Sunday, February 11, 2007

the gospel according to the treaty of waitangi

This week, on Tuesday, New Zealand celebrated Waitangi Day as a public holiday. Some of you would have slept in and gone to the beach. Others of you would have had a barbeque and caught up with friends. Or watched the cricket as New Zealand lost to England.

Waitangi Day honours the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, in 1840, at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands. It is a very moving, almost spiritual, place, an invitation to consider what it might mean for humans to show hospitality to strangers, to practise justice, and for diverse cultures to be one people.

The Treaty of Waitangi, when leaders of two peoples, Maori and Pakeha, negotiating a way to live as one people. Which sounds just like the gospel of Jesus, according to Ephesians.

Because the church in Ephesians is a divided church. It has two people groups: Gentile and Jewish. And verses 4, 5 and 6 of Ephesians 4 these two groups are invited to be one; one body, through one Spirit, just as there is one hope; to share one Lord, one faith, one baptism

The Treaty of Waitangi saw two people become one. Which makes Ephesians 4:5-6 the Treaty of Jesus, where two peoples, Gentile and Jewish, become one in the Ephesians church.

And as I thought more about the Treaty of Waitangi and the Treaty of Jesus during this week, I found more connections. The Treaty of Jesus is needed because, according to Genesis 1, God made us as humans in the image of God. Which means that each of us are like, in the Maori language, God’s taonga, God’s treasure.

And because God made us, and made us treasure in the image of God, God surely has the right to demand tino rangatiratanga; (full and total chieftainship), that word in Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The word rangatiratanga is most often translated as chief; one how has oversight, responsibility, authority, control. And rangatiratanga is the Maori word used in the Lord’s prayer for Your Kingdom come. In other words; Your rangatiratanga; Your oversight, responsibility, control, here on earth as in heaven.

The word tino in Maori is most often translated; full, total, absolute. So tino rangatiratanga means that God created us as taonga and in response has tino rangatiratanga complete responsibility, full authority, absolute sovereignty.

And if we’re honest, all of us have refused God’s sovereignity, God’s tino rangatiratanga. We’ve all had times when we’ve taken responsibility for our own lives, have decided to live my way, rather than God’s way.

And so, with humans not living under God’s tino rangatiratanga, we need the Treaty of Jesus. We need a way for us to be once again, one people with God.

On Easter Friday, the curtain is torn in the temple. It symbolises a doorway being opened and the fact that there is now a legal way for humans to return to God. As it says in John 5:24; “Anyone here who believes what I [Jesus] am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father … has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider.” Surely this is the beauty of one faith, it allows us to re-enter God’s sovereignty and to seek our full potential, as God’s taonga, empowered by the Spirit, to living life to the full.

I went to see the movie Babel last Saturday night. The movie is a contemporary telling of the story of Babel in Genesis 9. A movie that explores some of today’s big issues: the pain of growing up a teenager today, tension between Muslim and American, the politics of illegal migration.

But with the Treaty of Jesus, there is no need for Babel. Because through Jesus, two people are becoming one and there is no excuse for racism or sexism or elitism among the people of God. As it says in Ephesians 2:14; “Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With he own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies.” This is the beauty of one faith.

And we hear a lot today about global warming and the sense that we as humans, way we live, way we manufacture, is destroying our planet. Yet in Colossians (1:18) we read that because of the Treaty of Jesus “all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death.” Again we see the beauty of one faith. That the Treaty of Jesus is hope for our planet and a call for us as followers of Jesus, to care for creation, another of God’s taonga, to protest pollution, to recycle. This is the beauty of one faith.

But mention the Treaty of Waitangi, and many Kiwis become nervous. We have mental pictures, in our minds, of protests, of politicians, of mud-slinging. So as country we have this Treaty, this legal document that has changed our relationship as Maori and Pakeha.

But living the document? That’s hard work. How do you put right today the sins of the past and theft of land and injustice toward Maori? What does something that happened 150 years, that I did not sign, that you did not sign, mean for us today? Will there ever be full and final settlement?

And perhaps we find some answers in Ephesians 4:3; “Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives.”

So because of the Treaty of Jesus, there is this gift, of being one with God. But do your best to preserve this gift. Keep this Treaty of Jesus a living gift. Or as I read this week: “So the unity is a divine gift, but it must be cultivated and cherished.”

I used to think that I only needed the gospel of Jesus once, to become a Christian. And then you read Ephesians. Where the gospel demands our ongoing activity. Do your best to preserve the Treaty of Jesus as a living Treaty and work toward it’s full and final settlement.

This is our challenge as Kiwi’s. We all celebrated the Treaty of Waitangi on Tuesday. But what are we doing about the Treaty of Jesus today? Is it just an event some 2000 years ago, or do we need to make it our own today? Do you need to acknowledge that we are God’s taonga, confess the ways that we have lived apart from God, and decide to step back under God’s tino rangatiratanga? Do we need to commit ourselves to keeping the Treaty a living document, and work together toward full and final settlement? Such is the Treaty of Jesus and the beauty of one faith

Posted by steve at 10:22 PM


  1. wow – this is really moving & powerful….did you preach it?

    Comment by Deb — February 15, 2007 @ 9:07 am

  2. hey,thannks for the encouragement, I have been puzzled over the lack of blog comments as i was quite pleased with it as a peice of contextual theology.

    it was the guts of my sermon on Sunday. For the blog i took out the final section (when I was applying the gospel to church membership and what it means to see that as a “living treaty” also. which didn’t seem quite as relevant and blogposts are meant to be short anyhow.

    the treaty is a big issue here in nz and words like “tino rangatiratanga” are quite emotive, so there was a certain degree of risk. but people seemed pretty connected as they listened.

    i have also written a communion script which has similar echoes, let me know if you are interested and i will try and scrabble around in my data base and see if i can find it.


    Comment by steve — February 15, 2007 @ 9:20 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.