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Coach’s Corner

Published on July 6, 2016 by in Coach's Corner

Pressure balancing

When we were working on the Kansha house to get ready for our first resident, one of the plumbers said that we should “pressure balance” the water lines to the bath. After inquiring what pressure balancing is supposed to be with a number of people who might know, I still don’t know the meaning.  But in my mind “pressure balancing” has taken on a life of its own.  At first I thought that pressure is bad, but then of course that is not true: pressure can be good or bad.  For instance, it is good to have strong water pressure most of the time and good air pressure some of the time, but not so good to have high oil pressure. It is good to have the strong pressure of a good massage they say or the pressure of a foot reflexologist.  It is good to have the pressure that challenges us to perform, although not so good to have that pressure cripple us emotionally.  Pressure can be good or bad whether it has to do with natural elements or it has to do with the functioning of the body.

In the letter to the Ephesians the functioning of the body as in other parts of the New Testament is used as a metaphor of the functioning of the Church. Ephesians 4:16 says:” …joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”  The parts of the body should be supporting each other to the establishment of a loving community.  That is the ideal.  In reality it is not always so easy. In the body joints can be twisted, spines can go out of alignment, blood sugar and blood pressure can go off the scale; neither down or up is not good news.  It is a matter of whether “pressure” is balanced so that bodies don’t go out of whack.  This is true of congregations too. We can place too much pressure on a number of people and too little on others.  Sometimes in a small church like ours we can put too much pressure on almost everybody for a number of days or weeks. This will affect the functioning of the church body.  There may be too little “good” pressure and too much “bad” pressure. There could even be so much pressure on one element of a congregation that resentment starts to build.  As I have told you before this is one thing I as a pastor worry about.  When you have an awareness of the physical condition or age or the emotional demands or stresses, you need to think twice about what you ask them to do or let them do.  It is a matter of “pressure balancing.”

I would like to thank the many people at Parkview who went out of their way to help out in the busy few months which are behind us. There were number of responsibilities Parkview was committed to. Especially Donna should be mentioned. She really was key. Nevertheless we are conscious that we put pressure on you also. There are so many people in our church whose work we count on and may be tempted to take for granted. May we all know our pressure points. May we all know where the pressure is good and where it is destructive. May God give us wisdom so we may continue to be a healthy congregation for many years to come. May God bless our ministry. Aart

 
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Reflection June 26

Published on July 6, 2016 by in Reflections

2 Kings 2: 9, 10, 13; Luke 9:57

In the footsteps

Both the text in 2 Kings and in Luke speak about following.  The first is about following in the footsteps, for Elijah will be taken up.  But really so is the second, Jesus too uses that kind of language. He knows His ministry will be short. There is something about footsteps.  Most of the time a footstep is the only way we make contact with the earth.  In Kona, heart of the ancient Hawaiian kingdom, there are a number of historical markers along Alii drive and they simply say:”Royal footsteps along the Kona Coast.” That simple line grabs you and stimulates the imagination, because as you pass that marker you are connected with those who have passed through history in that place through the earth. But footsteps are also temporary, they have a way of vanishing.  Time washes and burns them out.  Physically both Elijah (who for all practical purposes was Israel’s greatest prophet) and Jesus have footsteps that are vanishing and they have awfully big shoes (or sandals) to fill.

When I was thinking about today’s message, I was also thinking about some words I needed to say about Osame today and at one moment it became intertwined. What if, I thought, we were to take everything that was written for the memorial services for Parkview people over the last (assuming we could find it), have somebody edit it and put it together, it would give a pretty clear picture of the Nisei, the second generation, the people most of you here are following.  The idea occurred to me that the perfect title might be 2 Kings 2:9:”Give me a double portion of your spirit.”

Friends, there are two things I would like to highlight about following and how it is not easy, one from each text. The first is that when we wish to follow in the footsteps of someone, we can get more than their spirit. We also inherit their burdens. Elisha asks for a double dose of Elijah’s spirit and Elijah says:” you have asked for a hard thing.” Why does he say that? Well, it could be that Elijah’s spirit is already humongous!  But here’s that thought: you cannot just take someone’s spirit you inherit, because you also inherit their burdens, their grief and sorrow and, when applicable, their sins. You cannot inherit someone spirit without their worries and their passion. Where this hits home hard is on the reservation spread around North America or Native Americans and First Nation peoples.  I got a taste of that when I first got started in ministry, which was on a reservation on the Nevada/Idaho border. On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, there a huge crisis on teenage suicides. Alcoholism is a way of life. Up to 500 kids get referred to behavioral services per year.  One local counselor talked about historical grief that the next generation takes on.  I think this is true of other groups in this country too, including Asian Americans.  The kids do not just inherit the pride and culture of the Lakota, they also absorb their sorrow. I guess this is why people leave home sometimes. They want to clear the slate from all the baggage. So following has its perils.

