Story: The Suspicious Noio

July 24, 2022

Genesis 18:20-32
Luke 11:1-13
 
The young noio was hungry pretty much all the time. That’s not all that uncommon for a young noio, of course. He was growing very fast, going from just a little thing at hatching to about the size and weight of an adult in three weeks. At three weeks’ end he weighed six and a half times what he’d weighed when he broke the shell of his egg.
 
So he ate. A lot.
 
You and I wouldn’t find his diet very appetizing, but he certainly thrived on it. His parents would fish in the ocean, slurping down the fish and squid into their bellies. Then they’d go back to the nest, where they’d open their beaks and he’d poke his beak into their mouths. And then, well, the food would return.
 
Yeah, I know. Yuck. I’m glad we don’t do it that way, either.
 
To the young noio, however, this was how it was done. This was the way to eat. This was tasty (I know, yuck) and nutritious and, more than anything else, it was really successful. I mean. Imagine eating enough in three weeks to grow six times your size. That’s impressive.
 
It still took some time for the feathers to grow out and for his wing muscles to develop, so he took his first flight when he was six weeks old. The first flight was a little ragged, but he soon got better. He loved being out in the air, and zooming low over the sea, and coming back to the nest.
 
For some weeks, though, his parents continued to feed him. I know. Yuck. But he had to develop his flying skills before he could develop his food-finding skills. Noio don’t dive into the water to catch food. They fly low over the surface and pluck it from the water.
 
It turns out that for this young noio, that was a problem. He had no problems with the flying skills. But his first reaction to seeing a school of fish in the water below was… Yuck.
 
“That’s what we eat,” said mother.
 
“You have got to be kidding,” said her son. “That’s disgusting. Is there anything else?”
 
“Well,” she said, “there’s muhe’e (that’s squid). Shall we try those?”
 
I know. Squid. Yuck. As it happens, the young noio agreed with us.
 
“That’s even worse!” he said. “I can’t believe I have to spend the rest of my life eating these disgusting things!” He wouldn’t even try to catch one in his beak.
 
Mother and father both tried to persuade him that he should at least try these things, that they really were tasty, and that he’d been eating them without knowing it since he hatched (I know, yuck), but he was not persuaded. He kept feeding the way he’d always known (yuck) and wouldn’t even consider catching a fish.
 
While his parents were out fishing for themselves (and for him) and trying to think of something they could do, tutu came by. His grandmother had been very pleased and proud of him, and her daughter had asked her advice. She came right to the point.
 
“So you think your parents are lying to you?” she asked.
 
“Lying?” he said.
 
“So you think they’d offer you bad food when you’re hungry?” she asked.
 
“Bad food?” he said.
 
“So you think they don’t know how to show you what is good?” she asked.
 
He was silent.
 
“Have they done this before?” she asked.
 
“No,” he said. “Of course not.”
 
“Then why would they do it now?”
 
He said nothing.
 
“Fly with me,” said tutu noio.
 
When his parents got back to the nest, they found grandmother and grandson returned from his first successful fishing trip.
 
“I should have realized you wouldn’t lie to me,” he told them. “Now I know that you didn’t.”
 
by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

When recorded, I was delivering the story from a memory of this text – which means they’re not the same. It is distinctive, however, for including the coining of the word, “tentacally,” which sadly, isn’t in the prepared text.

Photo of a noio (black noddy) by Eric Anderson.

Love You!

June 26, 2022

Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

You may have heard people say that kids can get out of hand. You know. Kids jump about. Kids make lots of noise. Kids butt each other with their heads.

Yes. They butt each other with their heads. You don’t do that? Well of course you don’t. You’re not a… Oh. Right. I’m sorry.

When I say “kids” today, I’m not talking about young human beings. I’m talking about young goats. And those kids can definitely get out of hand, jumping about, making lots of noise, and butting each other with their heads.

