” she said.
“I guess so,” he said.
“Let’s have some breakfast together,” she said.
So they did.
by Eric Anderson
Watch the Recorded Story
There was a problem with the lavaliere microphone at the beginning of the story. Thanks to our technical crew I switched to a working microphone after a short time.
“Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”‘?” – John 14:8-9
Like Philip, I’ll be satisfied to see what I expect to see. His vision might have been of swirling cloud, or pillar of fire dancing in the night.
And Peter, what would he expect? An army terrible beneath its banners? A monarch mighty on a throne whose feet were tended by his underlings?
The Magdalene anticipated… what? A corpse? and did not see her friend until he said her name. Her eyes were drawn to death.
So I, like Philip, will be satisfied to see what I expect, for you and I know well who sets the courses of my soul… Or, well, at least who claims to set them.
And I, like Philip, must be satisfied with who you are, O God, and not what I demand you be, and I, like Thomas, will be your bewildered follower on the way.
A poem/prayer based on John 14:1-14, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year A, Fifth Sunday of Easter.