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Te Pouhere Sunday 2016
Being English, as a child, our summer holidays meant going to a sea side resort like Blackpool. Actually ours was called Skegness on the North Sea coast! Lots of people, not too clean sea, candy floss, and donkey rides, rows and rows of deck chairs with elderly gentlemen wearing on their bald pates, handkerchiefs tied in a knot at each corner to keep off the sun, a bit like this.
We while we liked to make sand castles, sometimes we went to a pebble beach and made patterns with the little stones, and that's what I'd like you guys to do while I talk to everyone else. Make a mosaic with lots of different colours and let's see what you come up with.
And of course as a child at the English seaside mum or dad would buy us a stick of rock. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a stick of Skegness Rock or Blackpool Rock as a visual aid today, though the helpful woman in the shop downtown tell me that they do get them in from time to time. A hard candy stick usually about an inch thick. Yum I memories of sweet candy stuck between teeth in days when the idea of too much sugar or preventing tooth decay were in their infancy. I know it is Blackpool rock, because the word Blackpool is printed through the full length of the candy, so as I bite it and suck it, Blackpool keeps on keeping on appearing until the very last bit.
Do you remember the story in the gospels where the wise man build his house upon the rock, not on shifting sands. Solid foundations, firm and resolute, secure and able to hold firm when the storms come.
Today is Te Pouhere Sunday, when we celebrate and remind ourselves of the constitution of our Church, rooted in the central tenets of the Christian Faith. The rock that we Anglicans have here in Aotearoa New Zealand, is our constitution. It is as it were written through every piece of who and what we are, and whether or not we find the taste of our rock sweet or sour sometimes, the constitution keeps appearing in the core bringing us back and reminding us of who and what we are, our context and our purpose.
With all our faults and failings, and there are many, and with our present conflicted state as a Church world wide, at our core are values and principles which I am proud to share and which continue to keep us focused on a vision for our world and for our nation and for each other, which is breath taking in its commitment to treat all people with dignity and respect and to seek to promote the essence of the Christian way of living and loving – that is, loving as Jesus loved us. Our Easter faith – all that separates and injures and destrys is overcome by all that unites and heals and creates.
In 1992 the Anglican Church revised its constitution. Being instrumental in the gaining of the agreement of the Maori chiefs to assent to the Treaty of Waitangi, we Anglicans looked long and hard at our history in this country and reformed ourselves on the basis of the principles of the Treaty and chose to explore ways on which people of all cultures and races living and coming to live in this land, might do so with proper respect for the integrity and rights of all. We are part of the emerging distinctive character of this nation.
In essence we acknowledged three cultural strands, or Tikanga – Maori, Pakeha and Polynesian [acknowledging that this Church includes the many islands of Polynesia with their distinct cultures and peoples]. Three cultural strands each to stand strong in their own right, equal in status and committed to striving towards a true partnership – three strands woven into a braided rope. There are soft and hard edges to all this and we strive together as we explore this partnership, learning from one another and the rich diversity which we have, as well as fronting the issues which divide us.
So as Anglicans here in Taranaki, we have a responsibility to face our past history, to acknowledge injustices by our forebears towards the Maori inhabitants of this land and to seek a way forward which acknowledges what has been and strives from now on to journey together towards a partnership which respects and honours all people. WE stand on the firm Anglican rock which is our Constitution. We strive for peace with justice, love and reconciliation. IT was important for me to go early in my time to Parihaka and there to experience the amazing warmth, generosity and strength of that place and its people. It was St Francis de Sales who said 'nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength'. To my mind those great prophets Te Whiti and Tohu embodied that in their passive resistance against the injustice upon them and their people. Parihaka continues to stand as a beacon of the human spirit striving for true reconciliation and peace with justice for all. What on earth is there for we pakeha to be anxious about or even scared of?It was a privilege to be there last Sunday for the signing of a Compact of Trust between Parihaka and the Crown, in the person of the Attorney General Chris Findlayson. This Compact of Trust is a solemn statement of commitment, a compact of trust between the Parihaka and the Crown, a mutual acknowledgment and pledge to work together with a shared vision.
I'm proud to be part of a Church which embraces such a vision.
I’m proud to be part of such a church, which seeks to discover the risen Christ in the own time, in our own successes and failures, in the contemporary issues which are part of a developing nationhood.
The values we hold as fundamental to our Anglican brand of the Christian faith, the values that we hold as a young and developing nation, are and need to be written through the very core of our national rock. They are what make us unique and help shape the decisions we make, the actions we take to make a difference for good.
We often give ourselves a hard time, and accentuate the negatives and conflicts and the things that go wrong. And if we don’t, then the media delights to do it for us. But the New Zealand rock, the values that at the heart of who are and who we are becoming, are pretty darn good, and as for the Anglican rock, well it still tastes pretty darn good to me. So putting that faith into action for me will see me donning my boots and joining Andrew Judd on his Peace walk to Parihaka. And I invite you to come along for some or part of it too.
Now let’s see where our mosaic has got to. I hope we can all come up and see it when we come for communion or after the service.
A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.
That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is like a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world. Nobody can say: "I make God visible." But others who see us together can say: "They make God visible." Community is where humility and glory touch.