Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

++David Moxon Waitangi Day sermon

In his sermon for Waitangi Day 2022, Archbishop Emeritus Sir David Moxon digs into the deep biblical roots of the words and ideas embedded in the Māori language version of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Archbishop Emeritus David Moxon  |  02 Mar 2022  |

I runga i te ingoa o te Atua, te Tama me te Waiura Tapua, Amine.
E te wharekarakia ataahua, te wharekarakia rongonui, ko Rangiātea, e tu, e tu, e tu.
Ako hoa, a te whānau o te Karaiti, tena koutou.
Ngā rangatira ma, ngā kuia ma, tangata kātoa no ko hui mai ra mo tenei rā whakahirahira.
Te Rā o Waitangi, tena koutou, ma te Atua koutou e manaaki.

It’s a privilege to say a few words as you commemorate Waitangi Day at Rangiātea.

When we think of the Luke 2 Gospel reading for Waitangi Day, it’s easy to forget that that’s quoting Christmas Day at Rangihoua Pā in Oihi in 1814. 

And behind that Luke 2:10 text is another one, Isaiah 9: 6-7;

In Māori,

"Kua whānau nei hoki he tamaiti ma tatou, kua homai he tama ki a tatou: a ki runga ki tona pokohiwi te rangatiratanga; na, ko te ingoa e huaina ki a ia ko Whakamiharo, ko Kaiwhakatakoto Whakaaro, ko te Atua Kaha Rawa, ko te Matua Mutungakore, ki te Rangatira o te Rongomau.Kahore he mutunga o te nui haere o tona kingitanga, o te mau o tana rongo, ki runga ki te torona o Rawiri, ki runga hoki i tona rangatiratanga, kia u ai, kia mau ai hoki i runga i te whakawa, i runga i te tika inaianei a ake tonu atu."

And in English,

"For a child has been born, a son is given to us: authority rests on his shoulders: and he is named Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually and there shall be endless peace, for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forward and forevermore."

So the first words of the Gospel in Aotearoa, in te reo Rangatira from Luke 2:9 have this Isaiah 9:6-7 idea behind them. 

The messianic rangatiratanga of David, the princely authority of that ancient tribe and its whakapapa – its toto – will establish a kingdom, a rangatiratanga with justice and with righteousness, forever. That was behind the first Gospel words, the first Māori rendition of a scriptural text in Aotearoa on Christmas Day in 1814.

And we can see some of the roots of the Treaty of Waitangi in those words themselves, as you’ve just heard them. certainly rangatiratanga (absolute chiefly rule), the hint of a kawanatanga that is fair and just and equitable.

But both rangatiratanga  and kawanatanga are based on the idea that they are tapu. That they come originally from God and they can only be sustained by God.

And so the roots of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1814 are sacred, are scriptural, and were there at the beginning of Pākehā Māori encounter.

(Secular New Zealand historian) Claudia Orange has made this very clear in her own record, not influenced by the church, or by the Bible at all. She said, ”Missionary influence (this is Māori and Pākehā missionaries) was significant simply because many Māori Rangatira trusted the missionaries’ good intentions (with regard to the Treaty) and this added a religious aspect to Māori understanding of the agreement. At Waitangi, the Rev Henry Williams (CMS) was responsible for developing the idea that Māori and Pākehā could be one people in a spiritual and a temporal sense through this sacred covenant (of partnership, participation, protection, rangatiratanga and equity).

The roots (of the Treaty) of course go back to 1820 as well. With Hongi Hika and the young chief Waikato with Thomas Kendall going to Cambridge University to help compile and arrange the first form of written Māori with Professor Samuel Lee, the Anglican academic.

How to write and render Māori appropriately as te reo rangatira? The first documents were documents from the Bible, written down in Māori and one of the greatest of them all, Luke’s Gospel, that we heard from at the beginning, travelled the most, spread the most in the beginning.

And right in the middle of Luke’s Gospel in Māori, as Hongi Hika and the young chief Waikato and Professor Samuel Lee helped render it, are the two words: rangatiratanga and kawanatanga.

Rangatiratanga in Luke’s Gospel is of course the Kingdom of God. The sovereign rule of God. The self-determination, the purpose, of God. Over all of life.

Kawanatanga, governorship in Luke’s Gospel, references the limited jurisdictions and responsibilities of Pontius Pilate. This is not supreme interference. This is not deconstructing say what King Herod would do. It has very specific parameters, responsibilities and duties and Pilate often weighs up, as he does at the trial of Jesus, how his kawanatanga, his governorship measures against the rangatiratanga of others. 

Although it’s a rough-hewn parallel, there is some truth in this.

Justice of the Supreme Court Judge Joe Williams said recently in Tauranga, that because of Luke's Gospel, Māori Rangatira at Waitangi got the Kingdom of Heaven and the Crown got Pontius Pilate. 

It’s a rough parallel, but implies that the balance of partnership, the equity of partnership, the justice and righteousness of partnership that we heard from Isaiah have to be in evidence for it to be true to its sacred origins – to be true to its biblical roots.

And many Māori chiefs at Waitangi – not all, but many – were referencing off Luke, because they’d been familiar with those same words in Māori in Luke's Gospel for some years before the words appeared in the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. 

And so when they saw kawanatanga and rangatiratanga, there was undoubtedly an influence from the biblical imagery; the biblical moral imperative. 

Maybe that’s partly why they decided to sign and tried to debate and encourage other chiefs to sign, because of this cumulative hope.

This cumulative wairua.

Ko te Amorangi ki mau ko te hapai ki muri!
Put what is sacred first! 

And then let everything else find its way, let God be the spearhead and achievement will follow.

'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you!' – from Matthew’s Gospel.

The Treaty of Waitangi will only achieve its full potential, if its spirituality, its wairuatanga is honoured – which is based in the justice of God, and the love of God, the hope of God, the presence of God.

It won’t work if it’s based on a lower common denominator.

But on a high moral ground, where karakia is performed in the high places – to put that light up where it can be seen and where it can draw those who seek to illuminate the future of this country.

A young chief at Kaitaia, when he was asked about the Treaty around the 1840 period, said to the British official;
“If your British hearts are towards Christ (as ours are) we shall be one.”

The key to the future of the Treaty of Waitangi is the prayerful hope that a sacred covenant will become more and more real in our lives and in the way we treat each other.

Kia ora tatou.