One kid, however, was a handful even by kid standards – that is, goat kid standards. He was constantly head-butting and foot-kicking and even mouth-biting. Goat kids can get rather rough with one another, but he was rougher than any of them wanted to deal with. Pretty soon he didn’t have any friends in the pasture. If they let him close he’d butt or kick or bite.

He was sad when he got back to his mother. “Why don’t I have any friends?” he asked, and when he’d explained how he behaved with the other kids, his mother thought for a moment.

“If you want friends, you’ve got to love them,” she said.

“Love them?” he asked.

“Love them,” she said.

He thought about this until he fell asleep and thought more about it when he woke up in the morning. He bounced off to the pasture and happily shouted, “I love you!” to the other kids. Then he rushed up to them, butted one with his head, kicked another with his hooves, and bit a third with his teeth, all the while shouting, “I love you!” The herd of kids scattered and he certainly didn’t make any friends.

“Why don’t I have any friends?” he asked his mother that night.

“Didn’t you love them?” she said.

“I tried. But it didn’t work,” he said.

“Tell me what you did,” she said. He did, and when he finished, she sighed.

“Tell me this,” she said. “Do you enjoy it when another kid hits you or kicks you or bites you?”

“Well, not much,” he admitted.

“If I did that, would you believe that I loved you?” she asked.

He wasn’t sure how to answer that.

“Do you think the other kids believe you love them when you butt them and kick them and bite them?” she asked.

“No,” he admitted. “I guess they don’t.”

“Love isn’t just saying it,” said his mother. “Love is doing things because they help someone or help them be well. Love is not doing things because they hurt someone or make them feel bad. So go back tomorrow and try to love them – and this time, show it.”

I won’t claim that he did it perfectly the next day – he didn’t – but he really did show more love for the other kids than he ever had before. As the days passed, he made friends, and they loved him, too.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The video includes the complete service of July 26, 2022. Clicking “Play” will jump to the beginning of the story. The recording is of the story told live without notes. It is not the same as the prepared text.

Photo of goats on Maui by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 us, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70450192.

Surrounded by Air

May 22, 2022

Acts 16:9-15
John 5:1-9

by Eric Anderson

The young noio was confused.

The world was, let’s face it, a fairly confusing place, especially there on the ocean-fronted cliffs of Kamokuna. There’s a lot of wind down there, and that plays with your mind. There’s a lot of noise from the waves breaking against the cliffs, and that’s just distracting. And in addition to the things he felt most of the time – the warmth of his parents’ feathers, the ruffling of his own feathers in the wind, the warm sun of day and the coolness of night – there was the occasional spatter of wind-driven spray.

All that would confuse anyone.

His nest gave him a great view of his world. Perched on a rocky shelf, he could see far off into he distance where the ocean stretched away. He could see the other noio skimming the water’s surface and dipping their beaks in and sometimes diving in briefly before taking off again. As day began the other birds of the colony would take off and begin their fishing above the ocean. As day closed they’d fly back, landing at their nests and bringing food to their young – like him.

What confused him was… flying.

It didn’t frighten him, the way it did some other birds in some other stories I’ve told before. It confused him. He didn’t understand how it could work. He could clearly see that it did, but as far as he was concerned it simply shouldn’t work. How could gravity be so much a force here at the nest and stop being one when a noio had left it? How could his wings flap against nothing and accomplish something? What invisible thing were the other noio grasping – and wings can’t actually grab hold of anything – to change direction like that?

It was terribly confusing.

I don’t really know why he didn’t ask anyone about it. His parents were kind and caring, his grandparents wise and intelligent, all good qualities for someone looking for a good person to answer questions. But he didn’t. He didn’t ask his friends in neighboring nests, and he didn’t ask their parents, either. Maybe he was just trying to work it out himself. I don’t know.

So when the day came to take his first flight, with his parents and grandparents and friends and their families all watching in anxious pride, he was anxious, too. Could he do something he didn’t understand? Was that the magic to flight? But he stretched out his wings, did a hop or two, and the next thing he knew he was off the ledge and moving.

