Sunday, November 10, 2019
Twenty-second Sunday After Pentecost
“No laila, e nā hoahānau, e kūpaʻa, a e ho‘opa‘a loa i ka haʻawina i a‘o ‘ia aku ai iā ‘oukou ma ka ‘ōlelo, a ma kā mākou ‘episetole.” In his second letter to the early church in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul writes: “So then brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letters (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
What was going on in Thessalonica that would compel Paul to admonish the people to stand firm – kūpa‘a – and hold fast to the traditions they were taught? We discover in the opening verse of the chapter that the question troubling some of the Thessalonians was whether or not the “day of the Lord is already here” (2 Thessalonians 2:2) – whether in the aftermath of the resurrection, Jesus had returned as he had promised.
Paul recognized that the church was “born and flourished” in a hostile setting (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; Acts 17:5).” He knew that those who were in the church in Thessalonica had undergone ‘grave suffering’ (1 Thessalonians 1:6). They knew the pressure of religious persecution firsthand. But they had also demonstrated remarkable patience and steadfastness in the face of such suffering (Preaching through the Christian year C, Craddok, Hayes, Holladay & Tucker, Trinity International Press, Harrishbug, Pennsylvania, 1994, page 458).
It was because of their suffering that some of the Thessalonians were told that Paul thought “the day of the Lord” had already arrived. But Paul points out that the day had not yet arrived; that a number of events must occur before the end comes. Until then, they must stand firm.
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the death of Queen Lili‘uokalani. She was born on September 2, 1838 to the High Chief Kapa‘akea and High Chiefess Keohokālole. She died on November 11, 1917. Tomorrow, there will be church services throughout Hawaiʻi in commemoration of her passing.
Liliʻuokalani was hānai and raised by Paki and Konia. Later, at the age of 24, she married John Owen Dominis (“An hour with the Queen,” An Hour with the Queen,” Kaleialoha & Hiwahiwa, Hagadone Printing Company, Honolulu, 1998).
She played the piano, guitar, autoharp and organ and was an active and faithful member of Kawaiaha‘o Church. She wrote books, poems and prayers and composed over 160 songs blending Hawaiian and European musical styles including “O Kou Aloha No” or “The Queenʻs Prayer.”
She was declared the heir apparent to the throne on April 11, 1877, by her brother King Kalākaua. On that same day, he gave his sister the name Lili‘uokalani.
In 1887, while she was in England, Kalākaua signed a new constitution. But under pressure from American businessmen, he was forced to accept another document that became known as the “Bayonet Constitution”, a constitution that removed the decision-making power from the constitutional monarchy of the nation. When Kalākaua died in 1891, Liliʻuokalani took the oath of office as queen and pledged to uphold the constitution of 1887 that protected the Hawaiian nation from foreign interference and intervention.
Upon returning home to Hawai’i, she wrote a new constitution, rejecting the “Bayonet Constitution” that was put forth by American businessmen who feared the move would affect their economic prosperity. They formed a Provisional Government.
Amid all of the social, economic, religious and political upheaval, Lili‘uokalani issued her appeal - not to the Provisional Government - but to the U.S. Congress for the restoration of the kingdom. She adopted Kalākaua’s motto ‘Onipa‘a.- stand fast - and made it her own.
“I, Lili’uokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.”
“That I yield to the superior force of the United States of American whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu, and declared that he would support the said Provisional Government.”
“Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life. I do, under this protest and impelled by said forces, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative, and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian islands. Done at Honolulu this 17th day of January A.D.” (Queen Lili’uokalani, Hawai‘i’s Story by Hawai‘i’s Queen, Mutual Publishing)
Concerned for the welfare of human life, Lili’uokalani also wrote: “To prevent the shedding of the blood of my people, natives and foreigners alike, I opposed armed interference and quietly yielded to the armed forces brought against the throne, and submitted to the arbitrament of the government of the United States the decision of my rights and those of the Hawaiian people. Since then as is well known to all, I have pursued the path of peace and diplomatic discussion and not that of internal strife” (Op. cit.)
As she struggled to maintain the sovereignty of the Hawaiian nation, she turned to the church for solace but found none in what was then known as the Hawaiian Evangelical Association. Dominated by American missionaries, the association did not support the queen and soon she turned to the Episcopal Church for solace.
While her faith was tested by the church, she remained faithful to ke Akua - she remained faithful to God. The motto that her brother Kalākaua established for his reign and the motto she took on for her own was about being onipa‘a, about being kūpaʻa - it was about standing fast in the face of tremendous persecution.
She was maligned by American businessmen and members of the clergy. She was placed under house arrest at the palace. There was talk of treason and even rumors that she would be executed.
Paul’s invitation to the Thessalonians to “stand fast” may have caught the queen’s attention. But whether or not it did, Lili‘uokalani was prompted to leave to succeeding generations the lesson of holding “fast to the traditions . . . [we] were taught by [our ancestors], either by word of mouth or by . . . letter.”
Her words echo over a century of time. “Oh, honest Americans,” she wrote, “as Christians hear me for my downtrodden people. Their form of government is as dear to them as yours is precious to you. Quite as warmly as you love your country, so they love theirs. With all your goodly possessions, covering a territory so immense, there yet remain parts unexplored, possessing islands that, although new at hand, had to be neutral ground it time of war, do not covet the little vineyards of Naboth’s, so far from your shores, lest the punishment of Ahab fall upon you, if not in your day, in that of your children, for ‘be not deceived, God is not mocked.’”
“The people to whom your fathers told of the living God, and taught to call ‘Father,’ and whom the sons now seek to despoil and destroy, are crying aloud to him in their time of trouble, and he will keep his promise, and will listen to the voices of his Hawaiian children lamenting for their homes” (Queen Lili‘uokalani: Hawai‘i’s Story by Hawai‘i’s Queen, Mutual Publishing).
There is so much more that may be said about Lili‘uokalani and of her own faithfulness whether we draw upon her own writings or what has been written by others. In the later years, the queen would lament the loss of the nation, but never her faith. Paul offers a clear word of caution in his letter to the Thessalonians:
“Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day [the end] will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
The words addressed to the church in Thessalonica are words addressed to the churches today not only in the U.S. but to churches in every nation in every corner of the world. Paul concludes his letter with the following benediction to those who onipaʻa or kūpaʻa – to those who stand firm: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace, gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:17). May it be soon. Amen