In 1862, the United States was in turmoil. The Civil War had already begun. Halfway around the world, King Kamehameha IV and Emma established the Church of Hawaii. We now call it the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii.
Some might argue that this was a political ploy. But Kamehameha and Emma might argue otherwise.
The King felt economic and political pressure from Hawaii’s American population. Annexation to the United States, he feared, would destroy the monarchy. So, yes, forging ties with England makes political sense.
For Kamehameha and Emma, establishing this diocese was not so much about ensuring power. It was about their obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was about their love for the people of Hawaii.
When Honolulu suffered through a smallpox epidemic, Hawaiians never expected help from the royals. After all, it always ruled with power and pomp.
Imagine their surprise seeing their King and Queen soliciting funds to build a hospital for them! And later a cathedral and a school. Queen’s Medical Center, St. Andrew’s Cathedral and St. Andrew’s Priory School continue to serve as the medical, spiritual and educational centers of the Hawaiian people.
By serving others with humility and grace, Kamehameha and Emma shared their love of God. Our gospel from Matthew 25 epitomizes their understanding of the Christian faith.
Days before he died on the Cross, the disciples had a question for Jesus: “When will it happen? What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
While Jesus said he did not know when it would happen, he tells us what we can expect.
When the Son of Man ascends to his throne, all the nations will gather before him. Like a shepherd, he will divide them as if they were sheep and goats.
To the “sheep”, he will grant them their inheritance in the kingdom of heaven:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (vv. 35-6).”
And to the “goats”, God will curse them to the same eternity of damnation prepared for the devil and his angels:
“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me (vv. 42-3).”
Confused, they will ask their King when they ever saw him or did these things? To which he will say:
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me…Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did not do for me (vv. 40 and 45)”
Our gospel teaches us that by serving the needs of the less fortunate, we honor and worship our Lord. Not just with our lips, but with our lives. This lesson shaped the reign of our beloved Kamehameha IV and Emma. By following their example of loving others, we do so staring into the eyes of God.