Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Gospel of Waitangi

 Epiphany 5 year B Sermon Mark and 1 Cor
Title slide
After calling Simon and James and Andrew and John
to follow him – so he can teach them to fish for people with the message of the Gospel…Jesus goes on to preach in the synagogue at Capernaum and then on and the neighbouring towns and villages…what his purpose? As he says…

slide words
to proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do. To fish…to win people over…to get people on board with the good news… about God’s love and God’s purpose of peace and wellbeing for all humanity.

Paul slide
A full twenty five years later…in his letter to the new church in Corinth…
Paul identifies the same purpose for his life…

Slide words
I’ve become all things to all people, that I might
by all means… win some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so I may share in its blessings.

The blessings of living in the Messianic age…
the realisation of God’s peace and wellbeing for all people.

Fishing slide
Jesus extends himself…he goes out…our text reports …
so more people can learn… that the time for the Kingdom of God begins… right now

Jesus walks and talks and restores people to  community …
by sharing the message of the Good News
And the same for Paul…blending in… adopting the language and the culture of the Empire around him…
becoming a slave to all…a Jew to Jews and a gentile to gentiles…showing his weakness to the weak


To remove any and every stumbling block…
which could get in the way… of people hearing that
good news [pause]

Roman slide
To expand their powerful Empire…the Romans had invaded the promised land of the Jews…and they confiscated any part of it they wanted… for their own use…yes
Caesar proclaimed…there could be peace…as long as those who were conquered…remember their place… in the scheme of things. As long as they don’t get above their station.
As long as they don’t demand equality with Roman citizens. 

Anyway equality is unthinkable…not in their vocabulary …nor their religion…not even between men…let alone men and women…or slaves and their masters. [pause]

Jewish slide
On the other hand the religious traditions of the occupied people… have long since moved away from the original insight of their faith…that all people are made in the image of God… shifted from the call of the prophets… to care for the stranger and the widow and the orphan –
even if they were outsiders.

By the first century… most Jews see the Roman’s
as unclean and untouchable foreigners.

fishing slide
So Jesus and then Paul…extend themselves… to bring the message of God’s love to everyone…
to both sides of this political and religious equation.

Within Judaism… Jesus enters the forbidden territory
of people who are branded by their religion…
as un-clean or a sinner…he goes right in there… to announce the good news to those who’ve been exiled from their community by these labels…And harvesting corn, healing on the Sabbath…and touching a bleeding woman… Jesus tears down the legal restrictions on what is clean and unclean.

And Paul…inspired by the risen Christ… becomes a subversive chameleon among
the diverse cultures of the Empire…so no people-group will miss out on the good news.

And my friends…everything they did requires discernment. It meant using God’s good news of justice and peace and wellbeing for all people…it meant using this gospel
to decide what going to build the kingdom of God
and what is going to undermine it. It means discerning …
what is pro kingdom if you like… and what is anti kingdom.

It means constantly using the Gospel to critique the political and religious and economic powers…in every kind of culture …and not one of them escapes the scrutiny of the Gospel’s light.

The gist of Jesus message…the one he is sent by God to proclaim …the gist is …that both the Roman occupiers
and the indigenous Jews… have to wake up their ideas…
and repent of their anti-kingdom attitudes
because the reign of God intends to extend
to the ends of the earth[pause]
Mountain slide
A hundred and seventy two years ago…precisely at the ends of the earth…

Treaty slide
a treaty is signed between an occupying nation and the people of another land… far from Israel. This treaty is meant to eliminate hostilities and tensions between British settlers and those who’d already lived here.

The treaty is written in English and Maori…
with help of Christian missionaries who…like Paul had immersed themselves in the language and culture of another people… to bring them the good news.

The English text guarantees protection of Māori interests from the encroaching British settlers while allowing settlement to proceed… and establishing a government to maintain peace and order.

The Māori text suggests the Queen's main promise is to provide a government while securing rangatiratanga - Māori autonomy and authority over their own area and land ownership as long as they wish to retain it.

In this way peace and wellbeing was to be ensured for all parties. Perhaps even a microcosm of the kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Well that was 1840

Satelite slide
In 1866 without warning or consultation with the various tribes in the Bay of Plenty…the British Crown confiscated all the territory from the coast inland for ten kilometres. They did this to punish another tribe…but half the best land of the Tuhoe people is also seized –
The Tuhoe are the tribe with which the Presbyterian Church will have our primary mission presence.
None of this land is ever returned.

