Builder’s of the Church

Builders of the Church 
Ecclesiasticus 44: 1-15
1Corinthians 3: 11-17
Matthew 5: 1-12

“Call to remembrance O Lord your tender care and the unfailing love which you have shown from of old.” Psalm 25: 5

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Well whanau, we returned to karakia at Te Wairua Tapu today for our first service back since March. 7 months ago. And what a way to return. Today we celebrate 35 years of having this magnificent building to worship God, which was originally built in 1888 by the Scottish Catholic Apostolic Church, 132 years ago. So we give thanks to God for the Scottish Catholic congregation for having great faith and vision that this building would provide a shelter and a home for many of God’s people, including  us, the Māori community of Sydney. Due to Covid restrictions numbers to attend were severely limited.

My kauwhau today is more of a historical overview of our association with our church building in Redfern.

On the 21st of October 1984: Sir Kingi Ihaka was commissioned as the first Chaplain to the Maori Community of Sydney at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. Following this service, the Blacktown Showgrounds was transformed into a marae to commemorate this historic occasion.

Almost a year later, on Sunday the 27th October 1985 – At 9.30 a.m. with a light shower falling, members of the church fellowship assembled at the Maori lawn section at Rookwood cemetery for the planting of two pohutukawa trees, with a simple service of thanksgiving and dedication.  At 11.a.m., a service was held at St John’s Anglican Church, Glebe to say “thank you” and “farewell”, which was officiated by the Bishop of Aotearoa Whakahuihui Vercoe.  At 3.00 p.m. a thanksgiving service and official entry into the church building at Redfern was held. During the service, a Chalice and Paten was presented to the Chaplain, which we still use today. Clergy present on that day included The Archbishop of Sydney, The Bishop of Aotearoa and at least 12 priests. 

One Pakeha person present in the congregation that day said, “When Maori culture is enhanced by the addition of a Christian dimension, the experience can be electrifying. The official entry…….into a place of worship of their own in Redfern provided just such an exhilarating experience. Such is the joy and freedom Sydney’s Maori community showed on the occasion, that the service, while retaining the full reverence and dignity appropriate to Morning Prayer or Evensong, was a delight. It was made so by the enthusiastic participation of many members of the Fellowship and the extraordinary beautiful singing…….. It was a time for learning about and reaching a deeper understanding of each other, for sharing the joy and the glory of worshipping and thanking God for the many blessings, especially for the delight and warmth of fellowship with people of different backgrounds.” 

Another person referred to his experience as, “I found it enriching to be among people who have little in the way of material goods, but very rich spiritually” And Bishop John Reid wrote, “It was a great occasion and we were greatly moved by the singing in Maori.  I can honestly say that I have never seen such magnificent food at any Church function as I saw and enjoyed the hangi afterwards”

Finally, Sir Kingi Ihaka wrote, “We, the Maori people now own a beautiful treasure, a shelter. I greet you those who enfold this sacred building and all activities associated with it with loving embrace.  May the spirit which emanates from Te Wairua Tapu bind us as a united people under the mana of God.  There is no marae to compare with that of God, and so the Psalmist proclaimed: “ O how amiable are thy dwellings O Lord of hosts. My soul longs, yes, even faints for the marae of the Lord”

“By the grace of God, in a year, we have acquired for our use, a Church –Te Wairua Tapu, an assistant priest, the Rev Clark Walker. In a year, we have a small group of dedicated men who act as my assistants during the Divine Services and on other occasions; a dedicated band of men and women who “give and do not count the cost, and labour without asking for any reward”. In a year we have created a strong family spirit amongst members of the Fellowship. In a year, we have come to know more people –our very own kith and kin who live in scattered areas throughout the Diocese. In a year, we have achieved much more than we thought possible a year ago.”

