Sunday after Waitangi Day 2010 : Reflections for St David's Presbyterian Church, Dunedin

 Treaties, covenants and ties that bind
Ephesians 3: 14-21
Yesterday was Waitangi Day. In some ways it is good that it is a day of struggle for identity as well as a day of celebration marking the birthday of the nation. Relationships are dynamic. We keep working on them. There can be nothing triumphalistic about Waitangi, pakeha smugness about the quality of New Zealand race relations has been a cover for tragedy and injustice whatever needs to be said about the efforts of Maori and Pakeha to find ways forward for our country.
Waitangi is a special place. The Bay of Islands is incredible in its beauty and its sense of history. For Christians it was the beginning of Anglican, Catholic and Methodist missions. Christian mission had begun under the umbrella of friendly chiefs, but by the 1830s the invasion of Europeans signalled a new era and most missionary leaders saw in the offer a treaty with Britain the best deal for the future. The Treaty of 1840 is of course flawed, but it is also extraordinary. Countries where there are indigenous peoples and those who came after manage without such documents, but we, rather like a couple living together for years discovering that there might be some value after all in making their love relationship official, have discovered that we are much better with it. Of course we have difficult issues, but at some point even love and respect needs a framework for working through differences. We are discovering that Waitangi is not just about 1840 it is about today; the treaty as we have it, may be a historic document a copy of which hangs in Te Papa, but in symbol and interpretation it gives us a way of helping make relationships work.
Christians have their own sense of covenant. Derived from Jewish understanding and memory of their relationship to God, the land, the temple, it has become centred in Jesus : this is the blood of the new covenant sealed with my blood, drink ye all of it. The idea of covenant is linked to the idea of contract, also of will or testament. When we talk about the “New Testament” perhaps we need that idea to fill our minds a bit more as to what it is saying – these writings and letters are a “testament” and amazingly we are included in the will!

John Roxborogh