LGBTQ Ordination (a follow up to my Te Kaea interview)

Five Minutes of Fame.

Well, it seems my all too brief and not very illustrious career as a commentator on Church issues has hit its first speed bump!

With General Synod underway in Fiji and issues around our LGBTQ whanau having some prominence, it was only natural that the media would pick it up as a story, and so the lot fell to me to be interviewed. In an attempt to ensure 100% clarity I elected to be interviewed in English for the Māori language news, Te Kaea. The interview went well and I was pleased with the overall experience, until I saw the subtitles.

In the interview I was asked if I thought there was a barrier to the ordination of LGBTQ people to which I responded in the negative. I went onto say that there is, in my opinion no theological or tikanaga reason why LGBTQ people who are living in a loving relationship or are celibate cannot be ordained. This is not a view I apply uniquely to our LGBTQ whanau, but one I apply to any ordained person, or indeed candidate for ordination. The subtitle, however said “…I don’t see why any celibate gay man or lesbian woman cannot be ordained.”

Whanau, I believe that sexuality in its entirety and the physical manifestation of that sexuality between two people who love each other is one of the great gifts of God. It alarmed me therefore to see that the subtitle indicated or inferred anything other than that position. To demand anyone, LGBTQ or otherwise to exist in a state of celibacy as a prerequisite for ordination when they are involved in a loving relationship not only denies the couple perhaps the most intimate manifestation of love available to humans, but also denies the fullness of the candidate’s identity to be lived out. Of course there are some who choose to live a celibate life, and I support them 100% in that calling. I, however draw the line at demanding celibacy as an enforced way of life.

Whanau, although this post largely takes the form of an explanation, it is also a statement of support and solidarity from myself to our LGBTQ and Takataapui whanau everywhere, not only those in the Church.

Arohanui.

Please note that this isn’t an attack on Maori TV, Te Kaea or the reporter. Sometimes these things just happen.

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Sermon – Pentecost 4 – Ordinary 12 – Mark 4:35-41

Peace Be Still. By He Qi.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, remain acceptable in thy sight

O LORD my rock and my redeemer. AMEN.

 “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

 You know Whanau, I feel lucky this morning, and its not because I won Lotto last night. As if preaching here, and being with you all this morning isn’t enough, when I looked in my lectionary last week to see what the readings were, I found the reading we have this morning is one of my favourites in the entire bible.

                Here we have Jesus and some of his disciples out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Mark tells us that they are on their way to the town of Gerasa, and while they are on their way, Jesus falls asleep. Whanau, that right there is why I love this reading. Here we have Jesus, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and what is he doing? He is sleeping. In this moment, this brief instance we are given an insight into Jesus that we don’t often get, that is an insight into his humanity and indeed his human vulnerability. Here we are reminded of the human nature of God, the fact that God sent his son into the world for us. Not simply as conqueror, or some sort of super-human entity, but a fully human manifestation of God, what a beautiful thing. He got hungry, he got angry and he even got sleepy sometimes. Jesus experienced life just as we experience it and in that knowledge there is a sense of comfort for those of us who continue to struggle through life’s challenges, through life’s ups and downs. That comfort is the knowledge that Christ himself experienced these struggles, and continues to experience them with us.

As our reading continues, we see Peter, perhaps hysterically, attempting to wake up Jesus. There is a huge wind on the water and the waves are pounding the boat, fearing that the boat will sink, Peter puts it to Jesus, “Do you care?!?” So, in what seems like a dramatic shift, from a sleeping, fully human Jesus, we see a change to a wind and rain stopping Son of God.

I think a lot of us here can relate to what must have been going through Peter’s mind at that very moment. Here he was, literally facing death as the boat was being swamped and where is Jesus, the Man who can make it all go away? He is sleeping! I remember in 2010, my older sister, the oldest in our family of 7 kids, was very sick. She was having seizures and blacking out all the time and the doctors didn’t quite know what was going on. She had MRI Scans, she had tests but still, they didn’t know why these things were happening. It wasn’t until mid 2010, after a series of CT Scans that they found a tumour in her brain that was growing just behind her ear. In that moment, at that time, it felt to me as though Jesus had fallen asleep, and my whanau and I were alone, facing the devastating news that my sister had Cancer.