After serving two and half years, Sir Kingi Ihaka returned to NZ in May of 1987. In his last chaplain’s report he wrote, “I thank all those who have in any way assisted me in my ministry here in Sydney.  Our community is not a non-religious one.  We have no “unbelievers” amongst the Maori.  We have never, even before the introduction of  Christianity in New Zealand.  The Maori always worshipped a God.  My mission which is not mine alone, but ours, is to renew that worshipping spirit amongst our people here in Sydney. I believe that we are “no longer aliens” in a foreign land, but fellow citizens with God’s people, and members of God’s household built upon the foundation laid by the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the foundation stone……..”  “The time has come for me to say “Noho ake ra” which does not mean “goodbye” but “remain here in peace”, for without peace in your hearts, peace in your homes, nothing can be achieved that is of real value. I owe a debt of gratitude. I would love to leave Sydney knowing that together, even though a minority group, we have laid a sure foundation amongst our people for the extension of God’s Kingdom…..To all who have supported me, please accept my sincere aroha………. Remember the good things done and the little that has been accomplished, giving praise to Almighty God, and may you all continue to be “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of our Lord”.

On October 27th 1987: Rev. Te Wheoki (Jim) Tahere was commissioned as the 2nd Chaplain to the Maori Community of Sydney by Archbishop Donald Robinson. This day marked the 2nd anniversary of “Te Wairua Tapu”. Rev Tahere made it abundantly clear: that service, pastoral care and teaching were high on his Ministry agenda.  At his commissioning service Rev Tahere said that during his 5 year tenure he would aim to engender or bring about caring and loving relationships within the congregation.  Rev Tahere on his succession to Sir Kingi Ihaka wrote, “Now there is indeed much cause for thanksgiving, for Kingi left behind a Constitution to guide you, this Church to worship God in, as well as re-establishing the bonds of fellowship with each other and equally important your own Cemetery ….In his short time here, from October 1984 to May 1987, he has achieved much more and I thank God for his ministry with you……..” “My reason for coming to you is the same as when I offered myself for the Sacred Ministry over 30 years ago, and that is my desire to please the Lord of Hosts, Te Atua o Nga Mano, in faithful service to His Ecclesia or Fellowship……..”

During Jim’s tenure, Constituitional changes allowed women to be nominated to the position of Elder.  Approval from the Diocese of Sydney was given for 3 Lay Assistants. Mrs Puanga Ratapu, Steven James and myself. Also, transformation to this building began. Members of the fellowship and volunteers worked tirelessly to bring the church up to an acceptable standard.  Our sign was erected on the outside of the building, which might not be a big thing now but it was then.  A dedicated band of workers spent a Friday and Saturday painting the entire interior of the building ready for karakia the next day. Permission was granted to divide the church building with curtains. As it is today. The front half to be used as a chapel proper with the nave, the back half, to be used as a wharenui. Tukutuku panels and kowhaiwhai panels were created to separate the two areas.

Just over five years, in January 1994: Rev Silas Horton, an Australian priest, was appointed Acting Chaplain to the Maori Community upon the death of Rev Tahere in NZ on the 15th January 1994, while attending a education program with members from the fellowship.

On the 17th July 1994: The Rev. Ngarahu Katene was commissioned as the 3rd Chaplain to the Maori Community of Sydney. In attendance were Bishop of Aotearoa, the Most Rev. Vercoe, Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Harry Goodhue and the acting chaplain Rev. Silas Horton.  During Ngarahu’s tenure, The Sydney Maori Arohanui Fellowship name was changed to The Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship. This came about because other Maori Churches had established their own Haahi in Sydney.

However, Ngarahu brought with him the gift of music. That was his ministry. His choir gained a reputation throughout Sydney performing at the Town Hall, Cross Culture Services at Petersham, the Wesley Centre, Pitt Street to name a few. The inclusion of Ted Bennett as Choir Master added to the choir’s future growth and success. Ngarahu quoted, “The Te Wairua Church building has served us well and I cannot deny that we would not be the growing vibrant fellowship we are, if it were not for this humble building………we continue to enjoy our stay in Sydney and all the challenges associated with being the Chaplain to the Maori People.  It is so heartening to feel the support, to see the growth and to enter the activities…………..”

