Help to Get Home

June 19, 2022

1 Kings 19:1-15
Luke 8:26-39

The ‘apapane was lonely, lost, and scared. He’d been flying just above the treetops when the big wind blew up. In a moment its strength had snatched him away from the tree branches he wanted to cling to and shelter in. It carried him along above the slopes of Mauna Loa and off toward Kona-side. It was too much to fly into the wind. It was too much to fly across it; he’d simply have been tumbled. All he could do was stay in the air and ride it until it calmed enough that he could land somewhere and take shelter.

That took far longer than he’d hoped. Off to his left he could see the ocean from time to time. The land beneath him fell away, and he let himself descend with it, which eventually put him behind one of the ridges of Mauna Loa. The wind’s strength faded, and he was able to find a perch in an ohi’a tree. There he clung and gasped for breath and was just grateful to be safe again.

He knew he was a long way from home, however. His own flock was far behind. None of the land shapes looked familiar – or if they looked familiar but he knew they weren’t home. When the storm calmed, he knew he’d have a long flight home.

After a while, he heard the roar of the wind overhead subside. He took off once more to test it, and it was safe to start the journey back. But he was still scared, he was pretty much lost, and he was all alone. What else could he do but start his flight?

He stayed close to the trees – he didn’t want to be blown back again if the wind returned – and tried to avoid the i’iwi and the ‘amakihi and the ‘akepa he saw. He flew around the little flocks of ‘apapane as well. He wasn’t sure he’d be welcome. But that meant that he was also flying around the places where ohi’a was in blossom. That, after all, was where the local birds were. Avoiding them meant he was also avoiding the places to find food and to rest safely.

Tired and hungry, he thought he spotted an ohi’a tree with no birds in it. It had a few blossoms on it, not many, and not enough to make a meal of nectar, but he hoped he’d find bugs to eat to fill himself up. He landed near a cluster of blooms and had dipped his beak for nectar when he heard and ‘apapane voice say, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

He turned his head to see an older female ‘apapane, a tutu for certain, he thought, so he answered respectfully, “I’m sorry, auntie. The wind blew me away from my home and my flock, and I’m on my way back. I’ll just go now.”

He opened his wings to take off again, but the tutu ‘apapane stopped him. “Wait, now. You’re in no shape to fly. Eat something.”

He gratefully dipped his beak in the ohi’a blooms again, and hopped about chasing bugs and spiders. “Rest,” said his new friend, and he let his eyes close. When they opened again she said, “Come with me,” and they flew to another ohi’a tree, this one dripping with blossoms and nectar. She told the other ‘apapane in the tree that he was a visiting friend, and he had an excellent meal and took another rest.

When he woke, the other birds had flown to other trees, but the tutu ‘apapane was still there. “How do you feel?” she asked.

“Like I can fly home,” he said.

“Have a safe flight and happy landings,” she said, which is the most ancient of ‘apapane prayers.

Off he went, and he did find his way safely home, because he’d been given food, and rest, and kindness by someone who was loving and wise.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The recording is of this story told live without notes. It’s not the same as the prepared text.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

The Wind is Against Us

We left you there upon the mountain, Lord.
The safest place for you – or well, for us –
well insulated from the crowd’s demands
for things that we, in truth, cannot provide.

If you are there upon the mountain, Lord,
then you will not repeat those awkward words,
“You give them something now to eat.” With just
five loaves of bread at hand (as well you knew).

If we had known about that pair of fish,
well, that would surely make the difference
in our well-meaning cluelessness. “Bring them
to me,” was all you said, and all were fed.

So you are there upon the mountain, Lord,
and when we have once more resumed our breath,
when we are not so weary carrying
those baskets full, we will be there for you.

But now that you are on the mountain, Lord,
we find that we cannot return to you
with quite the ease we promised. Now a wind
opposes our return to land and you.

We’d rather be upon the mountain, Lord,
instead of struggling with our oars and sail
to make some headway into this head wind.
How can we find your presence once again?

But now the wind blows from the mountain, Lord,
and with it moves a terrifying shape,
a figure of the dead and of our deaths,
to take us from your side for now and ever.

“Take heart!” we hear. “Do not now be afraid!”
Oh, these, we know, are words of angels, heard
by those they summon to great deeds, the likes
of which are not within our feeble skills.

And, “It is I!” you cry, O Lord, a word
of doubtful reassurance. Who is that
who walks upon the gale-tossed sea? A ghost
we comprehend; a Savior, not as much.

But when you were upon the mountain, Lord,
we strove to come to you despite the wind
and now see you come to us, and how
can we do other but to meet you here?

So call us from the mountain, Lord, and call
us from the heaving sea, and may we take
our faltering steps upon the waves and reach –
and find – and grasp – your outstretched loving hand.

A poem/prayer based on Matthew 14:22-33, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Proper 14 (19).

Panel from a Christopher Whall window in Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire. Church (St Peter and St Paul). Photo by jmc4 Church Explorer, CC BY 2.0,