BY HERB MONTGOMERY
July 24-25, 2015; Kapolei, HI
In ancient Hawaiian oral tradition, the world came into being through the three gods Kāne, Lono, and Kū. Kāne is the highest of the gods. It is also interesting to note that the worship of Kāne did not include sacrifice or ritual. “Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Pukui, who was raised in Ka‘ū, Hawaii, maintained that the early Hawaiian gods were benign. One Molokaʻi tradition follows this line of thought. Author and researcher Pali Jae Lee writes: “During these ancient times, the only ‘religion’ was one of family and oneness with all things. The people were in tune with nature, plants, trees, animals, the ‘āina, and each other. They respected all things and took care of all things. All was pono.” (see here.)
Community or “oneness” was a central part of Hawaiian culture. The contemporary concept of Ohana can be traced back to this value.
The early Jesus movement within Judaism, with both its successes and failures, in attempting to apply the teachings of their Jesus, also placed community very close to the center of their values.
Lean, imaginatively, into the following passages:
Greet also the church that meets at their house. (Romans 16:5, emphasis added.)
The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. (1 Corinthians 16:19)
Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. (Colossians 4:15)
These were not institutionalized gatherings, but the gathering of those who were endeavoring to follow the teachings of Jesus, from which they together created a set of community-ethics, and who saw each other as valued siblings. They were trying to imitate what they perceived in Jesus’ shared table. It only took a few decades before debates over authority and hierarchy would change the early Jesus movement. The results of these detrimental changes are still with us today.
It is ironic to me that the early Jesus followers’ shared table was not too different from the early Hawaiians’ shared table. And yet it was later European Christians, having chosen hierarchical authority over a shared table, who landed on Hawaiian shores seeking to establish unjust political control over the indigenous population. They landed with a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other.
Today, I consider myself blessed to know a group of Jesus followers on the island of Oahu who are abandoning Colonial forms of Christianity and embracing their Hawaiian roots, as well as their Christian roots and seeking to gather in the form of a shared table again.
Being a guest in their HeartGroup I was asked to share something both Friday night after the community dinner as well as during the study time Saturday afternoon. After each short session I asked if local wisdom could be shared, with one boundary. Each voice was to be valued. No one was to argue with what anyone else would share. You could share your own thoughts on what I had shared, but you could not argue with the response of anyone else in the room. Again, each voice was to be valued and welcomed, recognizing that we are all at different stages of growth. We would be learning to sit comfortably with those differences. Each person’s perspective was to be valued.
It was a beautiful time of sharing. Deeper insights, sincere questions, and some really special breakthroughs were experienced by many in the group. It was not only a time of deconstructing a few harmful religious beliefs, it was a time of reconstructing and re-emphasizing values that help us along the way as we choose to create a safer more compassionate world for everyone.
This group holds a special place in my heart. We have journeyed together in our following Jesus over the last six years. We all began in very different places than where each of us is today. And we are still growing. Some of the testimonies I heard this week were from those whose previous religious expressions I know personally were oppressive, negative, and harmful both to themselves as well as those around them. Following Jesus today, in their own words have left them the “happiest they’ve ever been,” and with the overwhelming sense of “chains” being “loosed.”
Seeing the changes in the lives of those I have just been privileged to spend this week reminds me of why we do what we do here at Renewed Heart Ministries (RHM). It’s about liberating the hearts, minds and lives of those for whom harmful pictures of a god have done much damage. It’s about empowering those same lives to follow that Jewish teacher, choosing each day to create, both in big ways and small, Jesus’ more just, equitable and gracious world for us all.
It takes all of us. Thank you for supporting the work of RHM. Together we are making a difference.