Today was Te Pouhere Sunday again, and Paula Franklin of our LSM team shared this with us:
I found this piece of rope on the beach below our home some time ago and have kept it. I thought it would look good draped somewhere in the garden, around a large stone or pot. Meanwhile it has been hanging over a trellis waiting. And now I know what for. I think it provides a perfect analogy for Te Pouhere Sunday. So before it finds its place in the garden it has a job to do.
It is made up of many strands as you can see and together these strands unbroken make the rope very strong. But for some reason many of the strands are broken and it is now very weak and not much use for anything except as rustic decoration. Maybe it was partially cut or the stress on the rope was so strong is couldn’t take the strain and over time the strands started to snap. So would you consider this rope a strong one, strong enough to tie your boat to a mooring? Probably you wouldn’t risk it.
Before we explore the implications of the state of this rope and how it relates to Te Pouhere Sunday lets take a few moments to look at why we celebrate Te Pouhere Sunday and why it has a place in the liturgical calendar in the Anglican Church.
Te Pouhere is the name given to our Anglican Church constitution and it’s a direct reference to the unique structure we’ve adopted. As each of our three tikanga, our cultural streams – Maori, Pakeha and Polynesian, develops in different ways, the constitution seeks to offer us some points of connection and contact. Te Pouhere is literally the hitching post. For Maori it was the place where you tied up your waka at the end of the day.
For me I think that any constitution relating to God must be of God, must be God like, Christ like and spirit like – the Trinity that Heather talked about last Sunday – in its appearance and presentation to followers and believers in Christ. To be on the right track to be a strong hitching post that we can know and trust the constitution must reflect the commands of God – to love God and to love one another that of which Christ came on earth, in human form, to remind us.
While it is certainly appropriate that we recognise the three founding tikanga as ways of being in NZ society it is also time perhaps to be more overtly inclusive of other cultures as they settle and worship in NZ as Paul reminds us in the reading from Corinthians:
“When anyone is joined in Christ, he is a new being, the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.” And John reports to us in the Gospel that Jesus commanded – ‘Love one another- This then is what I command you’. No conditions are added. We are all one in Christ – all men everywhere there is no discrimination, there is no favored race, no favored people, we are all equal in the eyes of God.
So back to the rope.
If we consider the hitching post, the pouhere, to be God-like, to be strong and durable, trustworthy and a safe anchor, and the rope that ties our cultural waka, our union in Christ, the act of obedience that God requires of us, the act of relationship of care for others, then we will be strong personally, and in community with others.
Divisions that hurt others, that put stress on others, that cause others to wonder if God’s cares at all, could cause us as individuals and communities to become like this rope , weak and at risk of being cast adrift.
It is our responsibility as follows of Christ, believers in what Christ came to teach, to ensure inclusiveness, to embrace, and as time passes, to extend the tikanga, to include all who cross our paths.
What would a young person or any person questioning their faith do if they saw irreconcilable differences in the church. They would probably run a mile. They would see the damaged rope and opt not risk it.
This rope therefore symbolic of our union in Christ both personal and in community, to remain strong, needs attention, needs to recognize when a strand or strands are at breaking point and take the pressure off. Some may need repair to ensure the enduring strength of the rope, that is our faith in action in Christ, in God and the Holy Spirit.
It seems that this particular rope is impossible to repair, too many strands are broken. Wouldn’t it be terrible for this to happen to us, for our faith to be tested to the point where we are beyond repair, for others known to us, and those in the wider church community.
So today, here, celebrating Te Pouhere Sunday, the constitution of the Anglican Church, with the three tikanga, lets all make sure we do our bit to keep the church and the demonstration of our faith strong, and nurturing, so that we can fulfill our responsibility to tell others about the good news of Christ, about the love and freedom that life in Christ brings to all men who seek him.
We are all one in Christ. In Christ we are strong and productive. A branch like this rope cannot bear fruit or be strong by itself. It can bear fruit and be an example to others only if it remains in the vine or in the case of our rope only if the rope remains strong and can we trust that our waka is safe tied to the hitching post.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord we know you love us and we trust in you. We know you have a plan for each of us and for your community here and in the world. Show us how to keep our rope strong and secure so that we can show to others what it means to be a member of the body of Christ. Show us how to love you more each day and to love others as we know you love us. Amen.