Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Lesson: Acts 2:42-47 Life among the Believers
Psalm 23: The Lord as Shepherd
Epistle: 1 Peter 2:19-25 Christ, the Shepherd of your Souls
Gospel: John 10:1-10 Jesus the Good Shepherd
I runga i te ingoa o te Matua, te Tama me te Wairua Tapu. Amine.
42 A i u tonu ratou ki te whakaakoranga a nga apotoro, ki te kotahitanga, ki te whawhati taro, a ki te inoi. Nga Mahi 2.42
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2.42
Welcome to Waitangi
Twelve years ago Bishop Penny Jamieson, in addressing the General Synod meeting in her Cathedral, opened by saying: "Welcome to Dunedin. Dunedin is a place that you have to come to intentionally."
In the same way, welcome to Waitangi; it too is a place that you have to come to intentionally.
Like Dunedin, Waitangi is not a place where you pass through on your way to somewhere else. It is your one and only destination point.
As someone noted at the Kerikeri Airport, “there are 100 things to do in Northland, and they are all in Waitangi!”
And that was before the General Synod arrived here. So I suppose there might be 101 things to do in Waitangi at least this week.
I haven't included the Country and Western Festival currently here in Paihia/Waitangi. You may have noticed all the cowboy and cowgirl hats around town this weekend, on the corners, on the footpaths, in the bars and restaurants, virtually everywhere.
Of course they put on cowboy boots, wear cowboy clothes, and sing a lot of cowboy songs. Cowboy songs are easy to sing. They say that you only need to know three chords on the guitar; C, A and G. If you know them well enough you can and play anything.
The strum is even easier. There is basically only one – very, very slow.
So I need to correct myself here; there are more than a hundred things to do in Waitangi, some of which includes cowboys.
Some theologians here might be cowboys or cowgirls, but I’m certain there are no cowboy theologians.
It is this notion of intentionality that is characteristic of the first Christians in Jerusalem.
This group of post-resurrection believers of the risen Christ set themselves apart from the rest of society.
They choose to become known by how they meet, where they meet and what they do together when they meet.
This is the early Church in motion and in action.
At the heart of it all is this:
It is what they choose to be at that point in their lives in order to allow themselves to be transformed into what they were to become.
What they were to become was a community made up of the followers of Jesus meeting in homes and in the temple, and remember,
they were a band of believers, a band without a name!
Today we know that we are talking about the Church of Jerusalem, the ekklesia, the Church.
Luke, however, in this instance prefers to describe the gathered followers choosing to refer to them simply as:
“All those devoting themselves with one accord to prayer;”
“All those together at the same place;”
“All who had believed to the same place;”
“Those being saved to the same place;”
“Their own people;” and,
“The community of those who believed.” (Acts1.14, 15; 2.1, 44, 47; 4.23, 32)
Four things are noted as characteristic of Jerusalem Christians:
• their firm adherence to the 'teaching of the apostles, ki nga whakaakoranga a nga apotoro'
• their sacrificial dedication to a 'communal form of life, ki te kotahitanga'
• their regular practice of the ‘breaking of bread, ki te whawhati i te taro' and
• their daily devotion to the 'prayers, ki te inoi.'
This community in Jerusalem is immediately marked by its spontaneity, its harmony, its unity, and its devotion to prayer and its worship in the temple.
'nga whakaakoranga a nga apotoro, teaching of the apostles,'
For them the central task was the ‘preaching of the word of God.” (Acts 6.2), and “the ministry of word and prayer.” (6.4)
Although the major focus on preaching in Acts is the actual proclamation of the gospel, instruction in the faith was crucial immediately following conversion.
In Ephesus for example, Paul taught every day for a period of two years. (Acts 19.8-10)
The teaching is the basis of Christian doctrine, built on the words and deeds of Jesus himself.
1.1'te kotahitanga, communal form of life,'
Koinonia, the communal form of life, emphasises the unique degree of fellowship and sharing in and among the believers.
They opened their homes to each other, ate together, and contributed money and possessions for the apostles to distribute to the needy.
It is this living a ‘common life’ that sets them apart from society because of the sacrificial nature of what it means to belong.
Koinonia is never equated with ekklesia or associated with it. It is however, a designation the same group of people.
‘te whawhati i te taro, breaking of bread,'
Although this is the abstract formulation that becomes the usual way Luke refers to the Eucharistic celebration among early Christians, there is more to it here.