Jesus pulls no punches when it comes to talking about following.  “Foxes have holes..” but the Son of humanity has nowhere to lay is head.” Essentially Jesus is saying:”you want to follow me, know what you are getting into. I am going to take you places you thought you’d never go and nothing will be predictable.”  There is risk in following.  This is especially true when Jesus says:” I set my face to Jerusalem.”  When you are leader “sets His face” for a great goal, then hold on to you seats. Things are about to get interesting!

Friends, we all have a relationship to the act of following.  We have all some of that.  Our society kind of frowns on following these days.  Following seems to imply weakness. “He/she is follower,” is not a positive statement.  “Follower of Christ” is a little more positive perhaps, but only in certain circles. Sometimes when we follow we can be tentative.  “We’ll try out and We’ll see how it goes,” we whisper to ourselves. “We’ll try it out.” Most of us have been burnt one way of another in the act of following. Our leaders, including our religious leaders, have disappointed us. Their promises have sounded hollow over time. Their humanness had disillusioned us. But there is also an inevitability in following. We follow the previous generations unless we totally detach ourselves from them which almost always is a bad idea. We follow our predecessors and therefore inherit the works they wrought. These things happen unless we live by ourselves in a cabin in the woods, but that would create a whole different set of problems!  Our texts today call us to a revisiting of following, a following that catches the spirit of those who came before and a following that is risky and unpredictable. May God give us the strength to follow the ones who came before us with dignity and diligence and courage to follow the Christ Who takes us places we did not think we would go. Thanks to be to God.

 
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Reflection June 19

Published on July 6, 2016 by in Reflections

Luke 5: 1-7

Finding your fish

The Giant Trevally or Ulua as it is known in Hawaii is widely sought after by fishermen and women in the warm reaches of the world.  For Hawaiian fishermen it is quite a catch to be proud off. Not too long ago on a lava field leading from a quiet beach on the Big Island, a healthy young man with a spring in his step bounded past us. He had a small plastic crate on his back. On top of the crate (for it could not fit in it) was what turned out was a male Giant Trevally, which was as wide as the young man’s shoulders.  The Hawaiians likened the fish to a great warrior and for that reason women were prohibited from consuming it. Friends, the powerful young man had struggled down the fish and took it home as a trophy.  He had found his fish.

In the animated movie finding Nemo, family and friends, including his forgetful friend Dory go in search of a little fish that has wound up in a cooler in Sydney, Australia.  At the end they are reunited. They find their fish.  Now there is a sequel opening in theaters called finding Dory. It seems the amnesia of the little friend has worsened and now her friends have to find her. The journey takes them to the Monterey bay Aquarium.  I assume they will find their fish.

Friends, the disciples are tired from fishing. Jesus tells them to go out one more time.  Simon agrees reluctantly. He is discouraged and tired from a night of fishing.  Rieko in her dance already showed us the frustration of fishing for something you desperately want when you keep catching everything you don’t want. Simon knows this lake and this teacher, not an expert, tells him to go again.   It was a good thing that he did, because he does not only find his fish, he finds all the fishes he could possibly want for quite a while. Nets are breaking. Help is needed from the other boats.

Friends, we are not all fishing men and women.  Most of us would not know what we were looking at in a bait and tackle shop. But then we understand that this passage is not a clear water fishing manual. It is about something else.  We get it.  In the movie a Fish called Wanda (not for kids), the plot isn’t about a fish at all. There is a woman called Wanda in it and there is a fish called Wanda in an aquarium. Keys to a treasure have been hidden in the aquarium.  The hapless criminal Ken loves Wanda the fish and when an evil criminal called Otto eats all the fish in then aquarium and threatens to eat Wanda, Ken gives a way the secret to the diamonds. So in the movie the Fish only points to other things.  It is a symbol, but in a way it is also a distraction or a diversion.  The movie is a comedy about white collar crime and the strange characters that get caught up with it.

Friends, what is the lesson of all this?  If this story is not really about fish, then is it a distraction or a diversion perhaps? We assume Jesus isn’t going to be catching their fish for them all the time, so what’s going on? Late in the Gospels he speaks of making his followers “fishers of people.” In another passage when he appears to the disciples he asks for a fish. Then there is the account of the loaves and fishes being multiplied.  But Jesus does not seem to be in the habit of going fishing.

