Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reflection for the Feast Day of Kamehameha and Emma

Feast Day of Kamehameha and Emma
King and Queen of Hawaii, 1864, 1885
November 28

This reflection, following the Scripture passages below, was offered at the Wednesday 10 am Holy Eucharist on November 27, 2013 at Trinity Episcopal Church, The Woodlands. Join us for our week-day Eucharists on Wednesdays at 10 am and 7 pm.


O Sovereign God, who raised up (King) Kamehameha (IV) and (Queen) Emma to be rulers in Hawaii, and inspired and enabled them to be diligent in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of your Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Acts 17:22-31

Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, `To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him-- though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For `In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, `For we too are his offspring.' Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." 

Matthew 25:31-40

Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' " 


Today in the life of the Church we remember 19th c. King Kamehameha and Queen Emma of Hawaii and their faithful care and compassion for the people of Hawaii.

While I have admired the Creator’s work in the places I have traveled, Hawaii is unique. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, but the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai, is only 5 million years old. The youngest island, known as the “Big Island,” Hawaii is only 300,000 years old.

As my family and I hiked along a trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we noted the remarkable contrasts between lush jungle and moonscape. Sections of the trail included areas of the last major lava flow (1960s) and was mostly devoid of vegetation. I was struck with the realization that I had never been anywhere so new! And I was made aware of the reality of God’s on-going creation in a fresh and powerful way.

It is said that everything came to the islands by way of the “Three W’s”: wing, wind, and water. This is true also for the Anglican (Episcopal) Church.

The wing and wind of the Holy Spirit brushed against the young Kamehameha during an Anglican liturgy (church service) while on a tour of England as a boy. That experience stayed with him.

Years later as he and Queen Emma began their rule, marked with a kindness and sincere care for the people of Hawaii, they “petitioned the Bishop of Oxford to send missionaries to establish the Anglican Church in Hawaii” (Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints, p. 706).

While God had always been there, it was by wind and water that a bishop and two priests arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in October of 1862. Kamehameha and Emma received the sacramental rite of Confirmation a month later. Their legacy includes the building of St. Andrew’s Cathedral and School, as well as the translation of the Book of Common Prayer and large sections of the Hymnal.

This royal couple is known even more widely for Queen’s Hospital, named after Emma. Small pox and other diseases devastated the Hawaiian population during the early years of their monarchy. Queen Emma, in a Matthew 25 kind of manner, personally engaged all people, rich and poor alike, as she went about “with notebook in hand” on her mission to build a hospital for the care of the Hawaiian people.

For islands whose history includes ancient tribal kings who would have someone put to death for standing in their shadow, Kamehameha and Emma were indeed “Holy Sovereigns” (as they are called in the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii) who brought about a better day for the people of the islands.

Like Kamehameha and Emma, we are co-creators with God. We need not be kings or queens to make a difference in this world. We make a difference by being open to the Spirit, loving God and neighbor, seeking peace and justice — all within the every-day time and place of our lives.

God continues to create. There is a new island currently being formed under the surface of the mighty Pacific. 

Wing, wind, water, and God with us. 

What is God creating in you and your life? What is God creating in us — the community and the Church? May God grant us courage, compassion, and grace to be faithful partners with God and each other in the holy enterprise of life.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Most Important Meal of the Day...

Bursting into the house from a full day at the church office followed by a child’s soccer game, I was focused on making dinner. Still carrying my purse and book-bag, I strode toward the kitchen table.

I was here, in this very spot, early this morning when I thoughtfully placed my children’s breakfast on the table. There, still sitting on the table, was one child’s breakfast. I stopped in my tracks and stared at the plate.

Bright red raspberries with Danish pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar on a blue Fiesta-ware plate. To make the presentation more attractive, I had even gone to the effort of using a sifter for the powdered sugar. There it artfully sat—untouched—along with a full glass of room-temperature milk.

Here’s the thing: I wasn’t mad. But I was sad. My child went to school without being properly nourished. He was OK that day, but I want better than OK for him because I love him. And, I know that proper nutrition is vitally important for his growth, development, and well-being.

As I cleared this 12-hour-old breakfast from the table, my thoughts turned toward the Divine.

Jesus teaches us—and reveals to us in his life and ministry—that God is a loving parent who knows our needs and tenderly cares for us. From our good earth, our relationships and communities, our church and worship, God is constantly providing for us.

Daily—like breakfast—God sets before us such good gifts. But how often do we blow pass these offerings, leaving them sitting on the table like my child’s morning meal? Living a life too busy or distracted to mindfully partake of the grace ever before us?

Did I really see and appreciate the rain that fell today, watering the earth and all of us? Did I slow down long enough to connect to other people, seeking the face of Christ in their faces, listening for the Holy Spirit in their lives? Or did my “to-do” list and my concern for efficiency and production short-change those encounters? Did the day begin and end without a mindful stop to connect and give thanks to my Creator?

The feast that God sets before us each day is grand! It is grand even on the most challenging days, when we strain to see it only because others are pointing to it. God is always loving and providing for us. Let us foster habits of seeing, stopping, and receiving that love and grace.

The Book of Common Prayer, in all its forms (from hardcopy to smart phone app, and even The Virtual Abbey's Twitter account @Virtual_Abbey), provides prayer forms for different times of the day to gather us and guide us. The real presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine at our week-day and Sunday Eucharist (“The Great Thanksgiving”) services feed and nourish us in powerful, mysterious, and life-giving ways.

Stop. Partake. Be nourished. So that you may live the faithful, meaningful life God desires for you…and for us.

And in doing so, we will be part of something greater than ourselves: the Body of Christ and God’s benevolent reign in this world.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Insights Gleaned From a Food Truck Chef

The engine turned over and voices from a radio interview filled my car. The interview was well beyond introductions, but I decided to listen and not care if I couldn't make sense of it. My drive wasn’t going to be that long.

Occupied with my own thoughts, I was half-listening, and then I heard this:

“... I wasn't always the most professional looking/acting dude in the world, so I'd go into restaurants, get treated not that well, kind of like crap. So what happened was I thought, ‘OK, if I ever make a restaurant, as soon as anyone opens that door, no matter where you're from, I want you to feel like we've been waiting for you.’"

My eyes teared up a little. His words resonated with me. What he shared was real and poignant. His hope and vision for hospitality was beautiful.

To be welcomed, to belong, to have a place at the table — is a deep human need. We are made for connection. God wired us this way. No wonder why his words profoundly touched me.

It got me thinking: how do we receive others?

This was a key question for a Christian named Benedict in the early 6th century. Hospitality is a core value in the monastic order that bears his name and is expressed in The Rule of St. Benedict. That all guests are “to be welcomed as Christ” is essential to the Benedictine identity and their practice of Christianity to this very day.

So, I think Mr. Roy Choi (the famous L.A. food truck chef from the radio interview) and the Benedictines are on to something important. Fundamental. Necessary. Jesus’ words describing faithfulness confirm this:

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35).

I wonder how our lives, our churches, and our communities would change if we had a similar vision of hospitality to Mr. Choi's? Or an intentional practice of hospitality as with the Benedictines? And prompted by Jesus, what if we dared to welcome the stranger?

I think we would discover another realm of God’s reality for which we’ve been waiting.