Somehow there was a substance to the nothing he couldn’t see beneath his wings. He could use his wings to shape it and push off from it, and there would be more when his wings came forward again. A subtle adjustment meant a turn. A greater adjustment made a tighter turn.

And since noio are members of the tern family of birds, turn about is fair play.

He flew back to the home ledge and successfully landed with a bit of a flurry of wings and feathers for that first attempt.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“You don’t understand what?” asked his father.

“I don’t understand how it works. I can see rock. I can see water. But I can’t see what I’ve been flying on.”

“It’s air,” said his mother, “the same air you breathe, the same air in the wind. No, you can’t see it, but it’s there, always there, and it will carry you anywhere you want to go.”

Watch the Recorded Story

This story is not told from the manuscript above, but from a memory of its composition.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

A Song Worth Living

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1

They tell me it’s a song, Jesus,
but we’ve lost the tune.

They tell me it’s a song, Jesus,
but we’ve sucked the blood from the words.

They tell me it’s a song, Jesus,
but we’ve forced it into four-four time,
when it was supposed to soar
and warble and hover and dance.

They tell me it’s a song, Jesus.
Hum me the tune.
I want to sing along.

A poem/prayer based on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary Second Reading for Year C, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. 

The image is Saint Paul Writing His Epistles by Valentin de Boulogne – Blaffer Foundation Collection, Houston, TX, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=596565.

I’m including my own version of the 1 Corinthians 13 text in a song, “Hymn to Love.”

In Those Days

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. – Luke 1:39-40

In those days, Luke? Say rather:
“After her imagined life had been upset
by visitation of an angel,
Mary saw the pretenses of life too well,
her friends and loved ones, neighbors, too,
persisting in a sad semblance of ‘normal’
when the love of God was breaking in.

“She fled because her efforts to
acquaint the villagers of Nazareth
with blessing, with deliverance,
were greeted with polite discount,
with blank incomprehension,
silent disbelief, and smirks that smack
of shame and slander.

“She fled because she had no outlet for
the wonder bottled up inside,
no person who would recognize the glory.
Who but one already bearer of
a miracle would comprehend
a miracle before her?

“So in those days she fled. When Mary stood
upon the threshold of Elizabeth, received
a wave of welcome, knew they shared in wonder,
all the pain of others’ disbelief gave way,
and in a flood of tears she praised
magnificent reversal, pride dispersed,
power humbled, humble lifted,
hungry satisfied and wealthy leaving empty.

“For in the shared experience of grace,
they built on love’s foundation,
Mary and Elizabeth, to raise up faith
and hope and joy that others would not see.”

Write that, Luke. It’s what you meant by,
“In those days.”

A poem/prayer based on Luke 1:39-55, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Fourth Sunday of Advent.

The image is Visit of Mary to Elizabeth by Fr. George Saget, a portion of a larger mural behind the altar of Keur Moussa Abbey in Senegal. Downloaded from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56517 [retrieved December 15, 2021]. Digital source photo by Jonas Roux – Flickr [1], CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4870110.

Nobody Asked

“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?'” – Mark 12:28

You thought it was a worthy question, Jesus,
so worthy that you did what you so often
did not do: you answered it. With quotes.
“Deuteronomy six, verses four and five,” you said.
“The second is much like it, but you’ll have to turn
the pages to Leviticus nineteen, the eighteenth verse.”

Well, no, you didn’t tell him that,
and force him to refresh his memory for numbers
rather than the force of God’s commands:
“The first is ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD is one,
so love the LORD with heart and soul and mind and strength.
The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.”

An honest earnest question and an honest earnest answer,
so you and he agreed. “Yes Teacher, you have truly said
that God is One, there is no other, to love the LORD
so well, to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is better
than the offerings and sacrifices of this Temple.
And so you told him he was near the Realm of God.

