Monday, April 30, 2018

Lest we forget: Anzac beginnings through the words of Kingmaker Wiremu Tamihana

I preached at the Knox Chapel Anzac service this weekend. The Bible readings were Ephesians 2 and Psalm 23. I looked at Anzac beginnings through Australian eyes and the words of Maori chief, Wiremu Tamihana (whom I researched through much of last year). This opened up a reflection on Ephesians 2 and New Zealand mission history. I finished with the tekoteko of Te Maungarongo, Jesus the ancestor.

“The most remarkable Anzac sermon I’ve ever heard” commented an Emeritus Professor of Law. “Outstanding” commented a University Chancellor. So here it is …

Kia ora tatou.
Ko te wehi ki te Atua, Me whakakororia tona ingoa, E nga wa katoa
E te whare e karakia Knox Chapel, tena koe
E te aku rangatira rongonu – Master and Senior Fellows, tena koe

Nga mate haere, haere, haere – I tenei Ra Maumahara mo ANZAC he honore tenei mooku ki te korero e pa ana ki a Wiremu Tamehana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa, tino rangatira no Ngati Hauaa. I hangaia e ia te Kingitanga. He honore taku tu mo nga Hoia no te Kareti o Knox kua hinga i te mura o te ahi. He mihi hoki ki a ratou nga whanau i tuku enei rangatira ki te Pakanga.
Te hunga ora, tena koutou katoa 

Ko Ohope te marae atea
ko Te Maungarongo te whare o te aroha
ko Steve Taylor toku ingoa
Tena koutou, tena tatou katoa

Today we gather as a community to remember Anzac Day. We sing. We honour the dead – nga mate haere – those who’ve gone before from here and paid an ultimate price. They say that culture is the stories we tell about ourselves (Geertz). As we gather, out of respect for those who suffered in the Great War, I want to look at Anzac Day through the eyes of another. I want to ask when the great War started. And who tried to stop it? What wisdom we might gain from that past for us today?

Unknown-15 Before coming to Dunedin, I spent 6 years in Australia. If you go to Canberra and if you walk down Anzac Park, If you start at the beginning, the first memorial plaque is dated 1860-1. It honors the Royal Australian Navy Campaign. And their first battle which was fought against us: 1860-1 New Zealand. So the Australian Anzac story starts not in 1914 in World War 1, but in 1860 in New Zealand.

First World War had enormous impact on New Zealand. The story we tell about ourselves often calls World War 1, New Zealand’s Great War. That’s because of the impact on New Zealand’s population. Those who died, including the names we heard read here – nga mate heare – numbered around 2% of the NZ population, mainly male.

Yet in 1864, there was a war in Waikato. And in that war, those who died numbered around 4% of the Maori population, including alarmingly high numbers of women and children (O’Malley). 2% in WW1 and it’s a Great War. What about 4% here in Aotearoa New Zealand?

I want to lay these stories – of Australian Anzac history which begins in 1860 and of the human cost, the names of those who died, in NZ’s own great war – alongside our Scripture reading. In particular Ephesians 2:13; But now, in Christ Jesus, you were once far off. For Christ is our peace; he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, .. the hostility between us.

In this Gospel reading, Paul is speaking to a mixed and a multi-cultural community. It seems to be a community that is divided–walls, hostility between us. He’s offering this divided community, one spilt along lines of class and race, a different story that they could tell about themselves.

It seems that the people that Paul is writing to – the church in Ephesian – have somehow managed to separate their beliefs from their behaviours. Paul names some behaviours –divided walls, hostility. And offers a set of beliefs – been brought near; our peace;– which is turn will lead to a new set of behaviours – both groups into one.

I chose this passage because these words from Ephesians were read by Maori leader Wiremu Tamihana – whom I honoured in my introductory mihi – whose face is on our service sheet – in a speech – recorded in Great Britian Parliamentary Papers – in the lead up to New Zealand’s Great War of 1861 (O’Malley). His speech is made in the same year that the Anzac story started for Australia, the Royal Australian Navy Campaign doing battle in New Zealand – against North Island Maori.

The year is 1861. There are more and more settlers arriving in Aotearoa New Zealand. Settlers want land. The land of the Waikato is beautiful. It’s being expertly farmed by local Maori, building their own wheat mills, 18 mills in 1853, confidently selling fruit and vegetables to the booming town of Auckland (O’Malley).

So in 1861, the New Zealand Government visit Maori in the Waikato. The Government makes an ultimatum: retain your land only as long as you are strong enough to keep it. Government is playing hard ball– not just making speeches – they’re also assembling an army – including Royal Australian Navy.

By 1864, there’ll be 12,000 troops in NZ. More soldiers here in Aotearoa than in all of England (O’Malley). Retain your land only as long as you are strong enough to keep it; and behind me are 12,000 soldiers.

And a new road. The first thing the 12,000 soldiers did was build what we now call the Great South Road, new motorway to get their canons from Auckland to Huntly.

The Maori response comes from Wiremu Tamihana, who includes these words from Ephesians 2:13, “In Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

In Christ Jesus — the One who turned the other cheek and said put down your sword, the One who said blessed are those who persecute you and then on the cross “father forgive.”

In Christ Jesus, Once you were far off … you Governor from England, you Royal Australian Navy, you settlers from Ireland, Scotland.

Made nigh by the blood of Christ … that peace is possible. That please, if you start singing Psalm 23 – the Lord is my shepherd should also sing until the end of the Psalm 23 – you prepare a table of goodness and mercy for all of us for ever and ever.

Wiremu Tamihana in 1860’s was the chief of Ngati Haua, a Waikato tribe. He was educated at a missionary school. Baptised 1839 (Lineham). Early life has been researched by Peter Lineham in the recent Saints and Stirrers from Victoria University Press. My research has focused on the later life of Wiremu Tamihana – during the 1850s and 1860s and his role as ‘Kingmaker’.

