Samuel Marsden speaks again

Samuel Marsden speaks again
Here’s a transcript of the Rev Samuel Marsden’s address to the Christmas Day service at Oihi:

Ko Hamuera Matenga toku ingoa
My name is Samuel Marsden.
I bring you greetings from the Marsden family.
Two hundred years ago, my great, great, great grandfather stood on this spot to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
Fifty years ago, my father stood on this spot to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
And today I, Samuel Marsden, stand on this spot to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to New Zealanders of the 21st century.
Ta te mea, he kaikauwhau tenei ahau ki a koutou mo te hari nui, meake puta mai ki te iwi katoa.
(“For behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people.”)
What is te harinui, the great joy?
Two hundred years ago, three men of vision collaborated to bring the good news of great joy, te rongopai o te harinui , to the Maori people.
Men who could see the big picture, and worked to bring about its realisation.
My ancestor Samuel Marsden had long planned to carry out his God-given dream of introducing the good news of Jesus Christ into this country.
It was his vision, his determination and courage, which were matched by those of Te Pahi and Ruatara, which finally culminated in the first known Christian service on New Zealand soil, held on this spot 200 years ago.
Samuel Marsden as an evangelical Christian was passionate about sharing the good news, and saw in the Maori, people who would accept it and benefit from it.
He brought the gospel, the good news, te rongopai, as a koha for the Maori people.
This is what drove him to establish the first permanent Pakeha settlement in this country, and on the land on which we are now holding this anniversary service.
We honour those men today. But also the first Christian missionaries, with their wives with their families who populated the settlement.
I, as a descendent of Samuel Marsden, carry his genes.
And so I have an advantage over most historians, be they British, Kiwi or Aussie.
Because I can feel, from the inside out, rather than looking, as they do, from the outside in what it means to be Samuel Marsden.
And I have that same passion for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of my own generation.
Te Harinui comes from knowing that unconditional love which God has for all his creatures. For you, and for me and for everybody else. Even the person we dislike.
Like the first Samuel Marsden, my prayer, my dream is that Christians of this country will again bring the great joy to the people of this land who so desperately need it.
To share God’s unconditional love with their families, with their friends, and with their neighbours.
Because this is fundamental to the good news, and to bring the great joy, te rongopai o te harinui .
I very happily echo the words of my great, great, great grandfather, which you’ve already heard once today:
“In the above manner, the gospel has been introduced into New Zealand, and I fervently pray that the glory of it may never depart from its inhabitants till time shall be no more.”
Kia tau te rangimarie ki runga i a koutou.
“May peace be upon you all.”

“Grace-filled generosity” – a transcript of the sermon Archbishop Philip Richardson preached at the foot of the Marsden Cross on Christmas Day 2014

“Grace-filled generosity” – ++Philip’s sermon

Here’s a transcript of the sermon Archbishop Philip Richardson preached at the foot of the Marsden Cross on Christmas Day:


On this day, in this place, two hundred years ago the Christian gospel was proclaimed for the first time on the soil of Aotearoa. It must have been a remarkable occasion and it is right that we gather to remember and to celebrate.

It is also important to acknowledge that this historic moment in 1814 was many years in the making and to acknowledge that its potential is still to be fully realized.

This moment two hundred years ago was possible because of grace – filled generosity.

It is true that the Nga Puhi Chief Ruatara provided that generosity. It was Ruatara who invited Marsden and those who travelled with him and were to settle here in this quiet bay.

It is also true that the friendship forged between Ruatara and Marsden began with Marsden’s kindness to Ruatara who he met in a sad state of health as a result of maltreated by sailors on the long journey to England from Australia. Simply transferred onto a returning ship with little care for his physical state, it was on this ship that Marsden met Ruatara and helped him back to health. This friendship was strengthened when Marsden invited Ruatara to stay with him on his farm at Parramatta.

Welcome derailed?

But it is also true that Ruatara’s invitation was in spite of actions that could, perhaps even should, have derailed the welcome completely.

Te Pahi, Ruatara’s uncle who had formed a friendship with Marsden some years before was accused of having been involved in the sinking and massacre of the crew of the Boyd.  Te Pahi’s home was attached and Te Pahi was mortally wounded. Marsden, after investigation, was convinced that his old friend was falsely accused.

In many cultures and societies there would have simply been an escalation of mistrust and hostility, but here in this bay 200 years ago Ruatara extended to Marsden and his companions a grace of manaakitanga which secured this small mission settlement and inaugurated a vision of partnership which undergirds our potential as a nation to this day. We are a people born out of a grace-filled act of sacrificial generosity. What Ruatara offered was more fundamental than the English word hospitality can possibly convey. Ruatara lived out the values of manaakitanga; costly, self-giving generosity, putting the holistic well-being of the other first.