I think there are three possible lessons here. The first is persistence. Friends, you and I all face discouragement of some kind.  There is something that we keep trying to achieve, but we fail to get there.  And this sense of futility and despair starts taking over.  If we let it, it can even change the narrative we have for our lives: from success to failure.  Jesus is fast forwarding that narrative and showing them what can happen in your life when you keep at it, when you don’t let up.  There is value in tenacity.

The second possible lesson is timing.  Fish do not do the same thing at every time of day, like all of us mammals. We have routines. We do certain things in the morning and certain things at night.  Timing may have been an issue here, although you would think fishermen know their fish quite well.  John Cleese, one of the main characters in a Fish called Wanda made a video on creativity and in it he said that if you are trying to be creative, wait until the last possible moment to produce, because then the product will be the best. Otherwise it is like picking an unripe fruit.

The third lesson is not distraction, but reframing.  It goes for this passage. We always think the point of this passage is: Wow, Jesus can catch a lot of fish. Maybe he’s really saying: ok, catching fish is easy: here you go, but what I am really going to ask you to do is hard, so hard by the way that you’re going to have to be persistent.  So do not let up.  It isn’t about the fish. Look at life a different way.  Throw your net somewhere else.  Find a new perspective.

Friends, as we face discouragement, there are lessons here: either persistence, or timing or changing perspective or perhaps all of the above. Thanks be to God.

 
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Reflection June 12

Published on July 6, 2016 by in Reflections

I Kings 21: 1-10; Luke 7:47-50

Power and love

How do we get love? It is a question that maybe we do not consciously think about but one that drives us through most of our lives.  How do we get love?  We try to get love by looking good. We try to get love by being cute, we try to get love by acting funny, we try to get love by being nice or being helpful.  We try to get love by being helpless or by misbehaving.  We try to get love by getting power or being close to power. We try to get love by having stuff.  Ultimately we are all craving to be fully, unconditionally loved.  Our lectionary texts today are about love, but also to a certain degree about power.  In I King Ahab is the King of Israel.  Ahab is not a good man. He wants Naboth’s vineyard so he can have it as a vegetable garden. Naboth says no and Jezebel. Ahab’s wife, sees to it that Naboth is stoned so Ahab can have his vegetable garden.  What a price for a vegetable garden!  Jezebel loved Ahab in her own way, but perhaps it depended on how much power he he had.  In Luke a woman comes to Jesus and anoints His feet with her tears.  To the Pharisee this discredits Jesus: “A prophet would know that this woman was a sinner.”  But Jesus disagrees. This woman is more in need of love than anyone else.

We have all heard a lot about Muhamad Ali.  I didn’t know much about what he did outside of boxing other than that he was a conscientious objector.  But I am learning love and power have a lot to do with it. As a boy Muhamad Ali felt powerless.  Someone had stolen his bike and he wanted to learn to box as a result of it.  As his boxing improved he started to feel his power and he started talking big.  And as a result he got so much adulation and love, although he had his many detractors.  But what seems to be the case is that he found out about love and that love for others is more powerful than anything else. That is where he really made his mark: he moved from love of power to the power of love.

So what about power and love when it comes to God?  Well, when we are younger we struggle with how God’s power works.  Why do things happen the way they do?  Well, as I matured, I still think God has power and God is loving, but I think of God’s everyday power more as the power of love.  God’s power does not work coercively so much, it seems to me.

Friends, in I Kings Jezebel loves Ahab for the power he has as the King although she does not seem to respect him. He is just a petulant, spoiled boy.  Her love appears to be very much conditional.  In Luke we see the opposite, we see Jesus loving the person who is most down and out, someone who is wetting His feet with her tears.  The Pharisee expects Jesus to show love to the upstanding citizens, not to the “sinner.” But what happens is that Jesus makes a point:”the one who is most in need of forgiveness is loved the most.”  Or rather:”the one who is down and out the most needs the most love; the one who is the weakest should get the most love.”

Liberation theologians, especially in Latin America, have always said that God has a preference for the poor.  Some interpreted that to say: God does not really love the rich. These seem to be black and white statements that don’t quite sit right.  But this passage sheds some light on that.  Those who are down and out get a special kind of love.  This would go for us too:” when we are at our lowest God loves us the most.  When it feels the whole world is against and everything goes wrong, God loves us the most.”

