KŌRERO MAHARATIA (Words of reflection)
Matariki: a time to tell our stories
What’s your story?
Do you know your own story, your birth story, your life story? Did someone tell it to you, or have you made it up from memory and experience?
It’s worth keeping in mind that there are different Matariki stories, different meanings depending on the location of the tribe who tells them: in some, Matariki is a time for planting; in others, that’s not the case at all. There are many variations of the calendar and many ways the different tribes used stellar guides for their own specific environment.
So, Matariki isn’t just a time to learn the legends of the stars, fascinating as they are. Learning about family and whakapapa is also important. Around Matariki the harvests such as kumara were in, and this cold part of the year was a time for hui, for korero, to exchange stories, learn about ancestors who have passed from this world to the next, and hand down knowledge and practices to ensure the culture is preserved.
Memories, good and bad, are powerful.
I was moved by the quote in the final part of our contemporary reading, in which the first time mother says of memories, “Whether or not they're good or bad they're still powerful. It's how you build an affinity with [your children]''—or with those who come after us.
In some ways, these intangible things are the most important bequests we can leave.
If you could tell, or if you could leave, only one story—what would it be? It might be in words, but perhaps you’d tell it in photographs, or represent it by a piece of music or something you’ve made. And —is it your story alone, or did you inherit parts of it to pass on?
I wonder, when Luke wrote the story of Jesus healing a widow’s son, did he have the Elijah story in mind? The oil and flour that didn’t run out… the loaves and fishes, enough to share and to spare… the response to, “Look, your son is alive” of “ surely you are God’s prophet!”
I wonder if even then, the listeners were meant to realise that the prophetic task is not just to decry the unfair systems of politics and social structures, but to heal, to bring to life a new way of being.
A new way, that grows out of our past. For these are resurrection stories: people restored to their former status, before everything is stripped away by death, physical, spiritual, even cultural.
Let’s look at the words of the Lord’s Prayer which we sang/said in Maori. This is a particularly thoughtful translation, investing the words with meaning and memories which may well have grown from a tradition more like that of Jesus’ time than of ours.
We’ll look at just a few of the phrases:
“Our Parent in the spirit world, sacred is your Name..”
Matua is a much bigger word than Father. It means parent—female as well as a male—and suggests the caring, loving, disciplining, helping, protecting aspect of what God is. Many people regard tapu as meaning forbidden, but it’s also descriptive of reverence, respect, and honour.
“Strip us of our sins, give us back what we have lost.”
Muru recalls an ancient Māori practice where, on a person's death, his or her contemporaries would descend on the deceased's house and strip it of everything it contained. In effect the prayer says Come muru us; seize us and take away everything bad; our sins, all that has gone wrong; “the hurts we absorb from one another”, so we can be with you, God.
“Do not lead us into temptation; may we be whole, away from things evil.”
The prayer-line has been expanded in the Māori version. Whaka-ora-ngia includes life, health, wellbeing, happiness, and it suggests peace, salvation and wholeness.
And then there’s the concept with which the prayer begins and ends:
Loving spiritual parent, bring us your rangatiratanga. Power and glory are through your rangatiratanga.
Rangatira can mean the chief, the boss, the big one, as for example, in hoa rangatira which means partner, spouse: chief friend.
But rangatiratanga also implies responsible leadership, guidance, education and nurture of the people. “Good government, the desire for beauty, the care for others.” Rangatiratanga suggests a God who cares and protects, and to whom consequently there is loyalty as part of a relationship.
A Covenant or Treaty relationship, perhaps?
Is this what the prophetic way looks like? A new covenant. A re-creation story, a resurrection story of new ways of being, where there are resources for all and to spare; where people are restored to their former status, their dignity, their health, their ways of learning and leading.
In these stories, we feel the energies of the Spirit, stimulus to creation of the world. We hear the gifts of the spirit reframed in terms of quantum physics. We hear indigenous people’s ideas of the Great Spirit—loving parent in the spirit world—the Spirit that Lives in the world of breathing and inspiration and creativity. Te Pungaotehau—the place where the wind comes from.