These are the values on which the hand of friendship was offered at this place. These are the values that undergirded the partnership between tangata whenua and settler.

The same yesterday, today and forever

At the heart of this first Christian service on the soil of Aotearoa Samuel Marsden preached on the text from the Gospel of Saint Luke, “Behold I bring you Glad tidings of great joy”!

These ‘glad tidings’, this good news is the same today as it was 200 years ago and is just the same as it was 2000 years ago.

Simply put it is the truth that I am utterly, profoundly, unconditionally and unreservedly loved, and so are you and so is every other human being.

We are each of us made in the image of God and as a result have ultimate worth and value. It is in this simple truth that our dignity as human beings resides.

We are created  in love, we are redeemed  by love and we are called  to love. Love is the  essential element of our DNA. We are built for relationship with God and with others.

God’s yearning for relationship with us cannot be contained and in Jesus, God again offers us the intimacy of relationship. In Christ God reaches out to us again. There are no bounds to the extent our God will go to draw us back.  This is Good News!

The extraordinary claim

The birth of Jesus the Saviour, holds before us just how vulnerable and fragile this way of seeing ourselves and of seeing the world we inhabit actually is.

It is an extraordinary claim isn’t it? that God is to be found in an infant born in difficult and yet very ordinary circumstances, born on the edge of the Roman empire, far from the center, born in a stable, born to parents who marry because of the child’s unexpected and unplanned for conception, who marry despite all the conventions of their society, born only to have to flee as a refugee to another land for the fear of a tyrant, born amidst the slaughter of the innocents – Poor, persecuted and vulnerable –vulnerable love.

Love is humble, it will not force itself upon us. It cannot control or force our response, for this by very definition, would not be love.

When we take the risk of loving someone, we quickly come to realise how fragile and precious that love is. The risk of loving someone and not having love returned or having that love betrayed, the risk of birth, of relationships, of parenthood. All that has beauty, all that has meaning, is vulnerable.  Vulnerable to rejection, abuse or distortion.

It is not hard to recognize this distortion, this corruption of Love. We see it in ourselves when we take a loved one for granted, or speak or act towards someone we love in a way that demeans or diminishes them – that makes them feel bad about themselves.

We see the rejection, distortion and abuse of love in so many images that confront us from around our world. We have been horrified by what we have seen in this last week in Sydney, in Pakistan and in Brisbane.  And our prayers are with the victims and those who grieve.

Martin Luther King speaks

We are bombarded by so many images of tragedy, grief or of corruption and evil that we can be overwhelmed by it, or even worse, it no longer seems to affect us. Martin Luther King understood this, and in one of his most powerful speeches, not long before he himself was assassinated, said this:

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate multiplies hate, and violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. Mindful that hate is an evil and dangerous force, we too often think of what it does to the person hated. But there is another side which we must never overlook. Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a person’s sense of values and their objectivity. It causes them to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.

It is a whole different frame of reference. Not retribution but redemption, not revenge but restoration.  Looking for the best, believing in the best, refusing to be deterred by human frailty and sinfulness.

This is the way of Jesus the Christ, this is the transforming power of love of God.

God, in Jesus Christ, continues to reach out, and reach out and reach out to us. This is Good News, these are glad tidings of great joy!

It’s not all about me

This is the way Jesus offers.

This Way  is at its heart not all about “me” it is all about “us”.

One of the things we do with this Christmas story is that we domesticate it.

We individualise it.

It all becomes only  about me and my God.

We are each of us uniquely valued by God, beloved of God. Each human person has something to offer to the whole. It is a Way  that is based on inter-dependence, and mutuality, – quite simply – we need each other. One of the scriptural images of this great truth is the image St Paul the apostle wrote about when he described our community as being like a human body. Each part needing the other, each part having a unique offering to make to the whole.

We  are the body of Christ – God has no hands, feet, eyes, tongues but ours.

But it is more than this; the whole of Jesus’ life speaks from the bottom up.

The leper, the Samaritan, gentile, tax collector, prostitute, women in general, the maimed, the dumb, the blind, the lame and the dead…

Beginning with the simple things

The Gospel of the infant in the stable, the refugee Christ, the baby carried by an unmarried young woman, – the Gospel of this Christ is about God’s overwhelming compassion and concern for those most marginalised in any society.