So, friends, you and I go through life sometimes “looking for love in all the wrong places.”  We wish for status, for fame, for beauty, for glamor, for money, for admiration.  What we are really doing is trying to convince the people that matter to us that we are lovable, that we are a keeper.  But then when we get to where we want to go, we’re still not completely satisfied.  Even becoming President won’t be enough, because you have to be a President people like and you have to get a second term and then you have to have a good legacy.  It never ends.  There is always something we have to do to earn people’s love. But Jesus says:” I love you, I love you now and if you fall on hard times, I’ll love you even more.  And if you’re begging for forgiveness with tears streaming down your face, I’ll love you even more. There’s a great comfort in that.

Friends, may we learn from this. May we be aware of “the things we do for love.” May we also be aware of whom we give our love to?  For let’s face it, love just comes more easily with certain people. May we learn to care for those who do not seem lovable, for those who are down and out.  May God help us.

 
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Untitled

Published on July 6, 2016 by in Reflections

Luke 7:11-17; Galatians 1: 17, 18, 19,23

Collecting scars

As we have seen in our discussion of the lectionary reading in Luke, Jesus performs an amazing act of healing.  This is a crucial act because the mother in the account is a widow and widows were the most powerless people in that society.  When we read the Gospels however we can see that Jesus is sometimes reluctant to do great acts of miraculous healing.  It is almost as if He finds it a distraction from his main task: to usher in the Kingdom of God and reconcile people to God. He is ultimately a healer of the relationship of God and people. You and I neither know what to do with the miraculous acts nor do we understand why He would be reluctant to do them.  Part of that may be because our context for understanding healing is different from the context Jesus lived in.  Jesus lived in an impoverished backwater of the Roman Empire.  The people had no power and even their own leaders behaved like puppets.  Just decades later a great rebellion against the Romans would result in the permanent destruction of the Jewish Temple.  Pretty much the only way someone in that society could gain prominence would be to be a great teacher and a great healer. Any hint at political power would be the end of a leader.  Jesus found that out.  It almost cost Him His life as a child already.  In that world life expectancy was short and life overall pretty miserable. People looked beyond life on earth.  Physical healing in that light would only be temporary.

Our understanding of physical healing is very different. Miraculous things still happen but they tend to be more subtle and are often induced or facilitated by modern medicine. It is also crucial to us because in this the most powerful country and largest economy in the history of the world extending life and improving its quality are supreme values.  Life expectancy has never been greater.

Yet what Jesus teaches us and what is true for us as much as it was then is that there is more to healing than the physical kind.  We see healing mostly as the ‘success of a medical procedure.’ Everyone who needs that is to be pitied and everyone who doesn’t is considered lucky or healthy.  That of course is not true.  When we read Paul we see a man of great strength and courage, but between the lines we also see a man who is unsure of himself.  This is where today’s passage in Galatians intrigues me.  Why did Paul not connect with the disciples right away?  The pious response would be that he had ministry work to do. Still why not consolidate the ministry? From a pastoral counseling angle I would love to ask him that:” So Paul, what is behind this? What’s your story? You were their persecutor, do you have issues there?

Friends, where am I going with this?  Where I am going is to the point where we recognize that as human beings we spend our lives collecting scars and the scar tissue keeps building up. These scars are all over our body and in our body.  At one point they made it necessary for healing to take place.  But there are also scars of the mind and of scars of the heart and yes scars of the soul.  My guess is that to Paul some of those scars still caused him discomfort.  Persecution would always be a big part of his resume.

Harper Lee wrote a follow-up novel to “To kill a Mockingbird.” In “To set a Watchman,” Scout is a young woman who returns to Maycomb, Alabama to visit her aging father Atticus Finch.  The southern town loves revivals and the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians all have them and often they combine. Scout or Mary Louise as she is known now remembers playing “revival” with her brother and her friend Dill. One of them dressed up as “The Holy Ghost,” a great sin in their churches.  They were reprimanded by revival leader Rev. Moorehead who says a prayer in the Finch house.  In the prayer the minister had asked for forgiveness from God for the bad behavior of the “motherless” children.  Scout saw Atticus crying during that prayer.  We can ask:” what was this prayer doing? Was it healing the wounds of the widower Atticus or was it opening the scars? You tell me.