We all have moments like this, Whanau. Times where it can seem as if we are at it alone and we cannot see Christ or God in anything we are doing. When children are beaten and killed by their whanau, when loved ones pass away well before their time, when we look at the Newspaper and it seems as if there is war and suffering all around us, these are moments where we can all be forgiven for perhaps thinking that we are alone, and Christ has fallen asleep, unaware of the pain we are experiencing. But whanau, in our reading is the remedy for this feeling, all along, Jesus was with the disciples in the boat, and every step of the way, Christ is with us. Christ’s response to Peter after having calmed the storm holds the answer for us, Christ said “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Faith, Whanau, the answer is faith.

Of course this reading is all about faith, and faith, along with love and hope, is one of the most important aspects of our callings as Christians. This doesn’t mean that we are always 100% sure of ourselves or our lives; it doesn’t mean that we don’t have moments of doubt, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be times where we think Jesus, or even God has fallen asleep on us. Faith means that despite those times, we remain strengthened and empowered in our calling as Christians to love and to serve. Faith provides the foundation that allows us to live lives of service informed by love, and if we do it properly, faith means that our love becomes real and transforming not just for us, but for everyone around us.

I believe that as humans, we are called to love. Nowadays, love is word that gets thrown around all the time, it seems we have almost gotten too familiar with it as a word that we no longer feel it as the deep and powerful emotion that it really is. We live in a world where the important thing in a marriage isn’t love, but your sexual orientation. We live in a world where we use love to explain the way we feel about food, we use it to explain how much we like a song or music, we even use it to say how much we like a pair of shoes or jeans or a stunning dress, as Christians, I believe that we are called to a much deeper love than that.  The Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote a lot on his ideas around grace, his main whakaaro was that we should avoid what he called ‘cheap grace’ and strive for ‘costly grace’ I think the same thing applies to love. It is easy for us to love those who we like, those who we are close to, but that sort of love is easy for us; it is a cheap love that costs us nothing. It is much harder to love those who no one loves, to stand with those who are being persecuted, the lost, the lonely, the outcast. When we refuse to ignore injustice, when we choose to speak out prophetically in love rather than remain silent, that is when we are exhibiting the love that all Christians are called to show. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but with the faith that Christ talks about in our reading this morning we are all the more ready to show that love when the time or situation demands it.

Our Gospel reading this morning alerts us to issues of faith, it is a reality of the Christian life that there will inevitably be times where we question our faith, where even the most faithful among us will be tested, the thing we are reminded of in our reading this morning is that even when those moments come and it seems as if our faith is getting smaller and smaller, we must remember that Christ is with us, even if like in our reading this morning it seems as if he is sleeping, he is there nonetheless, and that knowledge alone is enough for even us to command the wind to cease and storm to stop.

And so I leave you with those thoughts in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.         AMEN.

Matua Hone Kaa – A Tribute.

Matua Hone...e rere tonu nga roimata.

 In January, I posted a piece about Sermons. In that post, I made reference to one of the best preachers I have ever heard, the Ven. Dr. Hone Kaa. I have had the privilege over the past few years to work with and learn from Matua Hone. From driving him around, to being one of his ministers in Mangere, to just spending time with him, Matua Hone has had a huge impact on me. It was with sadness then that we learned of his diagnosis of cancer and that little could be done for him. As the days went by, Matua Hone didn’t seem to change, he continued coming to Church, he signed up to front a new TV show, things were looking good. But at the beginning of the week Matua Hone’s condition began to change until, on Thursday the  29th of March, surrounded by his family, Matua Hone passed away.

