Lament and celebration: Waitangi

Waitangi Day has a complex place in our nation. Protests, political speeches, talk of injustice, talk of moving on, outrage over the treatment of the Prime Minister, or just ignorance and a public holiday.

Every Waitangi Day there are voices, mostly Pākehā, that suggest Waitangi Day has become corrupted by protest - they suggest the abandoning of it in favour of another national day. But I think this ultimately stems from the fact that many of us would rather not face our own story… we’d rather just “move on”.

These days we seem increasingly unable to hold together protest and hope. Complaint and celebration. Unable to hold the seemingly opposing forces together.

And we tend to do this in our religious traditions as well. We allow little room for the doubts, difficulties, challenges, or protests.

Of course the problem with this is that religious faith can stop us from paying attention to our actual lives, our real story…. we create an alternative religious reality we relate to God out of, but it’s a long way from the complicated life we live out day-to-day.

But a significant portion of the scriptures are lament and protest. Many of the psalms give voice to the pain of life and even offer up protest to God. And the prophets continually protest against the political and religious powers to uphold justice and stop oppressing the poor.

And the profound thing about all of this is that when the people of Israel collected together their writings into the sacred scriptures they could say, “yes, lets include all of those parts where we were total jerks and where the prophets highlighted all of our shortcomings and we had obviously stuffed up repeatedly and yet we still ignored them and carried on and made a complete and total mess of things. Yes, this is what needs to be in our holy scriptures!”

It’s a very countercultural idea.

We live in a society which bombards us with messages all day, every day that we should avoid our pain and discomfort, block out the real and focus on the idealised vision of a prosperous life that we could have if we just got that one more nice thing.

But as a Christian community we gather weekly around the Eucharist table and remember both death and life.And my hope is that we can participate in a faith community which helps us to acknowledge joy and sorrow, celebration and pain, solidarity with suffering, and the joy of new life.

Held together in Jesus. It’s not one or the other. Both are embraced. Both are found together. They are part of the same story.

Frosty

Rob Byrne