Ngarahu and members of the fellowship travelled extensively. The group went to Brisbane to attend the induction of Rev Allan Broughton to lead the Māori mission there and they also attended a Winter Ministry School in Brisbane where three members from Sydney were commissioned as Kaikarakia to the Pihopatanga O Aotearoa. Purua Solomon, Ben Matthews and Steven Maniapoto. They also attended the ordination of Ray Ponui to the Priesthood at Orakei Marae, Auckland and also the ordination of Bill Muru, Nigel Leef and myself to the diaconate at Nga Whare Watea Marae in South Auckland. In July 1998: Ngarahu and members from the fellowship travelled to Kaitaia for ordination to the Priesthood of Bill Muru and myself.  

Ngarahu and the fellowship were also involved with the Senior Citizens from the Anglican Village in Castle Hill. The Goldie Exhibition that came to Sydney and this building became the centre in which many tangihanga and community hui were held. Due to the spiritual, physical and financial stress on the fellowship at that time, Ngarahu wrote in his 1999 chaplain’s report.  “Well, we are in the new Millenium, what has it got to offer.  I believe it offers us plenty, but we have to go out and make it happen.  We cannot sit back and let the few faithful struggle on their own, we all have to pull our weight.  There are a lot of changes about to happen.  Let us all and others, and I mean all, as one, accept the challenges, by acknowledging the changes, and making it work for a better future for “Te Wairua Tapu”.  Not for me or for the next Chaplain, but for this place, Te Wairua Tapu and ultimately, to the glory of God”.

Today, Ngarahu is the Bishop of  Te Mana o Te Wheke in Aotearoa. I want to acknowledge Bishop Ngarahu and his late wife Kay as they both followed and supported my faith journey from the time I left Sydney in 1996 to the time my family and I returned in December 2000 to be commissioned as the fourth Chaplain to the Maori Community of Sydney almost 20 years ago.

In my first Chaplain’s Report, I wrote, “All our efforts to enter the Kingdom of God calls us to “enter through the narrow gate” (Luke 13:24) our desire to know this person Jesus and to follow him diligently always comes at a heavy cost. Our walk in faith teaches us to be strong in times of struggle”.

“My aim is to work on developing mutual relationships built on respect, trust, love and accountability towards each other. This means working on both relationships within the Fellowship and relationships outside our community of faith. I’m also a realist who knows that building these relationships will take time and it will not be easy. There are lots of struggles and challenges, which lay ahead for the Fellowship but one thing is certain, no matter the outcome, let everything we do be to the glory of God.”  “Loving God, your son willingly endured agony and shame for us.  Give us grace to take up our cross and follow him in newness of life and hope; for he is our Redeemer”.

35 years on, this Fellowship still faces many challenges and struggles, yet, we remain faithful to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and we continue to give too and love our own people, God’s people. Through this mission and this building, Te Wairua Tapu, we have seen the likes of Pat Armstrong, James Walker-Grace, Ray Ponui, Tom Poata, Beverley Moana-Smith, Karol Field, Tuterangi Whiu, Cherie Whiu, Rapiata Hokianga, Fran Hokianga, Lorraine Waititi and myself, go on to be ordained as priests or deacons and to serve Christ and his church.

So, I want to humbly acknowledge all the Whanau of the priests whom have been involved with this mission as they are the ones that have carried the burden of our ministries: Kingi Ihaka’s son Tom and his wife Ngarangi, Clark Walker’s wife Caroline and their whanau, Jim Tahere’s wife Charlotte and their children, Matua Bill’s wife Julie and his whanau, Ngarahu’s wife Kay and their extended whanau and myself, my wife Pat and my son Nathan. And of course all the other extended whanau who have worked tirelessly and unselfishly throughout the past 35 years. 