Friends, we collect scars throughout life like we collect memories and wisdom.  Something someone once said that stung or something they didn’t say to support us; the attitude of a parent toward us; the insensitivity of a teacher or a principal; the loss of love or loved ones; the dashing of dreams of illusions, an unresolved conflict. We are in many ways shaped by our scars.  So healing is not something that is temporary and physical. It is a need we have throughout our lives.  The task, of the church, to a large degree, is to bring healing to the world, the healing of faith that brings forgiveness and hope, the healing of community and the healing that reaching out to the suffering provides.  We are all always in need of that. Thanks be to God.

 
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Coach’s Corner

Published on June 2, 2016 by in Coach's Corner

Creating a space,

Dear friends,

Many people at Parkview are helping to make the renovation of the Kansha a success.  I am deeply grateful to them.  They include Jeannie Shaw and James Harris of the Presbytery Disaster Assistance team and their members, Stan Umeda and Barbara Zweig, the Mission Support Committee of Presbytery, Donna Komure-Toyama, Carla Hart and Lori Hart of the PW, Bill Nagata, Cathy and Terry Nishizaki and let’s not forget our generous anonymous donors.  We are coming closer to making the Kansha a liveable space once again, but there is still a lot to be done. Please find a list in this Chapel Chimes of tasks we need volunteer help within the next two weeks and spread the word!

This made me think about the fact that we are not just upgrading an existing building or a facility which has been rarely used in the past five years or so.  We are in fact creating a space for ministry, a space for people to meet and have conversations, a space for young people who are now merely imagined or at most names without faces to come and rest from the ministry they will engage with us in.  We are making room for something new.

Over the twenty years as pastor at Parkview I have learned that as a leader you can point the way to a potential vision, but you cannot make things happen.  The pastoral ministry is very often about creating a space, a space for people to gather, a space for people to look for meaning and for healing, a space for nourishment of all kinds, a space for community, a space to be oneself and a space to feel safe.  Maybe that is why I have spent a lot of effort moving around the furniture in our buildings (often with no apparent result), because whether I knew it or not I wanted to create spaces which were not just physical, but also communal, meaningful, spiritual.

Much of our lives are about creating space and I don’t mean in our cupboards and our garages, but in our hearts and on our calendars.  Those who love us clamor for that and we clamor for that from them.  Those who aren’t as close to us ask for space also and we know that keeping people at arm’s length gets us nowhere in the end. We just slowly fashion a lonely space.

Worship too is about creating space, a space for God.  By showing up on Sunday you are saying you want to make space for God.  In that sense preaching is a lot like rearranging the furniture in people heads and hearts or opening a window.  As a preacher you help people look at things in a new way so that they make space for God in a new place or in an old familiar place perhaps.  I used to think by preaching I could do a lot more, but now I realize this is a lot already.

Friends, when we make space of any kind, we are not really sure how that space will be filled. We also do not know who all will be filling that space that we are recreating on the corner of 8th and T. I guess it is all a spiritual adventure. May God bless our journeys and our ministry. Aart

 
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Reflection May 29

Published on June 2, 2016 by in Reflections

I Chronicles 16: 8,9,10,12;Luke  23:42

The discipline of remembering

Today we remember loved ones gone from our lives in the past year.  Perhaps there should be many more candles, for there are always some we haven’t included.  We also remember the sacrifices of our soldiers in the conflicts of years gone by and even today. So this weekend is about remembering and about memory.  In our passage in I Chronicles David reminds the people of all the great things God has  done:”Oh give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known God’s deeds among the peoples!”  The people are told to remember.  David is calling them to that discipline.  Remembering is important. That is the first point I would like to impress on you today.  Then Jesus from the cross reminds the convict next to Him that He will remember him. That is the second point I want you to take with you:  We are part of God’s remembering.

In the PBS series Wallander, Kurt Wallander played by Kenneth Branagh is a Swedish detective with lots of demons in his life.  He is one of this those thinking, brooding cops.  This makes him very likeable.  In the last episode of the series last week he is investigating his son-in-law’s father, a former Swedish Navy officer about the death of his wife and about a past incident of foreign submarines entering Swedish waters.  While he is getting closer to the truth, he is called to his doctor’s office and there he receives the news that he has been diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimers.  So he is solving the case while his is losing his memory.  He mutters things to his father who has died and complains how his memory comes only in moments, how the memories aren’t connected.  It is as if the memories are not connected to the larger narrative, the larger story of his life.