“After that no one dared to ask him any question…” but
I wish they had. For if to know that loving God and
loving neighbor is to stand upon the verge
of God’s expanding realm, the question still remains:
How do we cross the border from its edge
and find ourselves as citizens of God?

I see that steady, steely gaze, of course.
You have no need to answer what you’ve answered
time and time and time again. To know
we are to love our God, to know we are to love
our neighbor, these bring us to the gate.
To make the crossing, we must bring the love.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:28-34, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 26 (31).

The image is Caritas by William Wilson, 1905-1972. From Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57837 [retrieved October 27, 2021]. Original source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/8539356086/.

Complicated

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8

The Bible is complicated – Love one another.
Faith requires discernment – Love one another.
Righteousness needs consideration – Love one another.
Perfection results from preparation – Love one another.

In the meantime, I’ll carry on with what I’ve been doing.

Love one another.

A poem/prayer based on 1 John 4:7-21, the Revised Common Lectionary Second Reading for Year B, Fifth Sunday of Easter.

The image is The Head of Christ Carrying the Cross, a wood sculpture by Heinrich Douvermann (ca. 1520-1530) – Photograph from Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur: object 20603132 – photograph number RBA 608 899 – image file mi10859f02a.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37895066

I Pray for a Miracle

O, God,

I pray for a miracle.

I pray for weary bodies to find strength
and in resilience live beyond a virus.

I pray for souls who lack compassion
to find empathy for suffering.

I pray for those augmenting their own power
to embrace compassion and its sharing.

I pray for those obsessed with their self-image
to be filled with overflowing love.

I pray for those in pain of injury
to be comforted in justice.

I pray for those dismissive of their neighbors
to be startled at the gifts their neighbors share.

I pray, O God, for miracles
to erupt within the human soul.

Holy Week 2019: Thursday

Mosaic of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice

I’m sorry, guys, I’m not in the mood.
For a solemn celebration
I’ve got solemn down, for sure.
Celebration: not so much.

The liberation gained in ancient days
is wonderful. The trials, though,
of my own present day,
have just begun.

You can call me “Debbie Downer”
if you like. It’s fine.
If you knew what I know, well:
how about I share?

But when I share, you don’t believe,
as “It is I?” transforms to “Never me!”
As if it took a prophet’s insight
to unveil your fears.

Can we do this, just this, tonight?
Can I confess my love for you
and you, for once, accept it?
Can you confess your love for me?

Perhaps you can’t. At least
with cleaner feet you’ll sleep
while I am praying:
on cleaner feet you’ll run.

The image is a mosaic in Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice, by Unknown – Web Gallery of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15611336

In the Silence

DSC_0198

“After that no one dared to ask him any question.”
— Mark 12:34

What had you to say that was so special, Jesus?
Not much. Just: “Love your God,” and “Love your neighbor.”
Hardly original. Hardly profound. Hardly unheard,
or unthought, or unsaid, or unique.
Not much. Just: “Love your God,” and, “Love your neighbor.”
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Ha! I’ve got questions, Jesus, yes, I’ve got questions.
Like: “What does it mean to love God?” After all,
this Blessed Creator needs nothing of me.
What have I to offer the Author of
Everything? “Love.” Love? Seriously, love?
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Ha! I’ve got questions, Jesus, yes, I’ve got questions.
Like: “Who is my neighbor?” (Oh, wait, you answered
that one, so…) “What does it mean to love
my neighbor?” Got you there, now didn’t I?
Except, of course, I know when I’ve been loved…
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Neither, then, my Savior, will I dare.
Why? I know the answers. All you did
was call me to the roots, the ground, the soil
of my faith, the seed which bears within it
the flower and the fruits of… love.
That. That is all.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:28-34, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 26. The commandment to love God is found in Deuteronomy 6, and the commandment to love the neighbor is found in Leviticus 19.

Photo of a seaside naupaka in blossom by Eric Anderson.