As preparations began to take shape, myself and several other young ministers who Matua Hone had mentored began the task of looking after Matua Hone and his whanau during his tangi (funeral). It was a sad but humbling pleasure for me to preach at Night Prayer on Friday Night at Matua Hone’s tangi. The following is the sermon I preached that night, I wanted to say more, and to be honest I could never put in words all that Matua Hone has meant to me, but as we prepare to take Matua Hone home to the East Coast it seems appropriate to share the sermon here…given it was him who inspired me to post my sermons online! No reira ki a koutou te whanau, Whaea Jane, Hirini, Nepia, Paea, Ngarino, Emere, Hana and Takimoana, kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts, remain acceptable in thy sight O LORD our rock and our redeemer.

(John 10:11-16, The Good Shepherd)

                A couple of weeks ago, some of us from St. Johns were lucky enough to spend an evening with Matua Hone and Whaea Jane at their home in New Market. It was a night filled with stories, laughter and karakia. For my sins, it was decided that I would preach that night. One thing I noticed as I prepared my sermon, was that since Matua Hone fell ill, a lot of people had been using different words to describe him, now that Matua Hone has passed away, the whole nation is referring to him like that. Some have called him a “rangatira”, others an “activist priest” and some have even described him as a “living legend.” I remember talking to one of Hone’s cousins, Wharekawa, and we got to talking about sheep. Wharekawa said that some of my Huriwai wanau were good shepherds back in the old days. Well whanau, needless to say, that talent must have skipped my generation! I don’t know much about sheep, and to be honest, I haven’t even touched one, but what I do know is that the work of a shepherd is hard, especially in the time of Jesus. Their work revolved around being alert and ensuring the safety of the flock. It was the shepherd’s responsibility to ensure there was good pasture and water for their sheep and that meant the shepherds often spent long stretches of time away from home, often sleeping under the stars, open to the affects of the weather and in some cases wild animals. All of these things, combined with the sheep’s tendency to wonder off and become lost, meant that the shepherds were always working. In some cases the danger was so high, that in order to protect the sheep, the shepherd would have to place himself in harm’s way, sometimes resulting in the shepherd’s injury or worse, death.

Whanau it may seem as if this story in the Gospel of John is simply talking about Jesus, and you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that. But beyond that theme, this gospel reading is calling us all to realise that we too, through the death and resurrection of Christ are being called to be shepherds to our whanau, our friends, our people. Matua Hone did just that, he began a journey in response to his calling to serve his people, and like the shepherds of Jesus time this calling, this mahi lead him away from his home, away from Rangitukia and the East Coast and sometimes even away from Aotearoa. Matua Hone’s work as a priest, was a work and a ministry directly informed by his faith, and if anything the one thing he held closest to him was the care of people, so much so that given his over 40 years of Ministry as a priest, you could say that he lay down his life, and therefore lived his life for his people. That isn’t to say that he only ministered to Ngati Porou or to Ngati Kahungunu, No. It was Matua Hone’s belief that everyone was made in the image of God and that therefore means that we all have a vested interest in one another, all people were Matua Hone’s people. What better example do we have of this part of Matua Hone’s life then the establishment of Te Kahui Mana Ririki. Matua Hone took a vested interest in every child in Aotearoa, and when it was obvious that something needed to be done, and our tamariki needed a voice, Matua Hone once again lay down his life and did something about it.

So what does this all mean for us? No doubt over the next few days we will hear story after story about how Matua Hone touched people’s lives, or how he inspired them, or how he was a man of faith, and while the sharing of those memories is good, what can we actually take from them? Here and now, as we mourn the loss of Matua Hone we are given a chance to really reflect on his life and impact on us all. Here and now we are given the opportunity not just to tell stories and remember, but to turn those stories into inspiration and that inspiration into action. As we move forward and prepare ourselves to say goodbye to Matua Hone, we must let his example lead us to also realise our calling, the calling of Christ that demands us to love. It is a calling of hope, of justice and of service and it is that calling that Matua Hone lived his entire life. If we let this opportunity go by then we might as well bury our memories with Matua Hone, if however we wish to honour Matua Hone and all that he meant to us, then let us follow his example to live a life, our lives, in such a way that we are ready to lay them down for all people, no matter who they are. By doing this, we take a piece of Matua Hone forward with us, we transform this time of grieving into a time of rejoicing. We change the tune of our song from one of sadness to one of joy. Whanau, as I share these words with you I am reminded of a line from one of Matua Hone’s sermons, he said “When we expect the worse at the last, we get the best. That is the mind of God, always to turn what you and I consider to be the end result into something so different.”

