Faith and Works


Our Lessons today are perfect for the commemoration of the great 19th century monarchs  of Hawaii, King Kamehameha and Queen Emma. The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (17:22-31) shows us the gentle and sensitive evangelism preached by St. Paul to the Athenians where he builds on their primitive faith without undermining it. He acknowledges their altar to “an unknown god” and tells them that this is the God he has come to proclaim!

A similarly gracious approach must have been taken by the English missionaries (unlike some of the earlier ones in Hawaii!) who came at Kamehameha’s invitation and which led to the confirmation of both king and queen on this day in 1862.

They had already proven that they were people of good will and motivated by a Christ-like spirit by building Queen’s Hospital for their people in the wake of a devastating small pox epidemic. It only remained to introduce them to the Good News of the One who was the Source of such generosity!

And the great Gospel text from Matthew (25:31-40) reminds us that, while justification may indeed come by faith, Christ’s final Judgment will include seeing just how that faith has been lived out in our lives. “For I was hungry and you gave food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t read that list without thinking of another one to which The Episcopal Church has committed itself through General Convention action – The Millenium Development Goals – eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, combating HIV/AIDS and malaria and other diseases and all the rest.

 I know that we have come under some criticism by adopting such “secular” goals and giving them such a high priority rather than, say, The Great Commission to “go into all the world, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” For the life of me, I can’t separate those things! I don’t think Jesus does either! Our Presiding Bishop has described the MDG’s as images…icons…lenses for how we can help build the reign of God in our own day.

“Show me your faith apart from your works,” St. James writes in his Epistle (2:18b), “And I by my works will show you my faith.” Queen Emma of Hawaii did that in spades!

After she lost her son and her husband to death, she devoted the rest of her life to good works and built schools and churches and took many other initiatives on behalf of the poor and the sick.

When was it, Lord, that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or in prison…and came to your help?


When you did it to one of the least of these, dear child, you did to me.

5 Responses to “Faith and Works”

  1. rwk Says:

    It is one thing for an institution to “pledge itself to a set of goals” and it is another to see how it goes about fulfilling that pledge. It is my understanding that the Episcopal Church has “pledged” 0.7% of its budget towards the MDG. It may be an impressive figure for some, but if my contribution to the church were 0.7% of my income some might see me as not particularily committed to the mission.

    I don’t have a lot of patience for those conservatives who “pooh-pooh” the MDG as a set of guidelines. However, neither are they a substitute for the Gospel. But I do realize that there are many ways to help the poor and that UN does not necessarily have “the golden road”. Even the fairest judgement on the UN would be something along the terms of “mixed success”. So, I can accept some healthy skepticism.

    However, in Virginia, the “dissenting/departing congregations” had agreed in the discarded Protocol to work for an equitable settlement with the diocese on property. In fact, no precise guidelines were committed to. If 815 had let things develop as Godly persons on both sides of the divide had worked for over a year to reach agreement on, then the “compensation” from those congregations could have gone straight to the MDG. It likely would have been several million dollars. In addition, all of the lawyers fees could have gone to the same. Who knows, maybe the Episcopal Church could have reached 1.0%.

    I would also add that The Falls Church has many, many ministries it supports here and abroad that will at best be crippled by the loss of the facilities we use…most of which were bought and paid for within the last 15 years. We support a school in the slums of Kenya, a major rebuilding project in Pass Christian, Mississippi, Birthmothers Ministry — of which I was a founding member (a site I recommend so you can see how we live out our faith, — …the list goes on. If you haven’t perused the church’s website, I recommend it. My point is, that if the MDG were as high an ideal as claimed then maybe the calculus at 815 2nd Ave. would have included the probable loss of real aid going to real people all over the world and not just “some land or buildings in Virginia”.

    Please forgive me Bishop Epting while I cash in some credibility chips here. I’ve always labored to maintain a sense of respect for you and the others here. I don’t mean this in a mean-spirited way, but it is the reality as I see it. If the lawsuits go as the presiding bishop desires, the lawyers will be richer and the poor, both locally and globally, we have been and are helping from The Falls Church will be worse off. And being a member of The Falls Church, it hits pretty close to home….

  2. rwk Says:

    From this morning’s lectionary…

    Psalm 133

    The Blessedness of Unity

    A Song of Ascents.
    1How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!
    2It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down upon the beard,
    on the beard of Aaron,
    running down over the collar of his robes.
    3It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion.
    For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
    life for evermore.

    I am not pointing fingers either way with this Psalm but I do feel how it puts many of us far outside where God would want us to be. God Bless.

  3. ecubishop Says:

    rwk: While not for a moment disagreeing with you that money spent on litigation and internal disputes could be much better spent on outreach and mission of all kinds, I believe The Episcopal Church has done a pretty good job of seeing that those funds do not come out of basic program and outreach, but extra-budgetary resources. Nonetheless, your point is well taken. Any dollars spent on such efforts fall far short of what we would both hope they could be used for.

    The 0.7% MDG figure is more symbolic than anything else when applied to individual or church giving. My personal tithe is 10%, congregations I have served gave approximately 20% to the diocese, and loyal dioceses give more than that percentage to the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church.

    It is governments of the world who are asked to pledge 0.7% and if they did that, we would indeed end extreme poverty in this world. We cannot ask governments to do what we, as individuals and churches do not do.

    And, yes, I had the same thought when praying Psalm 133 this morning!

  4. melissa Says:

    mahalo for your acknowledgement and celebration of the works and faith of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. They are very worthy examples of faith in action. I’m guessing that you are not based in Hawaii from some of the other blog posts and so your acknowledgement of these two saints is especially touching. It is unfortunate that we have Episcopal congregations here who do little to celebrate Feast Day or who have clergy who have to practically contort themselves to mention the King and Queen (mainly because they are so American-centric that the whole royalty thing trips them up —ignoring that the Hawaiian people viewed the King and Queen with great love.)

  5. Theodore A. Jones Says:

    Paul stated his life’s objective was to tear down strong holds and not built on another man’s foundation. If the message of salvation Paul preached were to have been gentle and sensitive as yours is he would not have been stoned, beaten, left for dead or constantly on the run for his life. Your message of salvation if it were the same as his would garner the same result but since it doesn’t it is your message that differs from his.

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