Utu and Zeal (23 March 2020)

One of the questions that anyone with sense will ask is why are we in this situation? Yes, I know that there are too many managers and politicians making decisions when they are too short for the ride, and the decisions right now are difficult.

But why are we in this situation?

Here the prophets help, In these situations, they reflected on their guilt, and how justice demanded recompense: In Maori utu[1]. That we were compensated for our oath-breaking. That our contract with God was shattered, and we did not deserve his blessing, which included protection from the raider, from famine, and from pestilence.

Isaiah 59:9-19

9 Therefore justice is far from us,
And righteousness does not overtake us;
We hope for light, but behold, darkness,
For brightness, but we walk in gloom.
10 We grope along the wall like blind men,
We grope like those who have no eyes;
We stumble at midday as in the twilight,
Among those who are vigorous we are like dead men.
11 All of us growl like bears,
And moan sadly like doves;
We hope for justice, but there is none,
For salvation, but it is far from us.
12 For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And we know our iniquities:
13 Transgressing and denying the Lord,
And turning away from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving in and uttering from the heart lying words.
14 Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands far away;
For truth has stumbled in the street,
And uprightness cannot enter.
15 Yes, truth is lacking;
And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey.
Now the Lord saw,
And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.
16 And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
Then His own arm brought salvation to Him,
And His righteousness upheld Him.
17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing
And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.
18 According to their deeds, so He will repay,
Wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies;
To the coastlands He will make recompense.
19 So they will fear the name of the Lord from the west
And His glory from the rising of the sun,
For He will come like a [g]rushing stream
Which the wind of the Lord drives.

It’s worth noting that the Maori are acting according to tradition.\ in rural New Zealand. What is unsaid by our feckless press is that New Zealand is builded on covenant: between the crown and Maori in the first place, and before that on treaties between iwi and iwi negotiated by Missionaries as the tribes converted to Christianity.

The importation of settlers was a period of war and conflict, but both sides worshiped the same God, and to this day there is a strong Maori episcopate among the Anglicans, and some of the most prominent churches in South Auckland, doing good, are led by Maori, and have many displaced Maori, alienated from their iwi (tribe) and from the European (in Auckland, multicultural) majority, in the congregation.

Police and local council are working with a Bay of Plenty iwi to implement a rāhui in its efforts to protect vulnerable community members from Covid-19.

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui iwi leader Rawiri Waititi announced the 24-hour a day manned closure of its borders to all outsiders at the weekend.

No one outside of the about 1000 residents would be allowed to enter the territory from midnight March 25 for two months.

Iwi leader Rikirangi Gage said the move was in line with the tradition of protecting vulnerable community members in dangerous times.

I think we can learn from this iwi. We had deluded ourselves that we were immune from the afflictions of humanity — or forebears feared pestilence as much as famine and war for a reason.

We have the hubris that we are in control, that we are more powerful than God, and that all will always be well. It has never been this way. There is teaching on managing affliction — from before Moses to the last Apostle writing revelations — for a reason.

This is one of those times. Yes, it is in part our fault: No, not all of it. But we are adults. We can turn to the Lord, and in prayer, prepare and act to keep our families and society well.

Who knows, it may be more righteous and less degenerate.

1. I will borrow a short word rather than use a long one.