The writer Fred Buecher said about remembering: “In one sense the past is dead and gone, never to be repeated, over and done with, but in another sense, it is of course not done with at all or at least not done with us. Every person we have ever known, every place we have ever seen, everything that has happened to us-it all lives and breathes deep in us somewhere whether we like it or not, and sometimes it doesn’t take much to bring it to the surface in bits and pieces. A scrap of a song that was popular years ago. A book we read as a child. A stretch of a road we used to travel….Old failures, old hurts. Times to beautiful to tell or too terrible.  Memories come at us helter-skelter and unbidden, sometimes so thick and so fast that they are more than we can handle in their poignance, sometimes so sparsely that we all but cry out to remember more. “ (Frederick  Buechner “A Room called Remember”, p. 4).

Friends, why do we remember? Why should we remember.   Why is not better to forget?  Letting go of things in the past is important, but remembering matters, because people have taught us things about life: about courage or the lack of it and resilience and the lack of it, love or the lack of it, strength and the lack of it. Remembering reminds us what’s possible.  David understands this.  It  is important to know what God is capable of and especially God’s never ending ability and commitment to remember us.

We have to remember the story of the Bible, of God’s journey with people, all the way to Jesus and the life of the Church beyond His presence on earth.   Without memory there is no hope.  Without the memory that things can be wonderful, we will not believe in a future.  As the writer writes about Jesus:”The past and the future. Memory and expectation. Remember and hope. Remember and wait. Wait for Him Whose face we all of us know because somewhere in the past we have faintly seen it, Whose life we all of us thirst for because somewhere in the past we have seen it lived…Remember Him Who Himself remembers us as He promised to remember the thief Who dies beside Him. To have faith is to remember and wait, and to wait in hope and to wait in hope is to have what we hope for already begin to come true in us through our hoping (Buechner p. 12).  Dear friends, our memory fails us all the time.   Sometimes all we get are patches.  But it is our job to remember what we can, about good people and about our good God.  For those memories will give us hope.  The Swedish police detective Wallander was distressed at the patches of memory that were left to Him.  Our memories are flawed too.  And even if we have perfect recollection, what are our memories by itself. What greater meaning do they have?  With faith, they mean something, because all of our lives- remembered or not- have a place within the memory and purpose of God Who always remembers our lives. Thanks be to God. .

 

 
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Reflection May 22

Published on June 2, 2016 by in Reflections

Proverbs 8; 22, 23; Psalm 8 4,5; Romans 5:1-5

Faith by Numbers

You all know all about painting by numbers.  Fill in the pictures with the right colors and an image will appear.  You also know how to connect the dots by numbers, following them in order.  Wouldn’t it be great if all of life was like that? And wouldn’t it be great if we come to a picture of God that way?

Admit it or not you and I put our faith a lot in numbers.  It is Trinity Sunday and Trinity means the unity of three or 3-in-1. It seems to be a kind of formula.  And to us God does not fit in formulas very well.

I head a puzzler question on car talk.  A ragtag bunch of explorers is stuck in northern Alaska in the heart of winter.  One of them needs to get to the doctor.   There is one plane which they are getting ready. They are worried whether it will start, because it is thirty degrees below 0.  The gauge says “do not operate below 40% Celsius. So the pilot asks the mechanic:” do you know the conversion formula from Celsius to Fahrenheit?  “No,” says the mechanic, but you will be alright.” How did he know?  Well, let’s leave that for a bit shall we, I am sure you do not care to know the answer.

Friends, there are many numbers we pay attention to.  Perhaps you follow the stock market up and downs or the status of your retirement accounts; maybe you closely monitor gas prices or food prices;  maybe you like to go out a lot and you keep track of ticket prices;  As kids inch toward high school graduation there are grades and test scores to keep tabs on.  If you like politics there are poll numbers and voters; If you take could care of your car you will care about miles traveled and care mileage.  If you have concerns about you health there are blood pressure and blood tests for all kind of indicators. And then we have said nothing yet about weight and length. Churches keep an eye on pledges and spaghetti dinner fundraiser totals.  Then are the numbers in passwords and codes and in the genome code we discussed earlier. What all these have in common, friends, are numbers.  Numbers, numbers everywhere.  Baseball stats are numbers as are those of any sports. They measure ability and speed and efforts and success.  You and I live by numbers.  And I have just mentioned a small number of things. Numbers run our lives and sometimes ruin our lives.  It is almost as if we live our lives painting by numbers or connecting dots in sequential numbers.  We have a belief that if the numbers are good our lives are most likely to be good. Oh, and by the way, the mechanic knew things would be okay because he knew that 40 degree Celsius and 40 degrees Fahrenheit  below zero are the same temperature.