No reira e te Matua, e te hoa, e te Hepara. Moe mai ra i roto i to moenga. Moe mai ra i roto it e ariki.

Sermon – 3rd Sunday in Lent – John 2:13-22

L-R: The Rev. Ngira Simmonds, Peter Bargh N/TSSF, and the Rev. Christopher Huriwai at the Ports of Auckland Rally.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts remain acceptable in thy sight, O LORD our rock and our redeemer.

“Making a whip of chords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”

Well whanau, here we are, right in the thick of it. It’s the third Sunday of Lent and while our thoughts maybe turning to the hope and promise of Easter, and not to mention the Easter holidays, we need to continue to think about exactly what it is we are being called to reflect on this Lenten season. Here and now, as we pass through the half way point of Lent for this year, it is perhaps all the more important that we keep our calling at the forefront of our minds as we crossover into the second half of this season of Lent. As Christians, we each have a fundamental, baseline calling, that is a calling to love and to serve, and here and now, during Lent is the perfect time for us all to reflect on what it means to be called to love and to serve, not just those we know and love, but those we don’t know, and perhaps even more importantly, those we find it hard to love.

In our reading today, Jesus is actively clearing out the clutter; in our bibles this section of the Gospel of John is named “Jesus Cleanses the Temple.” Although in our reading, this clearing out is a literal one, I think that what we can take from this reading is not a literal calling to clear out everything from our Whare Karakia (Churches), but rather a calling, and an invitation to clear out, and cleanse ourselves from those things that clutter and gather up within us, that hinder, and in some instances even stop us from living out our calling to love and to serve. On the first Sunday of Lent I preached about the importance of allowing our faith to inform our actions, and in doing so, allowing our faith to become more than just an abstract idea. Here and now as we reflect on the importance of clearing out all those things that clutter our lives, we are given an opportunity once again to let our faith become a real and informing part of our lives so that when we are called upon to respond to issues that strike at the very core of our lives, we are ready and equipped to do just that.

Since last year, but in the last few months in particular, we have been witnessing the unravelling of one of those issues that strike at the very core of our faith and demands us to respond in a prophetic and loving way. I am of course talking about the issues surrounding the Ports of Auckland. The issues surrounding what is happening down at the Ports aren’t just a matter of money, although that’s what the big wigs down there would have you believe. The real issue is one of security and certainty, and the Port of Auckland’s attempt to deny those basic rights to their workers. Much like the earthquake in Christchurch, which brought words like “liquefaction” into the everyday vocabulary of all New Zealanders, the Ports of Auckland issue has also taught us a new word, “casualisation.” The new contracts that the workers were being asked to sign turned them all into casual workers, effectively casualising the entire workforce of the Ports of Auckland. Now, it may seem as if this isn’t too bad a deal. They will still be employed, they will still be working, and they will still be getting paid. But whanau, the issue is the uncertainty and complete lack of security that comes with being a “professional” casual worker. Not knowing when you are working, not knowing how many hours you will have each week, not even knowing what your weekly income will be. All of these things increase the levels of pressure and tension on the workers of the ports, not just on the job with their work mates, but at home with their families as well. Whanau, it is issues such as these that demand us to live out our calling to love and to serve and to meet these issues head on with the conviction of our faith and the knowledge of our calling. Like I said in the first week of Lent, we are called to respond with action, informed by our faith, no matter how small that action may be.