You see, when stories are told, so many people get left out so I want to thank all of you and the many whom are not present today that have upheld this mission and kept our building worthy of the worship of God. To the current building team: Derek Tallon, Pierre Hau, Greg Patchett, Terry Brown, Miriam Perry, my wife Pat and all their supporters who have helped them take the renovations of Te Wairua Tapu to the next level so it can be worthy of the worship of God for the next 100 years, which now leads me back to our gospel from Matthew. It is the very reason why Te Wairua Tapu was given to us, so we, as followers and servants of Jesus Christ can see what he and God sees and be present with others because:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So in closing, we returned to Te Wairua Tapu today not looking for any glory for ourselves but to give all glory to God and Jesus Christ for saving us from ourselves and giving us renewed lives to continue proclaiming the gospel here in Sydney. May God bless you all today, tomorrow and forevermore. Amen 

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu

Jesus Christ Unifies!

Jesus Christ Unifies!

Exodus 33: 12-23
Psalm 99
1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10
Matthew 22: 15-22

“Because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1: 5

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

In today’s gospel Jesus says, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

It sounds simple enough. We should be able to divide a piece of paper into two columns, one for God and one for our emperors and then start making our list. That’s often how this text gets interpreted and applied. We hear Jesus saying there are things for God and there are those things for the emperor. Then we try to divide our life and our world between church and state, religion and politics, sacred and secular, saved or damned, tithe and taxes, spirit and matter, heaven and earth, human and divine, as if all these things are completely separate and unrelated, as if they are in opposition and have nothing to do with each other.

That separation or duality is at the heart of the question the Pharisees and Herodians ask Jesus. The Pharisees, as you know, were the religious leaders and authorities. The Herodians are important because their loyalty to King Herod suggests they willingly cooperated with the Roman occupiers of the time, while the Pharisees distanced themselves from Rome. The only thing that brings the two groups together is their shared dislike of Jesus. They come to Jesus with a question. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” They want to know whose side Jesus is on, the emperor’s or God’s. It’s a trap. Either/or questions and situations almost always are. Whichever way Jesus answers the question he will have incriminated himself with either the Pharisees or Rome. That’s dualistic thinking. Sound familiar?

So how does Jesus answer their question? Is it the empire or God? Yes it is. That’s his answer. They never expected that answer. They set a trap for Jesus and they were the ones who got caught in their own trap. In so many ways, we live with either/or, dualistic, thinking which only entrap ourselves. We too often fragment or split our lives. We have our prayer life, our religious life, our family life, our work life and our economic life. We talk and live as if there is no integrity or coherence between them. When we do that, we end up excluding God from a large part of our lives and our world. In other words, we think like the Pharisees and Herodians and plot to entrap Jesus and we rightfully end up being called hypocrites. Maybe that’s why much of today’s culture distrusts the church and finds it to be irrelevant. The church has lost it’s voice and has no credibility. It has nothing to offer. Simplistic answers are no match for the complexities of life today. The last thing we need is more fragmentation and division in our lives. That’s not who we are to be or how we are to live. It’s certainly not who Jesus is or how he lived, especially when he was both fully human and fully divine.

You see, Jesus is not trying to divide our lives or our world. He’s not asking us to divide our loyalties. Instead, he’s holding before us the reality of God and the reality of our emperors. Both are real. Both are a part of our lives and our world. Jesus is asking us to step into and live in the tension of those two realities. That’s what he did. That’s where he lived. To stand in that place is to stand with Jesus. That’s where life gets real. That’s where life is really lived. It is neither a comfortable nor an easy place to be. There are no easy answers. Go on, make up your two lists. What would go in God’s column? What would go in the emperor’s column? What criteria determine whether something is God’s or the emperor’s? Are God and the emperor mutually exclusive and always in opposition? Can they complement each other? Is the emperor always bad? Must we choose one over the other? Who is God in our life? Who are our emperors?

I don’t have answers to those questions. Why? Because I struggle with them just like most of you do. Of course I want to have clear cut answers and I want to be able to give you an answer. But at the end of the day, I don’t have any answers. I can’t tell you what to do but I can stand with you in between the tension of God and the emperor and you can stand with me. That struggle, the tension of living with and between God and my emperors, continually pushes me inward, to examine my life, to reflect on who I am, what I do, and whose image and title I bear.