It is Wiremu Tamihama who takes a key role in the coronation of the first Maori King. It’s Wiremu Tamihama who places a Bible over the King’s head, to indicate the role of Scripture in the Maori King movement. It continues to this day – every time there’s a new Maori King, the chief of Ngati Haua places the Bible on the head of the incoming King – to indicate the authority of Scripture in the Maori King movement.

“te Ture, te Whakapono me te Aroha,” (Hold to charity, uphold the laws, be firm in the [Christian] faith).

So Wiremu Tamihana – the kingmaker, the one who places the King under the authority of Scripture – stands to respond to the New Zealand Governor’s speech – recorded in Great Britain Parliamentary papers.

If you were faced with 12,000 soldiers and an ultimatum – retain your land – your bedroom at Knox College – your Masters house – only as long as you are strong enough to keep it – How would you respond? If you had to choose one part of the Bible to speak on behalf of your family at that moment – which Scripture would you use?

Wiremu Tamehana uses Ephesians 2:13 – “In Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

Why Ephesians? Might be the history – the culture – the story that Maori are telling about themselves …

You see, the first printing press arrived in New Zealand in 1835. Within a month, parts of the Bible were being printed in te Reo. The first book of the Bible that was translated and printed was Ephesians. So within one month of the first printing press arriving, some 2,000 copies of Ephesians in Te Reo rolled off the printing press. So when Tamihana uses Ephesians, he is speaking of the start of the Bible story for Maori – this book which you brought, which we can read in our own reo, our own language.

Why Ephesians? Might be the history. It might also words …

Once you were far off …. Lived in England, had an English Bible.

Once you were made nigh … through missionaries, came to tell us about Jesus. Who started on Christmas Day in 1814 with a story of Te Harinui, Peace and goodwill and glad tidings of great joy. That was the story, your beliefs that started the relationship between two peoples. That was your beliefs back then, in 1814 and yet now, on 1861, we see a different set of behaviours – 12,000 soldiers and a new road and retain your land only as long as you are strong enough to keep it.

Once you were far off, Once you were made nigh .. So why can’t we be In Christ Jesus — the One who turned the other cheek and said on the cross “father forgive.”

So culture is the story we tell ourselves and Tamihana is going back to where it started. In peace. And he’s trying to stop a war with this peace … to use Scripture, to seek behaviours that line up with Te Harinui, Peace and goodwill to all peoples, not just God’s chosen people. And so by looking at Anzac Day through the eyes of another – Australian eyes and words of Wiremu Tamihana – what wisdom might we gain for today? What might Tamihana say to us on Anzac Day 2018?

Perhaps, first, remember all dead. On Anzac Day, remember not only New Zealand’s First War but also New Zealands Great War, 4% of the Maori population of Waikato, including alarmingly high numbers of women and children.

Perhaps second, seek for what we share, not for what separates. As Tamihana says in his speech, “My only connection with you is through Christ.” That’s a radical sharing of identity – For Pakeha to keep singing Te Harinui, for Maori to keep breaking down the dividing walls. Because remember that Tamihana is the Kingmaker, as the Kingmaker he’s been asking Maori to move beyond tribal identity and to share relationships as one people under one King who is under one Bible (Hill and O’Malley).

Perhaps third, to remember our Presbyterian history. I began with my mihi in which I noted my connection to marae. To Te Maungarongo. It’s the name of the Presbyterian marae for all the Presbyterian church. Includes us here at Knox College and Knox Center. That is our history. Name Te Maungarongo means reconciliation.

jesus-at-te-maungarongo On the wharenui, on the top of maihi, sits the tekoteko, the ancestor. At Te Maungarongo, name meaning reconciliation, the ancestor is Jesus. That ancestor holds not a taiaha but a cross. Te Maungarongo – the cross of peace. The story is told, of the wife of the master carver came out, looks at her husband carving the taiaha – the spear. Yells out- Hoy- what are you doing. You’re a Christian. Carve a cross of peace, not a taiaha of war. It’s this Christ, holding this cross of peace, that Tamihana is remembering in front of 12,000 soldiers in 1861.

Lest We Forget. E te motai kahurangi o Te Kingitanga, Wiremu Tamehana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa, e kore e mutu nga mihi mou, haere koe ki to taaua Atua a Ihoa me Ihu Karaiti, haere koe, haere, haere

Lest we forget our peace; Christ holding the cross, who has broken down the dividing wall, the hostility between us.


Primary sources
Wiremu Tamihana, Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Vincent O’Malley, The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800–2000

“Te Waharoa,”in Peter Lineham, “Te Waharoa’s War and Missionary Visions of Peace,” in Saints and Stirrers. Christianity, Conflict, and Peacemaking in New Zealand, 1814-1945, ed. Geoffrey Troughton (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2017).

Richard S. Hill and Vincent O’Malley, The Māori quest for rangatiratanga/autonomy, 1840-2000 Occasional Papers 4 (Wellington: Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit, Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, 2000).

Secondary sources
Clifford Geerz, The Interpretation Of Cultures

James McClendon, Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology

And for those interested in a short video of my research journey …

Posted by steve at 09:56 PM


  1. a good word Steve, a great word. Kapai!
    And I see we have the same story of the tekoteko.

    Comment by Reg Weeks — April 30, 2018 @ 10:25 pm

  2. This is great.
    Thank you

    Comment by Tom Mepham — May 1, 2018 @ 1:34 pm

  3. Thanks Reg and Tom. Your feedback means a lot.


    Comment by steve — May 1, 2018 @ 5:07 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.