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“And anyone who does not take up the cross and follow me is not worth of me.” In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Since returning from Hawaii, Jane has been suggesting that I talk about Hawaii. Jane watched a video on the history of the Diocese of Hawaii and really liked it. It’s on the web and readily accessible. It’s the largest of the Episcopal dioceses. It’s mostly ocean and includes the island of Guam. The Anglican Church was one of the first churches there.
King Kamehameha IV was an Anglican and a man of great faith. Queen Emma’s father was an Anglican and she grew up with the Prayer Book. What King Kamehameha IV liked about being part of the Anglican Church was that it allowed you to be who you are; it allowed you to be Hawaiian. King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma were confirmed by the Anglican Bishop in Hawaii and bowed to him. In so doing they were saying that they were people of God. This had not happened before. Queen Emma continued to work for the church, visiting England and obtaining funding. She is known in Hawaii as the beloved queen. After King Kamehameha IV died, Queen Emma became the dowager queen, but did not rule. King Kamehameha V was also confirmed Episcopalian and continued his brother’s legend of being Anglican. The last reigning monarch, a queen, was illegally overthrown and Hawaii was illegally annexed by the Unites States.
The first bishops of Hawaii were from England, but after becoming a State, the Hawaiian bishops were Episcopalians. All the bishops were involved in growing the church and in planting new churches. One of the Episcopalian bishops was Edmond Browning. Browning opposed the war in Vietnam, favored the ordination of women and began discussions on including the gay community. He later became Presiding Bishop. I remember him as I’m sure many of you do. He was too liberal for the Church of the Good Shepherd at that time and we did not send any money to the National Church as a result.
I’m amazed at how many people from Silver City have vacationed in Kuai and know its history. Over half of our coffee group has been to Kauai.
Our seven-year-old neighbor is being home schooled and is a regular visitor. I thought I would help with her education so I explained to her that the Hawaiian Islands were volcanoes in the middle of the ocean and asked how the plants and trees got there. She said water, wind, birds and later Polynesians and Captain Cook. I may have added the part about the Polynesians and Captain Cook, but I got the message what I know about Hawaii is only new to me and decided to talk to you about the Gospel Reading which I think is a good one.
In Mathew, chapter 10, Jesus is talking to his disciples. In the first part of today’s reading, he’s encouraging them. He reminds them and us that we are loved. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without God knowing. And even the hairs on your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
And we know that that’s a special kind of love. An unconditional love that will be with us always. A love that seeks us out and cares for us; a love and a faithfulness in which we can trust.
Not only are we loved, but we are in this together. In the second part of the Gospel Reading, Jesus explains that being a disciple is a costly thing. There are challenges in following him. These are our challenges and the challenges of the church: an institution that is supposed to embody the dynamic , life-changing message of the Gospel.
I’ve read that there are over 33,000 Christian denominations in 238 countries around the world and that the trend is less and less emphasis on denomination. The current trend is a return to the church that Matthew addresses when he wrote down the words of Jesus about the challenges of following him. If that’s true, halleluia; it’s a good sign.
During the mid-week service, we celebrate the lives of various saints. Last week, we learned about St. Alban. Not to make the men jealous, but we were eleven ladies and me.
Alban was a Roman soldier who gave shelter to a Christian priest who was fleeing from persecution. Alban was converted to Christianity by this priest. When Roman officers came to Alban’s house, he dressed himself up in the garments of the priest and gave himself up. Alban was tortured and martyred in place of the priest. For St. Alban’s day, we read the portion of St. Matthew that explained the cost of discipleship. Alban paid the highest cost. He basically took up the cross, but his reward is likely eternal life.
What does it mean to take up the cross? We trivialize the saying today. My spouse is the cross I have to bear or a chronic illness is my cross to bear. But in Jesus day, to take up the cross meant to carry your cross to your crucifixion. So I think that Jesus is asking for our total commitment. He wants our life devoted to him and he will determine how our life will be conducted.
And how do we become a disciple, what’s the first great principle of discipleship? It’s simply as Matthew tells us. The disciple is to become as the master. Disciples of Jesus are to become as much like him as is humanly possible. That’s our charge. That’s our mission in life.
He or she who does not take up his or her cross and follow Jesus is not worthy of Jesus. Amen.