I wonder if that’s Jesus intention in today’s gospel. I wonder if that’s why the Pharisees and the Herodians were amazed. His answer to them creates an unsolvable problem and maybe that’s the point. Maybe when we recognise, accept and struggle with this insolvable problem, maybe that’s when we really begin to follow Jesus. We stop searching for answers and begin seeking life. That’s when and where the church has something to say, faith makes a difference and lives are changed. If we are not struggling and wrestling with issues that we face then we may not really be living. To avoid or stand outside the struggle is, in some way, to stand outside our own lives. It avoids the reality of our lives and the presence of Christ who lives in that reality.

To simply divide life between the empire and God is too simplistic, too easy. It avoids the struggle. It’s an over simplification of Jesus’ life, your life and my life, the mystery, beauty and wonder of God and the holiness of creation. “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

Almighty God, you reign over all things and have created each one of us in your own image. Assist your people to give to earthly rulers and powers what belongs to them and to give our allegiance and ourselves to you alone, the one whose image is imprinted on every human soul. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu

Jesus Christ our Voice!

Jesus Christ our Voice!

Exodus 32: 1-14
Psalm 106: 1-6, 19-23
Philippians 4: 1-9
Matthew 22: 1-14

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4: 6

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Well, it seems like Jesus is teaching us another lesson about ourselves. Have you ever received an invitation to a party or a wedding that you didn’t really want to go too? I’m sure most of us have but I reckon you didn’t abuse and kill the mailman. Or have you ever invited people to a party and they didn’t show up? You cleaned, you cooked and you made your place look awesome. The tables were set, hangi was down and music was pumping. Everything was ready but some of your manuhiri didn’t come. Did it make you so angry that you killed them and burned down their houses? Probably not, but that’s what happens in today’s parable. This parable of the King’s Son’s Wedding is pretty shocking and it begs to be taken seriously but not literally. It begs to be taken as truth but not as historical fact. Besides, to hear this parable and conclude that God is an angry king who, if he doesn’t get his way, destroys his own people and burns their cities simply doesn’t fit with the God revealed by Jesus Christ throughout the four gospels. If we tell that story as the gospel truth then I reckon Jesus might just call us liars.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a parable of judgment, but it may not be the judgment we think it is. Speaking about the first group of guests the king says, “Those invited were not worthy.” By implication those in the second invited group were worthy. That’s when we tend to get nervous and fearful because God begins making judgments. It leaves us wondering whether we are in the first group or the second group. Are we unworthy or are we worthy? I suspect our nervousness and fear about God’s judgments arise from the assumption that God judges us in the same way we so often judge others. More often than not our judgments of others are judgments of exclusion. What if it’s just the opposite with God? What if Jesus is trying to shock us into seeing that the kingdom of heaven is not business as usual according to our standards? What if God’s judgment on our lives is one of grace, acceptance and invitation; a judgment of inclusion?

If that’s true then what separates or distinguishes the first invited guests from the second?

The difference isn’t that one was more deserving than the other. The first lot of guests were the recipients of the king’s invitation and favour. But so were the second group of guests. And so was the man who showed up without a wedding robe. They were all invited. They were all favoured. None of them had done anything to earn or deserve an invitation. It was just given. If that’s true for them, then it’s true for us. The difference isn’t that the king likes one group more than the other group. His sole motivation is to share his banquet. He wants someone, anyone, everyone, to join in his joy and celebration, and be a part of his kingdom and life. Both groups were given the same opportunity. The difference isn’t that some guests are good and others are bad. There is no distinction or judgment made based upon behaviour, beliefs, attitudes or morals. On the contrary, with the second lot of invitations the king sends his servants into the main streets with the instruction to “invite everyone you find.” And they did. They “went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad.” If that’s true for them, then it’s true for us.