This transgression against the mana and dignity of their people embeds itself into the consciousness of Tuhoe.
And the loss of half their finest land,,, has devastating long term consequences to the wellbeing of the people.
And the confiscation line remains to this day… a highly visible symbol of grievance for the Tuhoe people.

To add insult to injury when some Māori retaliated against the seizure… the Crown sends its troops to arrest the ringleaders and restore peace…
but in the chaos of fighting…women and children are killed Homes crops and cultural treasures are destroyed.

Mountain slide
Yet somehow the gospel of Jesus Christ finds its way to the mountains of the Urewera and the Tuhoe people.

In 1887 a young Rua Kenana joins a shearing gang on the East Coast. During this time he studies the Bible and
develops a sense of prophetic call. When Rua returns home he forms a self sufficient community at Maungapohatu which he calls the ‘New Jerusalem’ Eventually his followers number almost a thousand.

Rua slide
Rua Kenana Hepetipa was of many Māori prophetic leaders who arose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The young man set about deliberately to usher in the Messianic Age to the people of the Urewera…and many say he owed his influence to the great skill with which he applied the scriptures to the daily lives of his followers.

Inspired by the Gospel…Rua’s community was steadfastly non violent and shared all their possessions in common like the Acts church.

The few European visitors who were willing to risk the difficult journey inland to the mountain settlement
praised the enthusiasm of the faithful, whom Rua was leading towards an enightened and equitable life on ancestral Tuhoe lands.

But Rua allowed the gospel to influence his politics in a way the secular Crown couldn’t tolerate…holding to the beatitude…blessed are the peacemakers…during world War One… Rua tried to keep his people out of military service. Rua insisted it was immoral to fight for a Pākehā King and country… given the injustices meted out to Māori under the British crown.

His gospel commitment to non-violence was viewed as sedition by the Government and created the excuse to launch a raid against the community during which Rua was arrested.

But there were people who would not be put off by the labels placed on Rua and the Tuhoe…nor were they deterred by the isolation of their settlements…These were apostles who like Paul who became slaves to all… in the service of the Gospel

Annie Henry reveal
…chief among them Deaconess Sister Annie Henry
John Laughton reveal
and her contemporary the Rev John Laughton. Known as Hoani…that’s Maori for John …Laughton ministered across the Urewera and Taupō region. He became an recognised scholar of the Māori language… and played a major part in the enormous task…
of revising the Maori translation of the Bible.

Once Rua was released from prison…through tactful and careful listening on Laughton's part, and an open interest on Rua's, mutual trust and friendship developed between the two men. Together they developed a concept of unity based on the belief that one God was the authority for all peoples and their relationship forged an on-going connection… between the Presbyterian Church and Rua’s own church of the Iha rai ra…the Israelites…

In a tribute to Hoani Laughton when he died, the Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, said ‘No words of mine can convey the sense of loss our Church will feel on the passing of this great and humble man … I believe history will speak with deep gratitude of his leadership and the solid foundation he has laid… for a true and practical expression of Christian faith and deep harmony in race relations in New Zealand.

Today the legacy of this commitment to equality under God is still manifest in the Presbyterian Church…
because significant decisions are not made without consultation with one another as equal partners.

The Maori section of our church is called…
reveal Te Aka Puaho
Te Aka Puaho…the glowing vine…
a version of the Presbyterian burning bush.

Over the years it’s been necessary and often painful
to allow the Gospel to critique our relationships with one another…as well as our approach to political issues.
Yet the good news of God…the Shalom of God…
revealed by Jesus Christ… must be the ultimate authority
by which we evaluate every thought and every action…
in our Christian life.

Blank slide
So when we read the paper or listen to the news or chose a hymn or song or decide what to think or how to vote on an issue…my prayer is that you will allow the Gospel to speak into your thoughts and your actions.

As Jesus said

slide words
I came to proclaim the message there also; that’s what I came out to do.

To win people over…to get people on board
with the good news about God’s love and God’s purposes
of peace and wellbeing for all humanity.