Friends, we get lost in the numbers that we use to try to keep our life on track and our lives lined up.  All the measurements and indicators haunt us in our sleep.  So many figures to keep track of.

The problem is not there is no truth in numbers.  There is, because otherwise we wouldn’t pay any attention to it.  No, the problem is that there is no meaning in the figures.

Then once a year there is Trinity Sunday.  Trinity, as 3-in-1.  Numbers again.  There seems to be something cheap in using a formula for God.  As if God could be mathematically deduced.  Still we get them from the Bible.  Maybe this 3-in-1 has been foreordained, before time.  Or maybe it is the only way we can make sense of the mystery of God.   There is God the Creator, the Origin of all things, the force that propels all matter and life.   There is also God as Messiah Who became the smallest and the most vulnerable among us.  Then there is God as a spiritual wind or breeze of some sorts and Holy Spirit.  These are inseparable and they are One.  So they are creative power, power of love and power of and peace.  As simple as it is, this is not just a formula however.  The formula doesn’t matter in the end. It is how we human beings get meaning in our lives.  With our faith in the Trinity instead of in numbers, first we can participate in creation and be a creative force, second, we can know that God empathizes with us and loves us beyond life and finally and we can be assured of the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit. It is an intricate web of meaning.  No numbers we devise to explain the universe as well as our lives can take that place.

So, friends, this formula of numbers called the Trinity is not a formula at all, it is the God Whom we worship, A God Who is Creator,  Vulnerable Human and ever-present Spirit at the same time.  It is because of this God that we matter, that our existence on this earth makes a difference, not just for the moment, but in the greater scheme of things.  Friends, to God we are not a number.  Thanks be to God.

 

 

 

 
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Reflection May 15

Published on June 2, 2016 by in Reflections

Pentecost; Genesis 11: 7; Acts 2: 1-4

Between Chaos and Holy Order

One of our members who is in a care home said to me that other: ”At first I didn’t think God was in this place, but now I know God is. “  That, friends, at first glance is not a correct statement.  Shouldn’t God be everywhere? But it is a real experience.  There are times when we experience God as being totally absent from our lives and because we believe in God it is harder even than for someone who has written off the idea of God: the silence can be deafening, the darkness overwhelming and the loneliness unbearable.  Perhaps there was something of that in earliest Church before it became the Church.  The absence of Jesus (as God incarnated) is overwhelming.  The loss is paralyzing.  A group of many languages and backgrounds is gathering and they hear the wind and experience tongues of flames and suddenly a holy order is established. There is a feeling of peace and unity and togetherness and hope and they can understand each other.  Pentecost is important, not because we are all going to feel just like that, but because if we are open we can all have some sort experience of the Holy Spirit, like our member in the care home, that somehow, in some way, God is present and at work.

The story of Babel in the Old Testament , on the other hand is the story of utter chaos.  A people work on a tower that will be the tallest of all (ironically the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, now sits in that same region of the world).  But it is a building of pride and arrogance. So they are taught a lesson. They suddenly stop understanding each other and suddenly the commands of one worker to another, from foreman to bricklayer, from architect to construction manager can no longer be understood.  They are stumped.  So the work is halted and the tower falls in ruins.  Of course there are have been long periods of peace and tranquility in the region around Babel, modern-day Iraq, since the time in which the story was set. However, to us it seems the chaos of the story has always been there.  The region always seems to be in turmoil.  We still see daily images of crying men and desperate mothers.  We are more troubled than ever before by this, because we know now that what we did as a country or fail to do as a country is a contributing factor to the misery of the people in that troubled region.  Of course we know that centuries of ethnic and religious differences has made it fertile ground for unrest,  but our greed for oil and power is just fuel on the fire.

Babel and Pentecost as I have told you before are bookends. They are the extremes of chaos and holy order.  You and I live our lives in between these extremes.  We have the experience of Chaos (we discussed some of the examples already) and we have the experience of Pentecost.  We understand that our attitude has a lot to do with which one we are going to be more familiar with.  Pride leads to chaos in ourselves for we set ourselves over against others who also have pride and someone must lose. The Bible seems to teach that humility is most likely to lead to an experience of the Holy Spirit r vice versa.  We acknowledge our flaws and our limitations and recognize the power of God’s acting in our lives.

