2 Cor 6:1-13
2 Cor 5:14-17
by Rev’d Jacynthia Murphy, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Te Hāhi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tīreni, ki Ngā Moutere o te Moana Nui a Kiwa
The indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, New Zealand include these whakatauki (proverbs/sayings) in their lifelong teachings of holistic thinking and planning, that acknowledges the strength, wisdom, unity, and faith of a collective:
“Ehara tāku toa e te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini”
My strength is not as an individual, but that of many.
“He waka eke noa”
We are all in this canoe together.
(© Rev’d Jacynthia Murphy)
It is this mindset that we seek to cement our inherent relationship with each other in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. “Love one another as I have loved you”.
Survival on the small islands in the Pacific Ocean means that we are abundantly clear that our moana (ocean/sea) sustains us physically, environmentally, and culturally, and has done for millennia. It is the lifeline of many, and it offers its yield to us on a daily basis. We traverse it to neighbouring islands where many lessons are learnt on how to live with and in the moana, how to look after it, and when to take from it. This cultural sharing of wise sustainability is critical to all living things, not just human.
Archbishop Emeritus Winston Halapua in his book Waves of God’s Embrace – Sacred Perspectives fron the Ocean includes this prayer from a young person in Vanuatu, “O Jesus, be the canoe that holds me in the sea of life, be the steer that keeps me straight, be the outrigger that supports me in times of great temptation, let your Spirit be my sail that carries me through each day, as I journey steadfastly on the long voyage of life. Amen”. It is this prayer that inspires me to offer these sermon notes reflecting on the often-negative effects we endure here in the South Pacific due to the unsustainable relationships between humankind and the created world, throughout the world. How might we all be in the waka together sailing the same voyage of wellness in our homes, communities, and global nations?
NOTES ON THE READINGS
4 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
11 … “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?
We in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia are no strangers to voicing our ethical views on the ignorance that leads to social and environmental injustices. Our moana are declining in abundance and health. Life on, in, and around the moana is seemingly bleak and future generations may be left with little else but plastics, facemasks, and non-recyclable residue, of no use to the whales, crab, and anemone. These ocean inhabitants that sustain us means that our generation is responsible for robbing our children and grandchildren of that same abundance we enjoy today. Current global efforts are simply not enough. “Oh God, forgive us our sins…”
The berating script we read in Job warns us that there are boundaries on earth that we must not cross. This barrage of rhetorical questions is designed to fully disclose the inadequate understanding of Job, including us, of God’s governance of the world. “The moana, the home and the abundant source of life, the pathway of our ancestors and our heritage – a heritage to be shared with planet earth – is threatened” (Halapua, 2008, p76). Ethical measurements are dominated by humans, far more than other living species. Perceptions and interpretation of the Genesis 1:28 narrative, ‘God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”’ has seemingly been lost in translation. We have crossed the boundaries of ethical stewardship and need to forgo the individually powered waka that will go ‘no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’. We have been warned and asked by God ‘where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?’
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
The oceanic navigational expertise of the indigenous pacific peoples intrinsically relies on the winds, stars, and tides. “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”, John 3:8. Māori know that all things natural happens for a reason and often beyond our full understanding. We believe ‘ngā hau e whā’, or the four winds, is symbolic of a meeting place for peoples from all corners of the planet bringing messages from far and wide. It is from this place that the assembled share talanoa (talks), kōrero (discussions) proclamations, and plan to set right any wrong doings.
In 2000 the then Very Rev’d Richard Randerson was invited to join a Royal Commission on Genetic Modification (RCGM) to consult on “whether genetically modified crops would enhance food production, or eliminate possums, or lead to more effective therapeutic outcomes in medicine, all without harm to human wellbeing or the environment” (Randerson, 2015, p139). Consultatively it was the voices from ngā hau e whā that captured the “values being expressed, implicitly or explicitly, in many of the submissions” (Randerson, 2015, p145). Let the winds carry the aspirations of all to the four corners of the earth so that humankind can proclaim goodness to all.
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
4…but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left…
No journey is guaranteed to be easy. Living sustainably can be daunting. Whether the mountain be too high, or the ocean too wide, we are not always meant to traverse life’s roads and rivers alone, but, with the collective of the whole, the journey can simply become part of life’s experiences! Whatever happens, whether in the high moments or the lows, God is always there. In the Book of Isaiah, we have these passages to reflect on, “Every valley shall be raised up/every mountain and hill made low/the rough ground shall become level/and the rugged places a plain/And the glory of the Lord will be revealed/and all people will see it together.” (40,4-5).
Whenever things get tough with problems, difficulties, and issues that are hard to resolve, let us remember these reassuring words whilst rowing our waka (canoe) across those choppy waters. We are in this together. It is in the moments when winds, sails, water, nature, and faith can all come together in the collective of loving peoples that the journey becomes less arduous. The experience makes God’s constant care for us very easy to be felt. Human as we are, we need to feel God’s love, mercy, and comfort in our emotions, feelings, and passions. Connectedness to all things is key.
35 ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat…37A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat… 38… they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39He woke up… and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ 40He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
Voyagers will know the fear felt by those in the waka with Jesus that day. Fishing and diving is ruled out when cyclonic symptoms are building. Those living on the vulnerably small islands in the south pacific know only too well the wrath of the winds from the weather devastation they have had to learn to live with. Frequency of cyclones and hurricanes, twenty these past 10 years, has greatly increased due to the climatic and atmospheric changes now common. Six cyclones at category five has meant billions of dollars in damages leading to the displacement of many locals that essentially has made them refugees in their own south pacific islands.
Many thousands of years after that first voyage across the oceans Polynesians now find themselves less reliant on the waka that traversed them as a collective to a lifestyle now threatened by devastating weather conditions. The exodus from some of those vulnerable islands has meant that their reliance on the waka is now to flee from that place they always thought was home. ‘Let us go across to the other side’ has a new meaning today. Perhaps, the calming of the storm can be depicted in the migration of asylum seekers to safety from torrentially fatal storms.
The choirs of the Polynesian islands regularly join in the harmonised singing of the hymn ‘Let all the Islands Sing’ at Sunday services. The synchronization of voices is symbolically imaged in the kaihoe (rowers) of the waka (canoe). Each kaihoe having to share in the responsibility of moving in the same direction, in unison and not one without the other. The hymn is typically indicative of the resilience and forgiveness of a people who live with the daily struggles of climate change.
Fervent prayer and hope that the ‘foundation of the earth’ gifted to us by God can be saved from the negative activities that constantly cross the ethical boundaries of eithical and sustainable stewardship. We appeal to God to implant wisdom, justice, and compassion on the world’s occupants to maintain this earth in a way that can be enjoyed by all living things and future generations. “We deplore the action of industrialised countries that pollute and desecrate our Oceania, our Moana. Our Moana, our Oceania, is a gift from God and as a part of God’s creation, it is our duty as dwellers of this ocean to be stewards of this gift. It is our theology and our covenant with God and with one another. We invite the worldwide community to work with us. We are part of the whole body of Christ. When our low-lying atolls of Oceania are affected by the effects of climate change, we all suffer as a result…” (Halapua, 2008, p75)
We do not know all the peoples from the east, west, north, and south, but we do know that the winds from those four corners will prevail. It will be through our collective hard labour and efforts that we can calm the storm so that we are able to harvest from God’s earthly abundance. He waka eke noa (we are in this canoe together) is a poignant reminder that we belong to something bigger and something greater than ourselves. To God be the glory!
We ethically have something to give back to our planet because it has sustained us since its creation. “Ethics is a way of thinking, a worldview, a set of goals which shapes the things we value and the decisions we make. Just as we breathe the air as a natural process, so every action or decision we take is governed by a framework of ethics which we usually apply without conscious thought.” (Randerson, 2016, p139). ‘Ehara tāku toa e te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini’, my strength is not that of an individual, but that of many. Let us join in song with prayerful hope and faith that this message from the pacific is carried on the winds and “Let them extol Him in the congregation of the people and praise Him in the assembly of the elders. Amen.
LET ALL THE ISLANDS SING
Let all the islands rise and sing
and to our God their praises bring
on strings and drum His might proclaim
to shout the glory of His name.
And when we see the stars at night
the many worlds which cross the sky
the sun and moon which give us light
we lift our hearts to God on high.
with throbbing reef and coral shore
for fish and shell and mighty whale
for all God’s gifts our thanks we pour.
The children playing on the shore
the sounds of laughter which we hear
their love increasing more and more
remind us that our God is near.
To God the Father, God the Son
and God the Spirit, praise be done
may Christ the Lord upon us pour
the Spirit’s gift forever more
O come, let us sing to the Lord a new song,
And praise him to whom all our praises belong!
While we enter his temple with gladness and joy,
Let a psalm of thanksgiving our voices employ!
O come to his name let us joyfully sing!
For the Lord is a great and omnipotent King;
By his word were the heavens and the host of them made,
And of the round world the foundations he laid.
He stilleth the waves of the boisterous sea,
And the tumults of men, more outrageous than they;
Thy goodness, O Lord! let the people confess,
Whom wars do not waste, nor proud tyrants oppress,
And devoutly contemplate thy wonderful ways,
Thou who turnest the fierceness of men to thy praise!
Then our lands in due season shall yield their increase,
And the Lord give his people the blessings of peace.
Paddle the waka
You the descendants
The spring of the world of light
Females and males, women and men
Paddle with strength both forward and behind
Strengthen your bodies
And your minds
Those who have passed on
Return the mana
Of the tupuna to the descendants
So that the dreams
Of the descendants
Will be realised
by Rev’d Jacynthia Murphy
Halapua, Winston. Waves of God’s Embrace – Sacred Perspectives from the Ocean. London: Canterbury Press. 2008.
The Bible. New Revised Standard Version.
Randerson, Richardson. Slipping the Moorings – A Memoir Weaving Faith with Justice, Ethics and Community. Wellington: Matai House. 2016.
Wikiwand. List of retired South Pacific cyclone names. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_retired_South_Pacific_cyclone_names
Unknown Author. Let all the Islands Sing, Tikanga Polynesia: Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia – Te Hahi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tireni, ki Nga Moutere o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa.
Byrom, John. O come, let us sing to the Lord a new song – A Collection of Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship (1805). #CLXI.