We have a responsibility for one another and particularly for the most vulnerable members of our community and we must work tirelessly for justice, for peace and for righteousness.

It begins with the simple things…

Like treating each person we meet with the same value, with the same respect, with the same genuine interest – living out the simple truth that every person we meet is beloved of God and must be treated as such.

The kind of community we are called by the gospel of Christ to work for is a community which is based on this mutual respect and inter-dependence. It is a vision of a community in which each person’s worth is measured not by their economic value but by their intrinsic value as a human person made in the image of God.

This simple gospel message would have resonated in this quiet bay with a people who understood already the principles of manaakitanga and whanaungatanga and the radical inclusion that these principles or values represent.

Dramatic disparities here, at home

Of course the tragedy, scandal even, is that so many people do not experience lives of dignity, of safety, of simple happiness and joy.

We live in a nation with abundant natural beauty and resource. We are a people known for innovation, creativity and a “can do” attitude. We are a small nation. We feel as if we all know each other and that we are a part of a diverse, dynamic extended family. We have taken on the world in so many fields and we have excelled.

We value a society in which all can achieve and where all can reach their potential.  But we are seeing developments in our society where this is increasingly difficult.

  • From the mid -1980s to the mid-2000s, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened faster in New Zealand than in most other developed countries.
  • The average household in the top 10 per cent of New Zealand has nine  times  the income of one in the bottom 10 per cent.
  • The top 1 per cent of adults own 16 per cent of the country’s total wealth, while the bottom half  put together have just over 5 per cent.

Housing is becoming increasingly inaccessible, not only for the poorest but for middle New Zealand.

Our Church social services are reporting dramatic increases in homelessness, increased demands on food banks and other services. Notably there are increases in the proportion of people on wages who are needing to access this support.

Our incarceration rates and reoffending rates are unconscionably high.

Maori and Pacific island people are disproportionately represented in all these figures.

And dirty politics, too…

We have also seen a growing cynicism in our public life. A shift to engagement in some aspects of this public life where individuals are attacked and demeaned as a way of furthering ideological goals and ambition

Why are such things important for us as Christians? Simply put God’s provision is for all people to have lives that are full, happy and creative. Social, economic and political frameworks are to serve the people, to provide the environment for human flourishing.  The health of a community is measured by the experience of the most vulnerable, the most marginal. What we are seeing is that these things are creating a deep chasm in our society. This will undermine our social fabric.

Good news proclaimed

Christian mission is not a form of palliative care. We are called to radical intervention to build societies, communities for human flourishing – because this is God’s intention for human beings.

This is rooted in the simple gospel proclamation that all are loved of God, all have ultimate worth before God and that all are created to flourish.

This was the Good news proclaimed 200 years ago, this is the Good News of Jesus Christ and this is the Good News that we need to take forward into our community, our nation and our world.

A Christmas Message from the Bishops

Dear friends,

As bishops, we send our warmest greetings and blessings to each and every one of you this Christmas season.  As we joyfully await the birth of Christ, we re-encounter the power of the incarnation once more.  Jesus’ birth marks a beginning, as our calendar year is ending, and we acknowledge the hard work that so many have undertaken throughout this year in our parishes, schools, hospitals and in the community.  A deep and profound thank you on our behalf.

This Christmas Day is a day of great significance in the life of our nation, and our wider church.  There are two significant events being held in the Bay of Islands over the Christmas period.  The first was held yesterday, Sunday 21st December, and was the official opening of the Marsden Cross Heritage Park by the Governor General.  Both Bishop Helen-Ann and Archbishop Philip attended this event.  The link to the TV3 news item about showing this briefly is below.

The second event is an Anglican-led ecumenical service to be held on Christmas Day at Oihi Bay, at which ++Philip will be preaching. This service is to formally celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first Christian service in Aoteaora.  There are expectations of 1000 people at the service.  This service is to be broadcast live on Christmas Day on TV One commencing at 11.00 am.

Bishop Helen-Ann will preach and preside at the Midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve at St Peter’s Cathedral in Hamilton.  On Christmas Day Bishop Helen-Ann will join with the parish of St David, West Hamilton to share in their worship.

Charlotte Brown House and Bishop Helen-Ann’s office will be closed from  mid day on the 23rd and will reopen 5th January.  Bishop Helen-Ann is on leave from December 26th until January 15th. Archbishop Philip will be on leave from December 26th until January 19th; Anne Kelderman will be in the office from January 12th.

Wishing you a blessed and safe Christmas,

Yours in Christ,

(signed:  + Helen-Ann,     + R )