We hear stories of the past, told and retold, altered to suit the current ethos, to make sense over generations.
We hear, we see, the weaving: niho taniwha—the saw-edged pattern of tukutuku panels and in the tāniko weaving on the hems of cloaks, representing the realm of mythology… and symbolising family houses within the tribe.
At Matariki, and often in this faith community, we weave the stories of the past into the present, as harakeke, flax, is woven into a mat for sleeping, for birth, for protection. Nga pā harakeke, a metaphor used to represent the gene pools inherited by children and the passing of attributes down the generations.
We are the flax from which the mat is woven.
As the new year dawns on Aotearoa, as the seven sisters dance and the little eyes of god look down on us, what stories will represent our heritage, our gift to the future?
May our story be—continue to be—a resurrection story, of a whare karakia where everyone is welcome; where all are respected and restored to dignity and health;
a story of whaka-ora-ngia, where treaty and covenant are honoured;
a story of re-creation—for all of us, together.
Tātou tātou e.
The Lord's Prayer - Our parent in the spirit world
E to matou Matua i te rangi
Kia tapu tou Ingoa.
Kia tae mai tou rangatiratanga.
Kia meatia tau e pai ai
ki runga ki te whenua,
kia rite ano ki to te rangi.
Homai ki a matou aianei
he taro ma matou mo tenei ra.
Murua o matou hara,
Me matou hoki e muru nei
i o te hunga e hara ana ki a matou
Aua hoki matou e kawea kia whakawaia;
Engari whakaorangia matou i te kino:
Nou hoki te rangatiratanga,
te kaha, me te kororia,
Ake ake ake.
Our Parent in the spirit world
Sacred is your Name.
Bring us Your Chiefly rule;
May it happen in the way that is to You, good;
may it happen on earth in the same way as in spirit world.
Give us now
the food we need this day.
Strip us of our sins;
Give us back what we have lost;
so that we, the slaves of sin, may be with you again.
Do not lead us into temptation;
May we be whole, away from things evil;
Through your chiefly position, is the power
and the glory.
Forever and ever.
In mingling our wairua in the hongi
in passing the peace of Christ from hand to hand
in sharing the sacred meal, and morning tea
we create a reality
in which manuhiri and tangata whenua become one iwi.
Go in peace, knowing past hurts are healed,
weaving our stories of faith into your every day.
Te aroha, te whakapono, te rangimarie,
tatou tatou e.
[Love, truth and peace
be with us all]
Words of Wisdom (scripture & contemporary readings)
1 Kings 17:8-24 Contemporary English Version Elijah Helps a Widow in Zarephath
8The Lord told Elijah, 9 “Go to the town of Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve told a widow in that town to give you food.” 10 When Elijah came near the town gate of Zarephath, he saw a widow gathering sticks for a fire.
“Would you please bring me a cup of water?” he asked. 11 As she left to get it, he asked, “Would you also please bring me a piece of bread?”
12 The widow answered, “In the name of the living Lord your God, I swear that I don’t have any bread. All I have is a handful of flour and a little olive oil. I’m on my way home now with these few sticks to cook what I have for my son and me. After that, we will starve to death.”
13 Elijah said, “Everything will be fine. Do what you said. Go home and fix something for you and your son. But first, please make a small piece of bread and bring it to me. 14 The Lord God of Israel has promised that your jar of flour won’t run out and your bottle of oil won’t dry up before he sends rain for the crops.”
15 The widow went home and did exactly what Elijah had told her. She and Elijah and her family had enough food for a long time. 16 The Lord kept the promise that his prophet Elijah had made, and she did not run out of flour or oil.
Contemporary reading (1): Maori story-telling forges earliest childhood memories
Maori have the earliest childhood memories of any culture in New Zealand according to the results of an Otago University study released in 2008.
Researchers have discovered that the average memory of a Maori child reaches back to two years of age, while the memories of New Zealand Europeans children begin around a year later.