That’s probably not the kind of social life most of us live, offer to another, or receive from another. But the parable is talking about God’s kingdom not ours. So what is it? What’s the difference between those who were not worthy and those who were? There’s only one thing that distinguishes the first invited guests from the second invited guests. Presence. The second group of guests showed up. The first group didn’t. The “wedding hall was filled” with the second invited guests but the first invited guests “wouldn’t come.” That’s the only difference between the two groups.

Like I have maintained, the key to our life in God is to just show up and to be present. But I know that’s a lot easier said than done. To be present is hard work. Think how hard it is to be present to another person. It means establishing the other person as our priority. It’s about seeing them for who they are and not who we want them to be or think they should be. It’s about opening ourselves to receive their life into our own. It means the vulnerability of entrusting and giving our life to the other. It’s about really listening to what they say and not just what we hear or want to hear. 

Therefore, that means letting go of our own agendas, distractions, fears and prejudices. If we’re not doing that with others we’re probably not doing it with God. Instead, we too often go our separate ways, doing what’s more important to us. We’re too busy, too tired and too distracted. There’s work to be done and money to be made. We make light of the other’s life and what is being offered. If we don’t earn it or work for it we assume it has no value. After all you get what you pay for, right? We’re convinced we have better things to do and better places to be. That’s what the first invited group did. What they didn’t realise, and what we sometimes don’t realise, is that there is no life outside God’s banquet and God’s kingdom. To show up and be present is to be worthy before God. It’s that simple and it’s that difficult. We don’t earn or prove our worthiness as a prerequisite to entering the banquet. We show up, be present, and discover for ourselves the worthiness God has always known about us. That’s when our lives begin to change.

But what about the bloke who showed up without a wedding robe? This is about more than just a dress code violation. Something else was missing. “He was speechless.” He had nothing to say. It was as if he tried to sneak in without an invitation and act as if he wasn’t really there. Jesus is reminding us that there are times when we show up and we’re not really present but God can see what we are up too. Always remember, God knows our hearts, our souls and our minds. So when you are present, don’t hide but be open and say something. Let God know what is going on at the core of your being. Be present so God can then say, “My friend, welcome, I’m so glad you got my invitation. I’m so glad you are here. And, you are worthy.” Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

Kind and generous God, you prepare a feast for all people. May we prepare for your banquet by putting on the garment of love that springs from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. Help us to bring the lost and lonely, the poor and those in need to your feast where all are fed. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu

Jesus Christ our Redeemer

Jesus Christ our Redeemer!

Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9,12-20
Psalm 19: 
Philippians 3: 4-14
Matthew 21: 33-46

“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13-14

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Jesus said, “Listen to another parable”. He could have just said, “Looks like I’m gonna have another dispute with those Pharisees.” Regardless of what we think about the Pharisees you’ve gotta give them some credit today because they got it. They understood this parable. They realised Jesus was talking about them. He told them the truth but they didn’t like it and wanted to shut him up so they thought, let’s have Jesus arrested. This is not Jesus’ first confrontation with the Pharisees nor would it be his last. 

For some of us, we tend to avoid conflict and confrontation. But not Jesus. He just keeps on offending and confronting the Pharisees. Eating with the wrong people, won’t answer their questions, taunting them by breaking the law and healing on the Sabbath. He calls them hypocrites and escapes their traps, leaves them speechless and compares them to a disobedient son who won’t work in the vineyard. Jesus just never lets up!

So what’s going on? Why can’t Jesus just let go of them? And what does that have to do with us? You see, Jesus is unwilling to give up on the Pharisees or anyone else, including you and I. He just keeps on coming. Challenging and redeeming everything we believe. That’s the good news, hope and joy in today’s parable. This is not so much a parable of exclusion or condemnation as it is a parable of Jesus’ unwillingness to give up. His unwillingness to give up on us often confronts us with the truth about our lives that is almost always difficult to hear and accept. We might hear his words but do we realise he is talking too and about us?