Yesterday, a couple of my friends and I decided that we would try and do something like that. We decided that our faith was calling us to establish a physical presence with the demonstrating workers and other unions as they marched and rallied from Auckland City to the Port. Although our actions were small, after all, all we did was walk, it was real, it was intimate and it was deliberate. It was action inspired by our calling, informed by our faith and lived out in the real world.

What we have here in our reading is a bit of a blue print, an example of sorts for us as followers of Christ to ourselves follow. One problem with our reading this morning is that it has become so familiar to us that the real intensity and craziness of it has all but worn off, but let’s think about it for a while. Here we have Jesus, the Prince of Peace, effectively storming the temple. Not only that, he actually made himself a weapon of sorts and physically drove out those in the temple who he saw as degrading the house of God. He turned up tables, he drove out the animals he rebuked those present. Here we have the same Jesus who calls us to be as gentle as doves, being the complete opposite! He is angry, he is passionate, and he is doing something about it. Now this doesn’t mean that we should be leading the workers at the Ports of Auckland on a rampage through the head offices of the Ports, or that we should all go to the City Council chambers and tip their tables over, rather it means that we should be open to allowing our emotions, our feelings and our passion become a part of our calling. We need to remember that just like Jesus, we act not just on behalf of ourselves, but by virtue of our baptism and our callings we act on the behalf of God. That might sound a bit odd, or even a bit whakahihi (proud), but what it really means for us as Christians, is that we need to be constantly looking for the money changers in our society and not be scared to act on our calling and effect change. It means that we need to be on the lookout for those issues that threaten to oppress and marginalise people and speak out, and indeed act out prophetically and with passion.

Whanau, if we take the opportunity we are given during this time of Lent, to clear out and cleanse ourselves of all of the clutter that builds up within our own lives that can hinder us from living out our calling, we will be all the more ready to respond with emotion and passion when we are faced with a decision to either keep silent or speak out.

And so I leave you with those thoughts in the name of the Father, and the Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

Sermon – 2nd Sunday After Epiphany – Ordinary 2 – John 1:43-51

Calling Disciples, by He Qi.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts remain acceptable in thy sight o LORD our rock and our redeemer.

“Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Phillip called you.’”

                Well whanau, I must have annoyed whoever puts our Ministry Team Roster together, because, as if preaching last week, the first Sunday in Ordinary time wasn’t hard enough, I have been put down again to preach this Sunday. Although it may seem like that is rather bad luck, I don’t think it is. The themes that were started last week continue this week and allow us another opportunity to reflect on what we are being called to do as we enter the year proper.

Last Sunday we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus and this week we follow on from that in the natural progression from baptism, to putting those baptismal obligations we spoke about last week, into action. During the season of Epiphany the themes we celebrate revolve around Jesus revealing himself to us and this week is no different. Here, this week with the calling of Phillip and Nathaniel we experience the revelation of Jesus in Galilee, a revelation that is revealed to us in his calling of Nathaniel.

According to Peter Woods, the imagery of the fig tree here in John points to the Old Testament idea of the Fig Tree being a place of blessing and comfort. On the other hand the fig tree in the New Testament is most often seen as a cursed place, an image of a withered fig tree is what we are given in Mark, chapter 11 . Although these two interpretations seem to be miles apart, and on different ends of the scale, it is this space that Nathaniel is occupying in this reading, and it is the place that we risk occupying too if we let ourselves slip into the “ordinary” this Ordinary Time.

This coming week marks a return for a lot of people. If they haven’t already, most people will be returning to work this week and although there is a few more weeks before uni and school starts back, book shops and malls are already starting their “Back to School” sales. Before we know it we will be lost in another year of School, work, and other priorities. It won’t be too long before we are all caught up in our own lives and our own issues, but one thing we must remember, even though thoughts of Christmas may be fast becoming a distant memory, is that we must take forward with us, into the year and the ordinary time, the spirit of Christmas and the Good News of the birth of Jesus Christ.

