Wishing all readers a safe and blessed Memorial Day weekend, honoring our troops who died defending our freedom, thanking them for their sacrifice, and remembering that Jesus Christ Himself paid the ultimate price to win the victory over sin, death and hell, and rising from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 57) to give all who trust Him eternal life!
As we officially begin the summer season of celebrations and holidays, may you enjoy this repost from the archives about the traditions of the the Hawaiian custom of the luau, which is a popular summer party theme. Much of the symbolism of this ceremonial feast has a parallel in Christian beliefs.
In Christ we have great reason to celebrate, no matter what our circumstances, because we have joy in the Lord (Psalm.32:11; Isaiah. 61:10; Matthew. 25:21,23) and the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah.8:10). Even while chained in a cold, gloomy prison cell for preaching the Gospel, the apostle Paul was so filled with joy that he said to Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
The luau is held not only to celebrate, but also as an occasion to show hospitality to those outside our immediate circle of family and close friends. Scripture tells us to be hospitable even to strangers, because we may be entertaining angels without even knowing it! (Hebrews 13:2). When Abraham offered a feast to three strangers who dropped in, it turned out to be the LORD and two angels, and he was blessed by the news that Sarah would give birth to a son in her old age, giving rise to a great nation (Genesis 18).
In ancient times in Hawaii, men and woman ate their meals separately, and women were not allowed to eat foods that were served only to men on special occasions. However, in 1819, King Kamehameha did away with these religious laws and taboos (Romans 14:2-3) and ate with all the women during the luau, with everyone enjoying the special dishes formerly given only to men.
This reminds me that Jesus Christ, Who is King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), for all who trust Him are equal and all one in Him (Galatians 3: 26-28). Regardless of sex, race, nationality, or religious upbringing, all those who place their trust Him will take part in His marriage supper, which will be the most amazing celebration of all time! (Revelation 19:9)
To honor the guests of the luau, the host gives each one a lei, which is a garland or wreath given as a symbol of affection. It can be any series of objects strung together, like a necklace of beads, but it is usually made of fresh natural plants such as flowers, leaves, vines, fern fronds, nuts, and seeds.
On May 1 of every year, Hawaiians celebrate "Lei Day," so named in 1927 by poet Don Blanding. Since World War II, it has been the modern custom in Hawaii to give a lei with a kiss. The apostle Paul four times in his letters tells believers to greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). But the traditional custom is to give a lei by bowing slightly and raising it above the heart as a sign of love, allowing the person to take it, because raising the hands above another's head, or touching their face or head, is considered disrespectful.
This reminds me of the apostle Paul’s encouragement for us to submit ourselves to one another (Ephesians 5:1) and to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another (Romans 12:10). Even in relationships where one person has rightful authority over another, such as parent to child, boss to employee, or teacher to student, we should still consider the needs of the other person over our own. If we brag or boast or lord our authority over someone, God will bring us down, but if we have a servant’s heart toward others, God will lift us up (Matthew 23:12).
Hawaiians honor leis and what they represent by never throwing them away casually. If they cannot return leis to the place they were gathered, they return them to the earth by hanging them in a tree, burying, or burning them. Because a lei symbolizes the love of the giver, to toss one in the trash would be a sign of disrespect or ingratitude. Many types of lei can be left in a window to dry, allowing the natural fragrance to fill the room.
As we celebrate Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who went home to the Lord before us, especially those who lost their lives for our freedom in self-sacrificing love, reminding us of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice (John 10:15,17; 15:13; 1 John 3:16). I am thankful for the Godly legacy left me by those who went before me, and their memory lingers on like a sweet-smelling fragrance.
Although we typically think of a lei as a flower garland, more loosely defined, a lei is any series of objects strung together. In Hawaii, children, family and sweethearts are poetically referred to as "lei." Paul describes the church as we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another (Romans 12: 5). So we, as members of the church or body of Christ, can be thought of as a lei, bound together in love as a family.
Each of us is like a flower, different, but more beautiful and fragrant to God when we come to together in unity of spirit than we would be separately. Throughout the book of Acts, we hear of Christians in the early church acting together with one accord, accomplishing far more to spread the Gospel than they could if each were to act separately (Acts 1:14;2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12,7:57, etc.).
The Haku lei is a type of lei crafted by braiding three cords together. Haku mele means to braid a song. A song composed out of affection for an individual is considered a lei, because it is words and notes strung together in love. Paul encourages Christian believers to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).
The three cords of the Haku lei remind me of Solomon’s wisdom that a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12), meaning that friends who are united in their faith in God strengthen and build up one another through trials and temptations (Galatians 6:2; Proverbs 27:17).
The threefold cord is also reminiscent of the Trinity (Matthew 3:16-17). Christ is the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). When our heart believes in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), the Holy Spirit enters us (2 Corinthians 1:22) to teach us about Jesus Christ, Who is the only Way to God the Father (John 14:6).
So as we enjoy holiday celebrations this weekend and throughout the summer, may we remember the legacy of those who went before us and encourage fellow believers. May we celebrate our joy in the Lord, show hospitality and love to one another, and be united in Christ, like flowers woven together in a threefold lei!