The confrontation this parable provokes is like holding a mirror in front of us so that we can see and recognise in ourselves what Jesus sees. This is not to condemn us but to recover us from the places of our self-exclusion, to call us back to life and to lead us home. Jesus doesn’t exclude us or anyone else from the kingdom of God. He doesn’t have too. We do it to ourselves and we’re pretty good at it. That’s what the Pharisees have done. The Pharisees have excluded themselves.

“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you,” Jesus says to them. This is not so much a punishment for failing to produce fruit for the kingdom. It’s rather, the recognition of what already exists. They were given the vineyard and failed to produce and share the fruits of the kingdom. Jesus is just naming the reality and telling the truth. They have excluded themselves. In the same way, the kingdom of God will be given to those who are already producing kingdom fruits. This is not a reward but a recognition of what already exists. Where the fruit is, there also is the kingdom.

As I’ve always said, if you want to know what the fruits of the kingdom look like then look at the life of God revealed in Jesus Christ. What do you see? Love, mercy and forgiveness, justice, generosity, compassion, presence, wisdom, truth, healing, reconciliation, self-surrender and sacrifice, joy, thanksgiving, peace, obedience and humility. I’m not talking about these things as abstract ideas, things to just ponder on, but as lived out realities in the vineyards of our lives.

You see, we’ve all been given vineyards. They are the people, relationships, circumstances and events of our lives that God has entrusted to our care. That means our spouses, partners, children and family, our work, our church, our daily decisions and choices, our hopes, dreams, and concerns are the vineyards in which we are to reveal the presence and life of God, to produce the fruits of the kingdom. The vineyards, our work in those vineyards, and the fruit produced come together to show us to be sharers in God’s kingdom; or not. In other words, if we are not producing kingdom fruits we have excluded ourselves from and rejected our share in the kingdom. We are living neither as the people God knows us to be nor as the people we truly want to be. In some way we have stepped outside of ourselves and sidestepped our own life. That’s the truth with which Jesus confronted the Pharisees. 

It’s the same truth that Jesus confronts us with. Do you ever struggle with perfectionism, self-condemnation and the question of whether you’re good enough? Maybe that’s self-exclusion. Do you ever feel like you have to be in control, be right and have all the answers? Are you carrying grudges, anger and resentment? Maybe that’s self-exclusion. Do you look at others and begin making judgments about their belief, choices or lifestyle? Are there people in your life that you have chosen to let go of rather than do the work of reconciliation and heal the relationship? Do you go through life just going through the motions but never really being present and never showing up? Maybe that’s self-exclusion. In your life is there more criticism than thanksgiving and celebration? Are you hanging onto some old guilt that you believe could not be forgiven? Maybe that’s self-exclusion.

As Christians, we don’t have to go anywhere to realise how important self-examination is and to address our own self-exclusion from God’s kingdom, not anyone else’s, which begins with first recognising our own self-exclusion. That means we must look at the vineyards of our lives. So, how’s your garden growing? What do you see? Is there fruit? Is there life? And are you sharing in God’s kingdom? Allowing Jesus Christ to redeem our lives allows God’s kingdom to grow in the small but vital vineyards you and I have been given.  Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

Loving God, yours is the vineyard and the harvest. Help us to recognise the one you send and to follow him. Make us willing workers in your vineyard, so that we may offer you an abundant harvest. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu

Jesus Christ our Authority

Jesus Christ our Authority!

Exodus 17: 1-7
Psalm 78: 1-4, 12-16
Philippians 2: 1-13
Matthew 21: 23-32

“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2: 12-13

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Have you ever known anyone with authority issues? A big question to ask first thing on a Sunday morning. But I am sure most of us do. We only need to look in the mirror and realise we all have authority issues. In today’s gospel from Matthew, authority is the main theme. The chief priests and elders take issue with Jesus’ authority and the two sons challenge their father’s authority. In our usual understanding of authority the obvious question in today’s gospel is whether we recognise and submit to the authority of Jesus and God the Father. However, that question is so obvious that it’s probably not the question at the heart of today’s gospel because we can quickly respond with a yes or no answer. Therefore, my critical mind asks, there has to be something more going on. To assume that question is the only question to be answered only reveals our misunderstanding of what true authority is.

