New Zealand is at an important identity crossroads as we commemorate 200 years since the first Gospel sermon on Christmas Day 1814. Failure to understand, or even remember, the back story does us all a disservice.
These shared stories speak of how two peoples began to walk and serve God together. They display the resilient threads of a much bigger picture of what God has been doing in this country.
In a recent issue of Scientific American we read that psychology no longer asks what is wrong with a person but what has happened to them. That question might equally be applied to the Maori story.
Perhaps it also has relevance for the New Zealand church. What has happened to you? Why have we allowed pivotal gospel heritage stories that link the church to Maori and mission to fade into the background?
Is that why Maori, who led the way, preaching the good news to their own people while the European missionaries were still landlocked in the Bay of Islands, often feel uncomfortable, misunderstood and without a voice in our churches?
While faithless radicals make a sport out of mocking the Christian faith, Bible in school lessons and prayers in public places, they face more difficult terrain when the same messages, including our National Anthem, are presented in the Maori language.
The real identity challenges we face today go beyond a new flag and constitution and a couple of red letter days on the calendar, to knowing our shared stories and having a sense of investment going forward.
What if our Creator wants Maori to lead the way in restoring a new vitality to that valued Christian heritage they once pioneered? Would church leaders embrace, trust and respect such a move, or feel the need to contain it within safer ‘traditional’ structures?
A fresh wind is blowing today. It’s calling Christians to engage in the process of healing, restoration and leading by example. May the church once again explore ways to connect with Maori and walk together in genuine relationship and trust. Indeed, God was at work well before Samuel Marsden set foot on these distant shores, and he wants to complete unfinished business.
The above is an excerpt from guest writer Keith Newman, a local Christian writer and historian. To read the whole article see our GOinto mini-mag – Autumn 2014 Edition.