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Matariki

Matariki

Matariki

Glynn Cardy 26th June 2022

Today we celebrate the first ever public holiday, anywhere in the world, that comes from indigenous peoples practice and spirituality. 

Matariki is about stars – what Europeans call the Pleiades – 7 sisters/goddesses (though there are many more than 7!) – stars who are among the nearest to earth.  The name Pleiades came from Ancient Greece. 

The celebration of Matariki coincides with Winter Solstice which is the seasonal beginning for the New Year.  Both Māori and European cultures share this time.   Matariki, the passing of the old year and the welcome to the new, encapsulates many themes and practices. 

Matariki is a time to firstly remember, as the old prayerbook used to say, ‘those who have helped and influenced us.”  Our dead.  Our stars.  That could be a parent or grandparent, but it might be an elder, a mentor, a friend, or a neighbour.  We remember them because they have gone yet still, particularly in our dark times, shine like stars in our night – encouraging and guiding.  E nga mate, haere, haere, haere ki te po.  [To our dead farewell, farewell, farewell to the night]. 

This morning you’ve been given a star and a pen when you came into church.  Later in the service I will invite you to write down the names of a few of the stars in your life and then talk to the person sitting beside you about your stars.

Secondly, Matariki is a time of coming change.  A turning of the seasons.  And the coming of light.  So, it’s a time to prepare, to get ready the ground for planting, a time to fly a kite into the unknown, a time to dream it then do it different.  It is a very appropriate time to have a baptism at church – a celebration of light, of community, of change – and the consistency of God (Atua) throughout.

And lastly, Matariki occurred at the end of the harvest season.  So, it was a time of giving thanks for our whenua [the land] and Papatuanuku [our mother earth] who have sustained us.   This thanksgiving was marked by pleasurable pastimes – like games, kite-making, and feasting.

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Today Jade has come to be baptised.  Baptism is one of those rituals in the church that has evolved over the centuries.  Its origin was in communal bathing practices.  Baptizo was the common everyday word for bathing.  And we, in the St Luke’s village, would come together to bathe together in the public bath.  Such bathing removed the dirt of the day, but also symbolically the ‘dirt’ of hurts inflicted, insults received or given, and the mental and physical difficulties of living under the harsh conditions of Roman occupation.  Feelings of failure, anger, and resentment were washed away to the extent that people could carry on living and loving and caring for family, friends, and others.  And the ‘dirt’, so to speak, was not just removed by the water, but more so by the fellowship and camaraderie of others in the bath tub.  Together we gave each other strength, and a reminder that we belong together.

Baptism as we have received it today is not theoretically that dissimilar from the earliest days.  We celebrate that Jade is loved by God, belongs in God, and has always belonged in God.  We might think of God as like that public bath – always consistently there, always a place of refreshment, meeting, and communal healing.  To be baptised, Jade simply needs to step into the bath, and thus to signify her belonging not only in God, but her belonging in this community of the bath.  To step in is to become who you are.

But in belonging to the community of this bath tub, and enjoying the fellowship and camaraderie, we also take on the tasks of helping others – to support others, to help them with the ‘dirt’ of hurts, with the injuries that life throws our way.  And of course, there’s always the rostered tasks of cleaning the bath and maintaining it, and to making sure there are places, like this community, where anyone can come for the spiritual food of friendship and support.

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Matariki in early Māori culture was a time of significant work and preparation.  The harvests of the summer season had been appropriately stored to sustain the people through the winter and the preparations for a new season were being made.  With winter, of course, came the rain and the land was inundated with fresh water.  The earth was understood as being revitalized and the soil replenished ready for planting.

The hymn in Te Reo that we sang earlier – E te Atua kua ruia nei – translates in part as: “O God, sown is your good seed.  Give us a new heart to make it grow.  O Jesus, do not let it go, do not let it be destroyed; let it grow so that the fruits may be seen.”

So, in this hymn writer’s metaverse we are the ground that is being made ready for planting.  “Give us a new heart” says the hymn-writer.  Or, as others might say, “Open our hearts”.   That is, open our spiritual ears, eyes, and soul so that we might be receptive to the good words and good deeds (the seed) that others – through the grace of God – ‘plant’ in us.

How the metaphor works is that every kind word, generous deed, wise thought, act of encouragement, solidarity in need can be like a seed – like the sower in the first reading today – that we can throw out for it to land where it may.  Our words and actions can be like seed that might in time grow in another’s consciousness and bear good fruit.

Sometimes we don’t know that we’re sowing seeds.  Occasionally someone might tell us.  But often we don’t hear.  Regardless we keep on throwing out across the fields compassion, wisdom, and hope.  

The second reading today, about mustard seeds, is a very subversive parable.  Mustard was the oxalis of the ancient world.  Once in your garden it was devilishly difficult to get out.  It was a big nuisance. 

The story in short tells us that God’s empire, God’s way of being, is like a wild seed, disruptive of good gardening practice, a right nuisance!  The words and deeds of godly compassion, wisdom, and hope don’t fit within conventional ways of thinking.  And so it is, in the Jesus upside-down universe, the nuisances, the unconventional, and the disruptive may be closer to the truth than we are.

At Matariki the ground is made ready to receive the good seed, to begin a new season.

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And then there are the stars.  It’s not only in the movie Lion King where the ancestors were thought of as stars watching over and guiding us (if we let them).

Many of us have had people in our lives who have mentored us.  Sometimes just once.  Sometimes for most of our life.  People who have given, or showed us, good counsel in difficult times.  People who have listened and by their presence given us what we needed.  Some of those people might not be saints – that is their flaws might be very obvious – but for a while they were the person through whom we were helped, through whom we might say God spoke.  They were our stars when we needed them, and were there even when we didn’t think we needed them.

This morning when you came into church you were given a star and a pen.  I would like you to spend a few minutes now writing the name of a few of your stars, your guides/mentors, on the little cardboard star.  Then turn to the person beside you and share what you wish.

For others of you who like to make things, there is an activity table at the back where Christine Carter will lead you in making Matariki stars to go in this beautiful display of the night sky.

One final thought.  Marina, the moderator of Te Aka Puaho, wrote this week about Matariki and prayer.  She talked about karakia (prayer) being a way of respect, a lifestyle of respect – respect for one another, the earth, the ancestors, the seasons.  She wrote: “We lived karakia, we talked it, and we walked it.”  The kaupapa of Matariki is respect.