It does not refer here only to the opening rite of a meal, as usually in Jewish meals, but to a whole meal. It is a reference to an ordinary (perhaps sumptuous) meal.
Common meals for nourishment is explicitly mentioned in 'taking their meals.'
'te inoi, prayers.'
The 'prayers,' depicts early Christians engaged in what Luke has considered an important element of discipleship: communing with God.
Everyone held all things in common
They held all things in common indicates the length the first Christians in Jerusalem were prepared to go to as a way of expressing their new life, their new way of living in the Christian Community.
Here is an example of encouraging a self-dependency model by pooling all their resources together.
(This may have begun as an obligation at the beginning but seems to have faded out later on, perhaps because there was no need of it.)
This model of living together in community did have an effect among other inhabitants in Jerusalem as it is recorded that the Lord was constantly adding to their number day by day.
There is an element here of sacrifice as a means of establishing this community.
Luke has included this description of early Christian life as an ideal that he would desire to be characteristic of all Christians.
It may be an idyllic description, but it highlights the elements that should be part of genuine Christian life: harmony, reverent care for one another, formal and informal prayer in common, and celebration of the Lord's Supper.
It is this very point of intentionality that I return to that is synonymous with significant events in the Bay of Islands, in particular here at Waitangi.
Since 1814 many have come with good and noble intentions.
Others slightly before that and since, you might agree, had somewhat dodgy intent. (They were the cowboys, not Country and Western singers like today, but cowboys nonetheless, metaphorically speaking.)
The songs they sang were those known only to them, the text, the tune and the meaning.
In June 1814, Kendall, Hall and others came to survey the area to prepare for their more important missionary efforts later in the year.
They stayed at Rangihoua and the songs they were singing are unknown to us but familiar to themselves.
They took back with them some of the local Maori chiefs. The chiefs in turn surveyed Australia with their own intentions, quite different to that of their hosts.
Those chiefs returned later in December that same year with Marsden, Hall, King, Kendall. They came back with new experiences, new clothing AND new ideas!
They sang a hymn, that Christmas Day, not all of them though. It was to the tune of the Old Hundredth. The Maori couldn’t sing along because it was in English.
1. All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell;
come ye before him and rejoice.
2. Know that the Lord is God indeed;
without our aid he did us make;
we are his folk, he doth us feed,
and for his sheep he doth us take.
3. O enter then his gates with praise;
approach with joy his courts unto;
praise, laud, and bless his name always,
for it is seemly so to do.
4. For why! the Lord our God is good;
his mercy is forever sure;
his truth at all times firmly stood,
and shall from age to age endure.
Both the text and tune are well known to us. We sing it everywhere today quite happily and in a number of languages.
Henry and Marianne Williams and others followed in 1823.
Henry’s vision and efforts led to the real and full transformation of Maori communities here in the Bay.
The poutokomanawa, the main carving in the meeting house Te Tiriti o Waitangi across the river which you will visit this evening for a meal, is testimony to the regard in which he was held.
The memorial at St Paul’s Church, the Henry and William Williams Memorial Church, Paihia, stands as solid proof of the respect and admiration in which he earned as the inscription reads; erected by Te Hahi Maori, the Maori Church, in particular by these tribes: Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Raukawa, Nga Puhi, Te Rarawa and Te Aupouri.
The Williams’ sang hymns. All known to you and I today, some of which the Maori learnt to sing.
They understood the words and loved the tunes.
In 1834, others came to Waitangi (attempting to address grievances that Maori wanted to raise with King William IV.) The result of that was The Declaration of Independence of the Northern Chiefs of New Zealand (1835).
The hereditary chiefs and heads of the tribes of the Northern parts of New Zealand declared the constitution of an independent state.
They agreed to meet in Waitangi each year to frame laws, and invited the southern tribes of New Zealand to "lay aside their private animosities" and join them.
The waiata they decided to sing began with the words:
1) We, the hereditary chiefs and heads of the tribes of the Northern parts of New Zealand, being assembled at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands on this 28th day of October, 1835, declare the Independence of our country, which is hereby constituted and declared to be an Independent State, under the designation of The United Tribes of New Zealand.
(35 hereditary chiefs along with JAMES BUSBY, British Resident at New Zealand, signed the declaration along with the missionaries, Henry Williams and George Clarke.)
Then in 1840 a greater number came here with real intent and clear purpose.
The result was Te Tiriti o Waitangi was born.
The missionary Henry Williams played an important part in the discussions, negotiations, translation and presentation, and of course in the signing, not just here in Waitangi but all over the land.