More often than not we are confused about authority. We misunderstand it because we have been taught that it’s based on credentials, expertise, a great cv, years of education, accomplishments, status, reputation or the higher position held in relationship to someone else. We assume that authority comes from outside a person and that it’s given to them by their circumstances. In this understanding some have authority and others don’t. “Who do you think you are?” “What gives you the right to tell me what to do?” Or, “Who died and made you God!” That represents our usual way of understanding authority. We don’t like someone else teaching us, correcting us, or telling us what to do. We hear that in the challenge of the chief priests and elders to Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” We see it in the refusal of the two sons to go to the vineyard. There is, however, another authority issue at play in today’s gospel. That issue is our failure and sometimes our refusal to recognise, claim and exercise the authority within us; to go to the vineyard. That’s the authority issue the gospel is holding before us today.

Every day God authorises us to enter and sends us into the vineyard, to act in this world with God’s authority and through the gifts that God has bestowed upon each one of us. In other words, true authority always comes from within. It’s an interior God-given quality not an exterior circumstance or phenomenon. That’s what the chief priests and elders failed to understand. That’s why Jesus was always so angry and aggravated with the religious leaders. They chose to exchange their God-given authority for human power. That’s what’s happening in much of our world today. In the absence of true authority there will always be power struggles. Look at our political systems. Look at the wars and unrest throughout the world. And look at the conflicts we encounter in our own relationships. They are all about power not authority. Most of our leaders exercise power but very few exercise authority. In the exercise of power we look to our own interests but in the exercise of authority we look to the interests of others, the people.

Think about the people who hold authority for you. They are not concerned about themselves. They don’t dominate or control you. They inspire you, well, I hope I do. They are to call forth from you faith, hope, and trust. They expand your world, open new possibilities, and bring forth life and gifts in yourself that you never knew were there. They cause you to re-evaluate your life, change your mind and live differently. That sounds an awful lot like Jesus and it’s very different from those who exercise power. That’s what disciples of Jesus are supposed to do. There are people in our church who have no leadership position, title, or theological credentials and yet they have great authority. I see it in their compassion and gentleness towards others. I see it in their love for our church building, I hear it in the way they pray. I feel it in their love for me, my whanau and others. They continue too show me the way to the vineyard of life. That’s what authorities do. But it’s not about them. It doesn’t come from them. All authority originates in God, but it’s not exclusive to God. God shares that authority with us. The authority God shares with us is nothing less than God’s own divine attributes. It’s the expression and manifestation of God’s life in and through our own lives.

That shared authority exists in us and is revealed by us as the many and varied charisma’s, the gifts, God has imparted on each of our lives. That means every one of us has authority. As your priest I don’t seriously have more authority than you. I certainly don’t have better authority than you. I just have a different authority. God gives each of us gifts and authority unique to our lives. God is generous with the gifts and authority. Therefore, we all have God-given gifts and authority. There is no one without authority. The difference isn’t that some have authority and others don’t. The difference is that some recognise and exercise their authority and others don’t. Regardless, God knows and sees the authority given to us and waits for us to see it, get it and know it too. And when we do, we change our mind and go to the vineyard, out to the world.

So today, something for all of you to ponder on, what is the authority God has given to you? What gifts and divine attributes has God bestowed upon you? Are you living from that authority and sharing those gifts? Have you gone to the vineyard or are you simply mouthing the answers you think God wants to hear? Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

God of all authority, enable us to hear your call and do what you ask of us. Forgive us for judging others, help us to embrace the outcast and the downtrodden. Transform our lives so that everything we do may proclaim your generous love. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu

Thank you for your patience

Thank you for being patient as we progress on upgrading our Church building.  Our workers have been ingenious in maintaining its integrity and retaining the vital role our Church has in our community.  Thank you to our support networks and teams who continue to donate to this project. Nga mihi Pat