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.
(The Reverend Siri Hauge Hustad) Often a sermon is to open up with Hope and wonder and the good news of Jesus Christ; alas that is not my only task for today, at least not in the very beginning…
I have witnessed how conflict has been faced in healthy ways and in not so healthy ways in a variety of faith communities. I have been in healthy conflict and I have also been in unhealthy conflict. Unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict, like triangulation – complaining to people about a person we refuse to speak to directly – avoids the hard work required of love. Erich Fromm famously writes, “Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, love is a practice.”
Most preachers I know are always on alert for a good story to enliven their sermons: a compelling anecdote, a funny personal experience, a touching memory. Craig tells us tales of growing up in Zimbabwe; Jered talks about stalking defenseless mushrooms in the forest, Chelsea has spoken about her job with immigrants….
Today, I happen to have a doozy of a story….
This morning’s sermon will consist of three short reflections on today’s Scriptures. The first involves a story about my favorite classical pianist. The second my favorite pop song. And the third is one of my favorite prayers.
Do you ever look at a person and imagine what they were like as a child? This is a skill I try to cultivate when I am faced with people who are difficult. And, of course, the most difficult person I have ever met, is myself!
“… The call of God on our lives interrupts our allegiance to the often death dealing, sacrificial systems of the world. God’s call, interrupts the economies that exploit, interrupts the politics that prioritize power over generosity, that prizes our love of guns over the lives of our children, that puts “national interest” over the imperative to welcome strangers and immigrants. The call of the one true God, the God of Abraham and Sarah of Isaac and Rebekah and Leah, of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, is a call away from the all the plans we once had, interrupts the business as usual of the world and calls us into a faith that feeds the hungry, visits and cares for the sick, listens to the story of the lonely and the abandoned, that let’s Christ show up in all the interruptions of the life of ministry and discipleship…”