Well, there are many songs people sing about Waitangi, then and now.
(Some signatories said no, some said, yes, and some said be careful!)
Hobson sang his waiata, ‘He iwi kotahi tatou, we are one people after each person put their moko, their sign to Te Tiriti.
We sing it, in a manner of speaking. it is in Te Pouhere, the Constitution of our Church.
So this place where we meet has been a place that has sought to offer accommodation.
It is a place that has invited foreigners and outsiders to live together in relative harmony.
It is a place that has learnt to embrace and manage difference.
It is also a place that has grappled with and accepted new tensions among its inhabitants.
Those new tensions have been between Maori and Pakeha, missionaries and traders/whalers, converted and unconverted.
Shepherd and King
The image of Shepherd and King, sheep and people is what we are reflect on in John's Gospel.
The shepherd knows the sheep by name, and therefore knows all that there is to know.
The Psalmist in the 23rd Psalm is where we learn about God’s nature.
In that understanding we learn more about our own nature and that God sees us worthy to be cared for, protected and kept. [Psalm 121.7b, ‘he will keep your life.’]
The relationship between God and humanity [Shepherd and sheep] is one of intimacy, trust, harmony, and well-being.
The sheep is utterly in need and dependent on the shepherd.
The shepherd does for the sheep what the sheep cannot do for itself.
The shepherd is alert, always planning, looking ahead and making provision. The sheep live a full life, only because of the shepherd. The trust in the shepherd overrides fear and danger.
Find a shepherd who we know intimately enough, and we have found a king worthy of attention. Find a king like that and we have found someone anointed by the Lord.
The shepherd in John’s Gospel is compared with the thief and the robber. The contrast is drawn between the two by the fact that the shepherd enters by the gate, while the thief chooses an alternative way.
The gate mentioned here is the gate that leads to the sheep. It is in the person of Jesus whom the sheep follow as their rightful and familiar shepherd.
The gate is not thought of merely as the way through which the shepherd goes into the sheepfold but more to the point, as the gate through which the sheep are led out to pasture and led back again to the fold.
True discipleship is clearly characterised in terms of sheep. The sheep follow the shepherd and are willingly led by him. They also flee from the hireling and the robber, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
Because Jesus is the gate to sheepfold, anyone who enters by him will be saved. They will go in and out and find pasture.
There is one shepherd and one gate.
It is not in today’s gospel passage but later at verse 16, Jesus proclaims,
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This text points toward the challenge that Jesus himself identifies. He sought accommodation to recognise, to bring in and to embrace those outside fold but belonging to his flock.
Te Hinota Whanui / General Synod.
My intention as the host is to take seriously my duty to you all while this General Synod meets at Waitangi.
It is the obligation I have to extend manaakitanga – hospitality to you.
It is the primary function as host to ensure that I uphold your mana as I express my own.
It is the reason why I intentionally invited my predecessor, Bishop Waiohau Te Haara, Bishop John Paterson (our former Primate and Bishop of Auckland,) Bishop George Connor, (Senior Bishop of Tikanga pakeha more than 12 years ago), and Bishop John Bluck to be here.
It is their deep wisdom, insight and experience that they have to offer to our hui.
It is in the expression of my mana and that of Te Pihopatanga that your mana as Tikanga Pakeha and Tikanga Pasefika is enhanced.
Duty and service to neighbour is really at the heart of rangatiratanga.
I apologise to Bishop Helen-Ann for the treatment and rejection she was subjected to yesterday at Te Whare Runanga at the powhiri.
Bishop Helen-Ann please accept my sincere apology. Waitangi is not intended to be a place for exclusion, not at this General Synod anyway.
I had my own issue with one of our priests yesterday which was addressed in the right way at the powhiri. I am pleased to say it has been resolved and we are now reconciled to each other.
It is this question of intent again that is important.
We know the history here in Waitangi of inclusion and embrace, of striving to find accommodation for our ideas, our belief and our faith.
That challenge may shake and rock our foundations.
As the Church in Jerusalem rose to the challenge, so for us now;
It is what we decide at this point in our life as a Church in order to be transformed into what we are to become.
What song shall we sing?
What are the words? (Who will compose them?)
What is the tune, the rhythm, the beat?
These perhaps are words to begin with.
He Hahi kotahi to tatou.
He Hahi kotahi tatou.
He Hahi kotahi.
We have one Church.
We are one Church.
It is one Church.
Those are the words.
Let us together find a tune and dance to its rhythm.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.