This last week has been a very busy time at St. George’s Anglican Church in Gate Pa. Our church sits on the site of battle of Gate Pa. And the 150th anniversary of that battle is in less than 2 weeks. We are hosting an Exhibitions of Images of the Battle in the church, our hall is being used to display the entries to Art Competition, we have hosted a number school visits, and will be hosting a series lectures next week. Outside builders and carvers are at work preparing site for the commemoration. And some of us are busy preparing our various roles in those commemoration events. At times it is hard to keep track that Easter is close. It is hard to find time to even think about those events 2000 years go. As I retell the story of that battle and think of those who were killed or wounded, all that carnage and death, it feels like we meet our own Good Friday here on this hill; filled with all the hate, angst, fear, pain and despair of that initial Good Friday. And like that first Good Friday it is very hard to find any good news. When I read on to the Battle of Te Ranga and the resulting destruction of Maori leadership and the massive land confiscation, like on Good Friday, I am lost to know where to find hope.
Over the last week or so I have been reading the book “Love Wins” by Rob Bell. In it he talks about how for the Prophets and Jesus heaven was not another place we go to after we die, but the hope of what this world will be like in next age, when God’s will is completely done on earth as in heaven. Easter Sunday is the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, his defeat of death and bringing life for us all. To live in the hope of the resurrection involves asking what does resurrected life look like. Is it like now? Is it different? Bell suggests that living resurrection involves imagining what the world will look like in the coming age (with the help of what the prophets and Jesus taught) and living to bring that to reality now.
As I look again at the story of the Battle of Gate Pa I find people of great faith living to bring heaven even into the midst of this hard story, working hard to bring God’s peace and goodness to this terrible event. People like Rawiri Puhirake and Henare Wiremu Taratoa who wrote the rules of engagement that laid out (before there was a Geneva Convention) how the wounded, the unarmed and the non-combatants were to be treated. I see it in the actions of Heni Te Kiri Karamu or Taratoa, or maybe others, who, risking their own lives, took water to the wounded and dying British soldiers after the battle. Gestures filled with God’s mercy and compassion. In these I am reminded what resurrection life looks like. I am offered hope in the midst of this story.
May we who now live in this place follow in the footsteps of Puhirake, Taratoa, and Heni, and live to bring God’s peace, mercy, compassion and goodness to all those who live in Tauranga. In this way may we honour the memory of those who fought and died here, and find ways to live resurrected lives now. May Easter hope be found in all we do.