We might want to glamorize or glorify the legacy of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, even as their descendants live with the consequences of a racist form of capitalist exploitation of the natural resources that were a sacred source of life for the original inhabitants of that land. How can we hold all these stories on this feast day, appreciating how Kamehameha and Emma lived, ruled, and worshipped, while also acknowledging the cultural genocide that has impacted their people? How might we find absolution and forgiveness? How and when will we turn to a new way?
Noted theologian and TV writer and producer Shonda Rhimes once wrote: “Freedom lies across the field of the difficult conversation.” So I want to give you fair warning: this sermon will be one of those difficult conversations. If I wasn’t trying to give you a warning, I would’ve started my sermon with these words from Frederick Douglass: “Were I to be again reduced to the chains of slavery…I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me.”
I know what it feels like to experience what Blanche DuBois hallows with her heartbreaking line from A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” In fact, the story of how I became an Episcopalian begins with the kindness of a stranger who pitied me when I, like one of the foolish bridesmaids, was found lacking at the last minute.