Waitangi Day

February 5, 2017

Isaiah 42:1-9   Ephesians 2:13-18   Luke 2:9-14

Tomorrow is Waitangi Day. What does that mean to you? How will you spend it?

Have you ever been to Waitangi? Have you ever read the words of the Treaty? The document presented to many Chiefs on the 6th of February 1840 for signing. Which version have you read?

The Treaty is considered the founding document for this nation. Yet this day of remembering has much in it that may make us feel uncomfortable. What will be on the news tomorrow night? Where will the pain around that document and all that it was supposed to have meant, be felt most intensely in our country?

The reading this morning, from Isaiah speaks to us of the coming of Christ who would be for all people, one who brings justice to all nations. Reread it to yourself tomorrow morning and reflect on how justice might come for all of us in our nation.

Last Spring, I was in a different part of New Zealand and I listened to a woman tell her story of going for the first time to her marae. She is a woman in her 60s and yet all her life she hadn’t felt she could go, or perhaps never even wanted to go to her marae. And she spoke of her wistful longing to go and yet she had been afraid. Afraid that she would not be welcomed. That she might be judged for not having been before. Judged that she didn’t have any language. There were so many aspects of the visit that worried her. But she did go. And she wept as she told me of the acceptance and welcome. The love, the aroha shown her. The stories she learned of her forbears. And the very deep sense she had, of returning home. Home to a place that she had never been to before. But a place that she knew instinctively deep within her was her home.

You may be wondering why had this woman not been before. What prevented her all these years? As she spoke with many tears, she told of her parents and grandparents who said you must be Pākehā. To do well in this country you must adopt the ways of the Pākehā. Using Māori language was forbidden. No visits to their marae. The message has been clear: deny all that is Māori if you want to get on and be successful.

How did she feel growing up? Needing to deny the skin she was in? The very essence of who she was. Somehow to adopt the values and culture that were foreign to her and her people.

There is a trend at the moment for many people where we are fascinated at our ancestry. Many of us, Pākehā, suddenly we want to know our Whakapapa. The story of who we are. Some people even go as far as having their DNA tested to see just where they are from. Why is that? Why is it so important to us to understand where we have come from? Are we looking to understand the skin we live in?

Have you travelled much overseas? I have a little, and where I have, I have been privileged to stay with local people long enough to get a sense of how very different our cultures are whether that be in countries where I look similar or those where my skin and physical features or my language are very different.

What I have learnt as I have travelled is that it is presumptuous to assume you understand another culture even if you think you have read up on it before you leave home. Words have different meanings, social niceties can be offensive in another culture, values are often very different. What is deemed important to one culture may be not important in another.

What does all of that have to do with our reflection this morning on the Treaty? Everything really. You see, whoever you are and whatever your culture, you will view the world through your own eyes. Through your own value system. Through the culture you have been raised in. Sure, you may have an understanding of other cultures through your experience and relationships you have with others, but you will not know what it is to be of another culture, deep within your being.

Those of us who were at “The Gathering” last year, the clergy school in this Diocese, listened as speakers from Tikanga Māori shared with us, just how hard it is for Māori, in Tikanga Māori, to create liturgy that works for them. For it is not simply a matter of translating the English prayer book into Māori. Liturgy means, “the work of the people” as an expression of worship, and so liturgy needs to come from deep within a culture. Yes, it is based upon Scripture, but what are the images, the values within all of that which speak for Māori? I cannot say, for I live in a skin that has European values. And that is the same for many of us here today.

Going back to the woman I spoke of earlier, deep within her, she knew. She knew she was Māori. And she longed to embrace that part of her that had been shut away. And she is, tiny step by tiny step. Grieving her lack of language. And the parts of who she is, that have been locked away for over 60 year. Slowly embracing who she is and releasing all that has been locked away. As I watched and listened to her story, I thought of what I have observed when I have been at Parihaka and seen the love offered, and the values shared. Maybe this woman will be able to own and celebrate who she is, and even though she thinks it is too late, maybe she will begin to learn her language.

As you reflect on Waitangi today and tomorrow, how is it, that she, and many others like her, felt that the only way to get along and be successful in this country was to adopt the ways of the Pākehā. That doesn’t sound very bi-cultural to me. Nor does it sound like the essence of our Treaty being enacted in this country. Just how far have we come in 177 years? And what would Justice look like for that woman, and others like her in our country?

The Community of the Cross of Nails which we are part of, has this to say. To be part of this community, is to have a commitment to work and to pray for peace, justice and reconciliation. There are three practical expressions encouraged in this: working to heal the Wounds of History, working to learn to live with difference and to celebrate diversity, and working to build a culture of peace.

Healing the Wounds of History: that is a phrase that speaks deeply into where we find ourselves as a people some 177 years on from the signing of the Treaty. We are in the midst as a nation to making some attempt to undo the damage of land confiscation and beginning to encourage the use of language, and yet there is so much more to be done. If you have been to Parihaka and seen in Te Niho the images of the community prior to the invasion of that community in 1881 you will know how far Parihaka is from seeing the wounds of the past restored. If you went on the Peace Walk last year, you will have had a little taste – seeing a vulnerable community greet us, children at the front, and offering of bread just as they did all those years ago to those who invaded. How long before Parihaka is restored to the self-supporting community it was and the damage done be healed? I often find myself deeply disturbed that there at the Centre of Peace for Taranaki, its community still lies in ruins. What does justice look like for that community? What is our role?

That second phrase: Learning to Live with Difference and Celebrate Diversity. Are we growing in this? Learning to listen and value diversity rather than expecting everyone to be just like us? Are we embracing the very richness of diversity.

And the third phrase: Building a culture of peace. What does that look like for us: Taranaki Cathedral of St Mary’s, given all our history here, in this place. What does that look like to you? We have a pivotal role. We have a place in history that is ripe for reconciliation and peace. And we are in the privileged place of ensuring that happens for the generations that are to come. How are you praying for this? What are you doing about it?

It is the invitation of our two New Testament readings this morning. Peace on earth. Our home. Peace that Christ came to bring for each of us. A beautiful reason for hope.

Listen again to the reading from Isaiah. It describes so tenderly the way Jesus Christ will come and bring justice to those who have been broken by injustice:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

What will such justice look like in this country? How will there be justice for those parties who signed the treaty? What will you pray for? How will you live out this calling? 

Image Credit: By Charlie Brewer - originally posted to Flickr as Annual Maori protest 1 - Waitangi Day, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5873579

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