Grace and peace to you all in the name of Christ. Kia tau ki a koutou katoa te aroha noa, me te rangimārie, i runga i te ingoa o te Karaiti.
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We farewelled recently someone who, in my heritage, would have been called “a pillar of the kirk”. He was also a legend among his whanau and his community, Māori and Pākehā. A life story that has elements that related to others, but together in the one person entirely unique. Tarzan (Tahana) Paraone Hori.
At one point in the many times of prayer we had, a reading featured – a paraphrase of the Beatitudes – which connects also to the very quiet and gentle person we farewelled at the same time. Colleen van der Schiff, with her life in former Rhodesia and in South Africa, knew I am sure the same kind of strong faith in relation to real life challenges.
Tarzan’s life till he was six was happy within the whanau of Matangirau. But when his father died, his English mother took herself and the children back to her family in Whanganui. Tarzan’s grandmother tried to scrub him white, but that didn’t work and he and one sibling were sent to the Salvation Army orphanage in Eltham. From that time on, as Tarzan said, he was determined to be the best at everything. That included a thirst for knowledge which continued throughout his lifetime.
Years of hard work farming, alongside his beloved Violet, meant a life of discipline and learning also for his many children who became hard workers themselves.
A change came, or rather a new direction, with the Waitangi Tribunal process. He was one to get on with whatever he had to deal with, but there were things in the past that shouldn’t have had to be as they were. They needed to be named. Not everyone had coped as well as he had. Future generations needed a stronger foundation than they had been left with. So Tarzan spoke up, attended hui, researched and dug into his people’s memory, and, with the help of son Bill, his story was told to the Tribunal in July 2013.
Understandably given the experiences, this was a life that had more than its quota of raruraru – a mixed blessing we might say. But the strength of this family, and of our way of faith, is that what we see now is first and foremost of all the life-giving qualities, especially those that are handed on to family and, through inspiration, to others who knew him. The fact is that “a mixed blessing” is the reality of being human. It’s how we respond that matters. That’s the Jesus lesson, as I see it.
Back to the paraphrase of the Beatitudes. For many centuries in its history the Church Institution has interpreted scripture in ways that have maintained good order and kept waywardness under control. Effectively the Church has worked to support the powers that be. Good people do not fight against the system, but accept “God’s will” for them, that is, the status quo. Jesus in fact sees it differently. True, he didn’t resort to conflict or force, but he did defy the status quo and, as we know, ended up dead as a result. But of course the spirit driving him didn’t end up dead.
In the South American context, people of deep Christian faith have listened to the Bible and heard their own experiences being told in ancient texts, and discovered there insights into how to respond now to injustice, poverty, lack of freedom, lack of hope. Here’s how Matthew 5:2-11 can be understood for here and now. This is the Bible for the People, not just the Powers-that-Be.
Blessed are the poor …
not the penniless
but those whose heart is free.
Blessed are those who mourn …
not those who whimper
but those who raise their voices.
Blessed are the meek …
not the soft
but those who are patient and tolerant.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice …
not those who whine
but those who struggle.
Blessed are the merciful …
not those who forget
but those who forgive.
Blessed are the pure in heart …
not those who act like angels
but those whose life is transparent.
Blessed are the peacemakers …
not those who shun conflict
but those who face it squarely.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice …
not because they suffer
but because they love.
P. Jacob. Taken from Compartir, Santiago, Chile
Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn