The sky touches the sea here in Hana, Maui, holding it close as the waters move over the face of the earth. It is warm on this Ascension Sunday, the day we celebrate Christ’s bodily ascension from earth to Heaven, but a cool breeze is spirited ashore. We sit on a wooden deck that wraps our cottage, immersed in sky and sea as though joining them. The blue waters crash and spew against green bluffs and black lava, like sudden memories urging our minds to not forget Memorial Day, and to not forget Christ’s ascension.
For such memory memorializes freedom and those who fought and died for us. Many of those brave men and women who served our country to protect the peace of our shores have ascended ahead of us to God. So it is a time for those of us left behind to give thanks for their courage, to honor those who have gone before and fought for our peaceful gatherings, in churches and squares, in cemeteries and parks.
Today, the 28th of May, is also the second anniversary of our Bishop Morse’s passing into Heaven. God worked through him to touch us. Our bishop often said that it was a matter of saying yes to God, or no to God. If you said yes, as Saint Mary did, said yes to God’s will in your life, said yes to willing his will, God could work through you here on earth. And if he did this, you were changed again and again, transformed and transfigured. When you stumbled, he lifted you up. When you doubted, he infused you with belief. When you despaired, he inspired you with hope. We call this grace, this action of God, and when you say yes, all is grace.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hana was festive this morning as though ascending with Christ. All was light and bright, for the Bishop of Honolulu was visiting to confirm eight children. Arched windows in the white walls leading to the vaulted chancel caught breezes from the sea far below, and the gentle air breathed over God’s people. The acolytes and clergy processed in, lighting the path to the altar with crucifix and candles and Holy Scripture, carried by solemn servers absorbed by the rites of holiness.
The bishop blessed the water in the baptismal font and sprinkled drops over the congregation in the gleaming pews. After lessons were read and responses chanted, he addressed the candidates standing before him. He explained that in the rite of Confirmation, they would be immersed in the Holy Spirit of God, not only marked with chrism oil on the forehead, but immersed totally in God’s love. They would be given power then to tell the world about God’s love, to allow God to love others through them. He spoke earnestly, from the center of the aisle, allowing God to love through him. He asked them questions of belief, questions of great and holy matters, and they answered yes, confirming the vows made at their Baptism. They said yes in this moment of Holy Confirmation. They said yes with heart and soul and mind. They said yes to God.
As we witnessed their Confirmations we confirmed our own, ascending with them into Love, into God, this morning in the village church of Hana, Maui. We joined in the singing and praying and thanksgiving. We ascended into the song of love, the song of yes, the song of Scripture and sacrament. In this white church with its polished pews, young and old from all backgrounds joined hands and sang “E ko makou makua iloko okalani…,” “Our Father, who art in Heaven…”
I knew, as we held hands and prayed together, that this is what we must remember, this is what we must never let slip from our memories. We must bind this moment to our hearts and minds. This moment of communion, with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ, was why our soldiers fought. They fought and died on foreign beaches and in dirty trenches, soaked with Christ’s blood. They fought so that we could hold hands and sing to God today in church, on this Ascension Sunday. They fought so that we could one day ascend with Christ, into Christ, so that we could join earth to Heaven, and Heaven to earth, so that we could become a sacrament of love to our brothers and sisters in this world. So that we, as Bishop Morse often said, could love enough.