The study shows the reason for this is the rich story-telling ability of their mothers.
Elijah Brings a Boy Back to Life
17 Several days later, the son of the woman who owned the house got sick, and he kept getting worse, until finally he died.
18 The woman shouted at Elijah, “What have I done to you? I thought you were God’s prophet. Did you come here to cause the death of my son as a reminder that I’ve sinned against God?”
19 “Bring me your son,” Elijah said. Then he took the boy from her arms and carried him upstairs to the room where he was staying. Elijah laid the boy on his bed 20 and prayed, “Lord God, why did you do such a terrible thing to this woman? She’s letting me stay here, and now you’ve let her son die.” 21 Elijah stretched himself out over the boy three times, while praying, “Lord God, bring this boy back to life!”
22 The Lord answered Elijah’s prayer, and the boy started breathing again. 23 Elijah picked him up and carried him downstairs. He gave the boy to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive.”
24 “You are God’s prophet!” the woman replied. “Now I know that you really do speak for the Lord.”
Contemporary reading (2): In the Beginning Was the Spirit
by Diarmuid O'Murchu
Diarmuid O'Murchu is a Catholic priest and enthusiastic commentator on the interplay between religion, science, and spirituality. [In his latest book], O'Murchu deftly takes a roving look at the third member of the Christian Trinity who has been slighted by believers and bypassed in the secular world…
O'Murchu charts the energies of the Spirit as a spur to the Creation of the world. He applauds Miriam Therese Winter’s reframing of the seven gifts of the Spirit in light of quantum physics: relativity, uncertainty, probability, complementarity, nonlocality, sychronicity, and change.
O'Murchu heralds what we can learn from aboriginal wisdom about our relationships, connections, and the great web of life. He includes under this tent Native American spirituality, the Spirit of Africa, and the Great Religions of Asia, and shamanism…
O'Murchu [also describes] "The Erotic Spirit" behind creativity, pleasure, intimacy, and passion, [and] "the Spirit of the Wild" where chaos and mystery blaze a path that goes beyond law and order and rationality.
… traditional Christians… have had a hard time recognizing the truth of nonduality (it is much easier to divide the world into a battle between good and evil) but they might be ready to at least consider the Eight Horizons of Spirit offered by O'Murchu:
1.The Indigenous Notion of the Great Spirit
2. The Spirit in Creation
3. The Spirit in Personhood
4. The Spirit in Religion
5. From Third to First in the Trinity
6. Even Jesus is Empowered by the Spirit
7. Sacramental Empowerment
8. The Spirit that Lives
Luke 7:11-17 Contemporary English Version A Widow’s Son
11 Soon Jesus and his disciples were on their way to the town of Nain, and a big crowd was going along with them. 12 As they came near the gate of the town, they saw people carrying out the body of a widow’s only son. Many people from the town were walking along with her. 13 When the Lord saw the woman, he felt sorry for her and said, “Don’t cry!”
14 Jesus went over and touched the stretcher on which the people were carrying the dead boy. They stopped, and Jesus said, “Young man, get up!” 15 The boy sat up and began to speak. Jesus then gave him back to his mother.
16 Everyone was frightened and praised God. They said, “A great prophet is here with us! God has come to his people.” 17 News about Jesus spread all over Judea and everywhere else in that part of the country.
Contemporary reading (3): Maori story-telling forges earliest childhood memories (cont)
Oral history and story-telling are a strong part of Maori culture. This transmission of information in this way could also be a reason memory recall happened so early in life… The Study’s co-author said Maori mothers talked to their children in richer ways about significant events involving them, for example how they were born…
''We found that the richness of the style in which mothers related the birth stories strongly predicted how good children were at talking about more recent past events.”
First time mother Ngarangi Walker, says she made a point of talking to her son during pregnancy.
''The most powerful thing you can give your children are memories. Whether or not they're good or bad they're still powerful. It's how you build an affinity with them.''