As Christians, wherever we go, and whatever we do, we carry with us the essence of our faith, the belief in Jesus Christ. This means, whether we like it or not, we are symbols of our faith and for Christ wherever we are. This responsibility calls us to live out our faith at all times. Not just at Christmas time or during Lent when we might be a little more conscious of our faith, but in all places and at all times. This calling to live out our faith is even more important during the normal, mundane times of our lives, and this time of the year is a good time to be reminded of that. Before the hustle and bustle of the year kicks in and we are truly overwhelmed by the pressures of life it is important to stop and reflect on our faith and what our faith calls us to do, before the year grabs a hold of us and before we know it, it is Christmas time once again and we have lost another year. Every interaction, every moment is an opportunity to live out our faith. That doesn’t mean that we should be standing on a street corner preaching or we should be actively trying to convert our friends, but rather that we should live our lives informed by our faith in Christ and become a walking, living testament to that faith. As St. Francis of Assisi put it, we are called to preach the gospel at all times, and only if necessary, use words.

Since October here in New Zealand, and all over the world there has been a group of people living out a type of faith. Since last year a movement called Occupy have been responding to what they perceive to be an injustice. The basic thrust behind the movement is an attempt to name and increase awareness about the inequality around the distribution of wealth and political power. Their main slogan is “We are the 99%.” This is reflective of the fact that 80% of the World’s wealth and power rests with a mere 1% of the population. The people involved in Occupy are responding to their beliefs, and their actions are being informed by those beliefs moving them to express their concern through various occupations throughout New Zealand and the world. Currently the movement in Auckland has occupations at Aotea Square, Queen Street, Albert Park and Victoria Park.  Now, whether or not you support the movement, or think what they are doing is the best way of going about raising awareness, we cannot deny that this movement is at least doing something. Just like the people of the Occupy movement we need to let our beliefs and our faith inform our action. Of course, this doesn’t mean we all need to go and pitch tents outside Holy Trinity Cathedral, but rather that we need to be ready to step out in faith because of our beliefs. We need to be ready to leave the comfort and shade of our own fig trees in an attempt to effect change. To do this though we need to be constantly aware of our faith and the obligations that comes with being followers of Christ. This means not taking a place at the banquet table if our brother or sister is denied one, it means being ready to deny ourselves for the greater good, it means we need to preach the gospel, not with words but with actions.

Only when we, like Nathaniel leave our own fig trees can we truly effect change and whole heartedly live out our own calling in Christ to love and to serve. If we don’t we risk turning our fig trees into withered, cursed places of selfishness and greed, instead of life giving places of strength and foundation.

And so I leave you with those thoughts in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.         AMEN.

A Piece of Art.

Matua Hone, doing what he does.

In my brief career as a preacher I have come to the opinion that preaching is a true art form, and sermons a piece of art.

Like most works of art, there are things that work well and things that don’t. Things that depend on the viewers’ (or listeners’) perspective and things that are just plain horrible no matter what perspective you take. This means that the act of preaching and indeed the sermons themselves become a very intimate thing, almost to the point when the sermons themselves become a piece of you and a little bit of you is weaved within the sermon.

For these reasons some preachers (this one included) can become a little bit shy about preaching and our sermons. Of course there are those for whom preaching seems to be natural. I have been blessed to witness some true masters of this art form in action, most notably the Venerable Dr. Hone Kaa, Kaumatua Priest and Mentor for scores of ministers here in Aotearoa. I am convinced that the reason Matua Hone is so at home in the pulpit is because what he preaches at Church on Sunday he is living on Monday, Matua Hone’s faith informs his action. Matua Hone isn’t always the most eloquent preacher and at times he comes very close to “the line” and may even step over it, but what Picasso or Michelangelo could do with a paint brush, Matua Hone can do with words.

In an attempt to get over my own shyness and to one become a quarter the preacher that Matua Hone is, I have decided to post my sermons here from now on. I realise that that could mean this blog is about to deteriorate into a theological wasteland, but it is pretty much already that so why not go the whole hog!

I apologise in advance for the ensuing sermons!

Kia koa, kia hari –Rejoice and be glad!

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