Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Our new masters in Wellington? On the use of Te Reo

I don't often publish sermons I have written but this week the beginning is apt for some of what is changing with our new political masters in Wellington. To be clear: I think we needed a change of government, I am not opposed to all changes in the wings. Yet not all changes a change government brings in are to be accepted without comment. The occasion for the sermon was the installation of a new canon for our Cathedral.

Installation Cameron Pickering, Sunday 10 December 2023

Readings: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

Ko te tīmatanga o te rongopai o Īhu Karaiti, o te Tama a Te Atua

The good news of Jesus Christ is spoken or written in a language.

John the Baptist and Jesus spoke their messages in Aramaic, a language not dissimilar to the Hebrew language of Isaiah.

Such prophets spoke so they would be understood by their hearers.

Mark wrote his gospel in Greek. Peter wrote his epistle in Greek. That was the universal language of the Mediterranean world (incidentally, Greek it was, rather than Latin, even though this was the territory of the Roman Empire).

Not so many people today understand Greek or Latin, so we do not have our lessons read from versions of the Bible in those languages. We like the Bible in our own familiar language.

For many of us that is English. Like Greek, it is something of a universal language. But it is not the familiar language of all peoples.

So we understand that the process of communicating te rongopai, the good news, goes from Aramaic to Greek to English to ... Chinese ... Spanish ... Māori – Te Reo of the indigenous people of NZ.

Te Reo is not just a familiar language to many Kiwis. It is an official language of our country. But we are slowly, very slowly waking up to the possibility of being a bilingual nation.

Certain moves lately imply a diminution of the importance of Te Reo. We can protest these changes creatively by ourselves using Te Reo (or permitting its use) as much as possible.

The best way to defy our masters in Wellington is to do what even they cannot forbid, speak Te Reo!

The Good News – Te Rongopai – is an announcement of the kingdom of God – te rangatiratanga o te Atua – that God is directly engaged in our world, reconciling people to himself, putting wrongs to right, working for justice between and among people, and healing diseases and brokenhearts.

That is a summary of the vision of a restored Israel which Isaiah begins to announce with the passage we heard this morning – a vision which through Īhu Karaiti escalates to a vision for a restored world.

The kingdom of God – te rangatiratanga o te Atua – has begun, its fulfilment is not yet complete – our epistle tells us both to wait for that fulfilment patiently and not to be complacent about our role in bringing it to fulfilment: in verse 12,

“waiting for and hastening the coming day of the Lord.”

December is a season of busy preparation for Christmas and that makes the church season of Advent a fraught time for carving out time to reflect on the first coming of Christ to begin the kingdom of God and on the second coming of the Kingdom to complete the kingdom of God.

But this morning we have a few minutes to do some reflection and on the occasion of installing Cameron Pickering as a clerical canon of this cathedral, we might focus that reflection on the role of the cathedral in hastening the kingdom of God.

Canons are members of Chapter, the governing body of the Cathedral, brought together to support the Dean in his leadership of the faith community associated with the Cathedral.

The governance of the Cathedral should ask and keep asking, what role can the Cathedral play in the kingdom of God growing in the world?

In reality, we get weighed down by mundane matters of finance (not enough!), compliance (too much!) and so forth. Cameron, help us not to be distracted from our primary purpose!

To be at the forefront of hastening the kingdom of God, the Dean, Chapter, the Regulars, the Volunteers, the staff, all visitors and myself – we - should keep asking, how can this Cathedral speak Good News – Te Rongopai – to the world – to the city and to Canterbury?

What language do we need to speak that Good News in? Yes, in English, in Te Reo, in Chinese and so on.

To speak the Good News in English or Te Reo or Chinese or any other language is simply a starting point in engagement with the language of the culture of the people of the world whom God loves.

How will we speak the Good News into the culture of our day, in ways, in forms of communication which this generation will receive and engage with?

That is a challenge because Cathedrals have become guardians of traditions of the church as well as places of intrigue and sacred mystery to which visitors come and to which seekers of God are drawn.

The culture of our day represents the traditions of past times evolved and adapted to present day norms and expectations which themselves will change as tomorrow comes.

To be a guardian of tradition and an adaptor to an ever changing world is a huge challenge, but ...

Cathedrals need to discern the cultural moment if the Good News is to be proclaimed in a manner which wins a hearing, leads to changed lives and to a changed world.

One of the strengths Cameron will bring to the role of Clerical Canon is an ability to discern the cultural moment.

Cameron, help Dean Ben and all of us with the primary Christian task of proclaiming the Good News in ways which mean we herald and hasten Te rangatiratanga o Te Atua. 

1 comment:

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bruce
I am not going to publish your comment. Apart from having an unnecessary crack at me, I am not going to publish unfair criticism of the Cathedral Project team which is not based on facts.

You mention a building focus on the nave as a priority. I can assure you that we are very focused on the nave and getting it reinstated.

With kind regards,