Matariki 12 June 2016 – David McNabb

Matariki 12 June 2016 – David McNabb

Luke 7: 36 – 8:3
Sun 12 Jun

Kia ora koutou and nga mihi o te tau hou – happy Maori new year and Matariki greetings!

This is the first of three services that I am leading.  We are a team of parish councillors and ministers covering the absence of our minister Glynn while he is on study leave and annual leave overseas.  We remember Glynn and his family during this time of learning and refreshment. 

I am particularly pleased to be supported by members of the social justice team along with many others from our community.  This continues the practice of having many parishioners and supporters contribute during these services.  We have been hearing about what people are doing and what mission means to them.  The three services are following the broad theme of social justice.  This Sunday the theme is Matariki, next week it is Refugee Sunday, then on 24 July we celebrate Maori Language Week.  My hope for the Community of St Luke is that we express our commitment to social justice more fully in our life and mission.  This includes biculturalism and gender equity which we focus on today.

Today’s theme of Matariki has been outlined in the Prayers as we Gather section.  Matariki is also known as Maori New Year.  A time to remember our ancestors and to reflect on the year past.  It is also a time to prepare for the future and to take action.  The central questions I invite us to consider today are: What are we hoping for?  And what do we plan to achieve?  These are good personal questions to address.  They are also excellent questions for us in the Community of St Luke.

 We began our service today with the Karanga – the privileged role for women to utter the first sound on the marae as they welcome guests.  We are using Maori language, one of three official languages in NZ, along with English and Sign Language.  Our service includes traditional Maori waiata or songs and the chanted Lord’s Prayer in Maori – something Glynn introduced earlier.  In this way we are recognising Maori as Tangata Whenua – the original people of this land, and that through the Treaty of Waitangi we have a relationship.  Like a covenant, the Treaty speaks of a bicultural foundation for our national life, not simply that of coloniser and colonised.
The church in Aotearoa has a history going back to the signing of the Treaty and bears a responsibility to continue addressing colonisation and its effects, with Maori continuing to feature in the worse statistics of deprivation.  I’ll return to the theme of biculturalism in the July service.
Matariki is literally about the stars, in particular the star we know as Pleiades.  This connects with the broader theme of light that we have running through our service.  Light is a traditional Christian theme we are familiar with.  We call Jesus the Light, the guide for our path and the point to which we aim.  We also think of the light of God within each of us.
At this Matariki season we may ask: where is the light leading us?  There is a Chinese proverb: the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.
Our gospel reading today from the lectionary is about the ministry of Jesus.  We notice that women feature prominently in this reading as they often do in the gospel accounts of Jesus.  We see women being welcomed, being told they are okay, being healed, being forgiven, and in contemporary language: being invited to join Team Jesus.  Having their love received and being commended by Jesus.  This occurred in a context where women were usually excluded for one of a number of reasons: being considered unclean, or for having children outside of marriage, or even trading money for sex to survive.  And in general for not keeping their place in the rigid male hierarchy of their Jewish religion and of their colonists, the Roman empire.
It’s not that long ago we were welcoming the first women into ordained leadership as elders and ministers.  This is something that we have rightly celebrated.  The shame is that the church was actively excluding women for so long in the past – all backed up with biblical and theological scholarship.  Shame on us – particularly the men in power!
We are a church in recovery.  Recovery from the terrible legacy of sexism and patriarchy.  By patriarchy I mean the rules and tradition that have reinforced male superiority for so long.  This was often codified in law where in the British legal tradition until relatively recently husbands had disproportionate rights to custody of children, to sex with their wife and to family property.  
It has taken a long time for men in particular to begin to face up to the effects of the patriarchal system that continues to disadvantage women to this day.  There are many contemporary examples of patriarchy including the prevalence of violence against women.  New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world.  One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives . The Shine community agency for addressing domestic violence is about to merge with Presbyterian Support Northern, our social services partner.  We have granted some of our mission outreach budget to Shine to support them in their vital work.
One example of the economic effect of patriarchy is the pay inequity between the sexes for similar work.  Kristine Bartlett is a rest home caregiver who brought legal proceedings against her employer TerraNova and won her case.  She wanted equal pay for work of equal value, arguing that the rest home industry was underpaid because it was made up mostly of women.  A joint working group on pay equity principles has reported back to the Government recently on a number of recommendations for dealing with pay equity claims.   We await the Government response with interest.
My own mother was a rest home caregiver when she retired from being a Salvation Army Officer alongside my father.  She spoke about the pitiful pay and was eventually happy to finish when circumstances changed.  Now that my mother lives in a rest home she is dependent on quality care from an underpaid and predominantly female workforce.  Why has it taken so long to address such a long standing and endemic problem that affects the very economic livelihood of large groups of women?  
Robin Myers spoke at the Progressive Christian Conference in Napier about being a recovering sexist.  As a man within the church I can only echo that statement.  It is important for us men to challenge this inequitable system and to not only rely on women to create change.  The relationships between women and men in our society should be equitable and respectful.  However until we address the rules and systems that still keep patriarchy alive then no amount of individual respect of women by men will completely solve the legacy of this oppression.
At this season of Matariki we reflect on the ancient Christian tradition we are part of and the example of Jesus in challenging the patriarchal system.  Apart from ministering to women Jesus stood against the tradition of his day and included women in his campaign team.  Luke states that alongside the 12 men there was Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna and women who had been healed.  A demonstration of gender equity.
Next week we will be hearing about the ADC and its anti-poverty work in Myanmar and Malawi using micro finance.  Many St Lukans are involved in ADC and we will be formalising the relationship with the Community of St Luke through a memorandum of understanding.  Next week we will also be viewing an award winning documentary after our church service called ‘On the Backs of Women’.  The title highlights the focus on development opportunities for women as a way to address the disadvantage faced by many women in their society.  We’ll hear more about how successful the microfinance programme has been for the women involved.
This Matariki season let us remember the work of Jesus and the early followers that stood against religion and empire where it oppressed women in the context of Roman occupation.  As women and men let us continue to pursue life giving relationships in our community and grasp the mission of gender justice on a bicultural foundation.  May the light of Matariki and Jesus, who is our light, inspire our life and mission. 8 June 2016.