My good friends and much-loved congregation–
There is nothing like an illness from out-of-the-blue to make you grateful for all of the good things in our lives. The last ten days, including removal of my gall bladder last week and a full-week stay in the hospital, have been full of moments of grace and forgiveness and healing, which I will share with you for a long time, no doubt. I feel like this is an experience whose blessings will keep getting uncovered…and no doubt it will make me a much better conversation partner for you who have gone through something similar!
As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of time to listen to the news in the last couple of weeks. It does seem a little like one of those moments when the whole world is going crazy, doesn’t it? Sometimes it seems like this when natural disasters keep coming, but this time has seemed much more like the product of humans hating and fearing one another—in Iraq, Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and closer to home, in Ferguson, Missouri, and in some of the hateful reactions to migrant children entering from Central America.
And then…in the very back corner of last Sunday’s New York Times, I saw an obituary for Eroni Kumana, who died at 96 on the Pacific island of Rannoga, the island where he had lived his whole life. Until the day he died last week, Kumana lived in a village without electricity, telephone service, running water or any paved roads.
Early in the morning on August 5, 1943, at another time when it must have seemed like the world was going crazy, Kumana, who was a fisherman and canoe maker, was out fishing when he came upon a small group of American men huddled, scared and cold, behind sand dunes.
Swimming nearby, trying to reach another island, was the captain of their shipwrecked PT-109 boat. Using only sign language, Kumana showed the captain how to scratch a message into a coconut shell with a pen-knife; he delivered it to the nearest Naval base, and the entire crew was rescued the next day.
The captain was John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Think of how the world might be different if Eroni Kumana had not done the one thing that probably seemed obvious and un-heroic at that moment, but that made an immense difference in a way he could never have foreseen.
It is easy to get overwhelmed when the scale of the world’s problems dwarfs our sense of what we have to offer. But more often than not, what tips the world back onto its right axis is not the great, heroic act. It’s the collection of small extra steps we all make together, toward kindness, toward taking a stand for justice, for loving someone who the rest of the world might hate and fear. It is enough.
I’m so grateful to have a place in ministry alongside of you. And I will be back to occupying it fully very soon! In the meantime, I’m delighted that the youth will lead worship this Sunday. Let’s delight in their wisdom and support their growth.