Friends, on the biggest island of the Hawaiian chain sits a series of eight magnificent deep and emerald green valleys in between the dry Kohala and the lush Hamakua coasts.  The widest one, furthest south, is the famous Waipi’o valley. The one on the north end, the Pololu valley is less well known, but it has a scenic , rocky trail running  from the valley floor, near the violent surf, to the road on top. A local friend of ours whose family has ancestral lands near there told us that every time she hikes up this trail, her breath fails her at exactly the same point.   She thinks it may be one of her long deceased relatives or an ancient enemy.  She says it has happened seven times.  There are other explanations of course: the trail changes contours right at that spot and perhaps it is psychological for her by now.  The concept of her theory intrigues me:  that there are unresolved relationships and events that bind us together but also keep us separated and conflicted, even beyond time.  Perhaps this happens in everyday life: as much as Pentecost wants to flow in, Babel still haunts us.  There seems to be so much chaos, in families, in marriages, in work places, in governments and yes, in churches.  Often these are driven by pride or greed or possessiveness or good old insecurity.  Friends, maybe you and I should be aware of the chaos Babel describes and how it works in our lives. It sometimes stuns me how it creeps into groups of any kind.  We should remember that God as Holy Spirit seeks to fill the vacuum of our lives, as a whiff or breeze of grace and have that which is perplexing, frightening and chaotic make sense and give meaning.  Thanks be to God.

 

 
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Coach’s corner

Published on May 9, 2016 by in Coach's Corner

When things get real,

The most famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams” is: “If you build it, they will come.”  Of course that movie was about a farm field in Iowa which was being turned into a baseball field for the ghosts of departed ball players. Nevertheless what we have been doing at Parkview is building a field of dreams of sorts. It is a place where people can learn to minister from and to a unique and diverse group of people. This is a great opportunity. It is also a grand experiment. There are other residencies out there in the US, but not many and they are in large churches that receive funding from organizations like the Lily foundation. And there are no multicultural ministry residencies that I know of. In an earlier coach’s corner I talked about the Leicester City football (soccer) club in England and how they were doing very well with about 10% of the budget of the large, rich clubs. Well that club has just won the English Premier League watched around the globe and the season isn’t even over yet. They say it is the most stunning feat in a hundred years. Think of the Cubs winning the World Series with almost no budget. So small organizations can have a great impact.

We have gone through a number of stages in the development of our program since early last year. We began by floating the idea and asking for advice from people outside the church. We asked and got support from the Presbytery whose Mission Support Committee is an active partner in this project. We asked and got generous support from you for Kansha renovation.We contacted about twenty seminaries and I went recruiting around the US. We established teams: a selection committee (Titus Toyama, Carol Sakai, Maurine Huang, Jennifer Nishizaki), a kansha renovation committee (Stan Umeda, Barbara Hiyama Zweig with Bill Nagata working on the window bars), a decorating/furnishing committee(Carla Hart, Lori Hart, Donna Komure-Toyama, Cathy Nishizaki), we got a local Presbyterian Disaster Assistance team to come twice already to help us renovate, including creating a larger window to meet code. We had heating and air put in as well as a water heater.

But if we build it will they come? That question is being answered. The selection committee with the approval of the session had offered a position to two bright young women. The first is Chakrita Saulina, a woman from Indonesia (ironically no connection to the Indonesian congregation or me) who has just finished her masters of Theology at Yale Divinity School in Connecticut. She is slated to be coming from mid June to Mid September with a possibility of renewal The second is Rola Al-Askar from the Presbyterian Church of Lebanon who is finishing up her masters at Princeton Seminary and is to come in early October for a year. Application is still open as we can have two residents at time in the Kansha. So things are becoming real. We are excited about these residents-to-be as they are bright and motivated women who, undoubtedly, will have great impact wherever they serve in their life. It is great to think they will be able to do that with a dose of Parkview in their system!

Reality does come with side effects. It’s okay when the field is just a field, but when the players arrive it can happen that latent or new questions emerge and sometimes considerable anxiety. We may feel some of that, but that’s all part of blazing new trails. We may have a resident here in five weeks and there much to do still. Things may be a little frantic, even though we have been very deliberate in our process. Rola is still struggling with questions about visa renewal and there other issues we had not counted on that are particular to each resident. Experiments come with unpredictability. 

Now one question you may have: what will change with the coming of residents with regards to the way we go about things? The answer is: essentially nothing. The residents will not be here to take over the duties of any volunteers. They will be there to learn and coming alongside. We want them to create new energy, not to replace the energy the Parkview family has already created; to open up new opportunities and connections, not dominate existing tasks. Some of their duties will therefore be outside of our congregation’s bounds.

Thank you for your continued support.May God bless our ministry. Aart

 
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