Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Known by Name (John 10:1–6)

Daily Lenten Reflection - Thursday, 9 March 2017

Week 2: Liberated by God’s Grace

Week 2, Day 5

From the Baptismal liturgy of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

E te whānau a te Karaiti / Dear friends in Christ,

God is love, God gives us life.

We love because God first loves us.

In baptism God declares that love;

in Christ God calls us to respond.

Known by Name (John 10:1–6)

Te Kitohi Wiremu Pikaahu, Anglican, New Zealand

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 

The question of identity is a critical part in the life of any individual, particularly for a Christian. It is especially so for a Maori Christian in Aotearoa New Zealand today.

It is fundamental to how a person relates to their relatives, and what it means to belong to a community. With that sense of belonging come certain responsibilities and duties. The knowledge that one’s tūpuna (ancestor) was converted to Christianity almost 180 years ago does more than just reassure me of who I am and who I belong to. It speaks of the power of God in a person’s life in and throughout history. That power is the power of God’s love, of God’s grace and of God’s peace. The effect of this is to transform, to renew and to liberate the lives of individuals and people of faith in every generation.

My first name was given to me by my maternal grandfather. He named me after himself on the day I was born. My second name comes from him as well. It was his father’s first name. It means a lot to me as a Maori and as a Christian.

My surname, Pikaahu, belonged to my paternal great-great-grandfather. Literally it means “young hawk.” It was his birth name given by his father in memory of his own great-great-grandfather. It means everything to me as a Maori and as a Christian.

My tūpuna (ancestor) was Pikaahu. He was baptized as an adult by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary, Rev. Henry Williams, on 24 April 1837. The baptism register records his baptismal name as Henry William Pikaahu. What interested me most was that although he was baptized along with a number of local chiefs, all of whom were given new names, his was the only entry whose new identity was not a transliteration in Maori of an English name, but an actual English name. He seems to have been comfortable with it. He must have trusted the missionary, his namesake, with registering him on his behalf.

What is important for me is that he was known as Pikaahu all his life by his whanau (family), hapu (sub-tribe) and iwi (tribe). He was known by the missionaries as Henry William Pikaahu. There does not seem to be a tension for him at all as he names his youngest son (my great-grandfather) Henare, the Maori form of Henry. At that point he takes Wiremu (William) as a first name. It is the name that Rev. Henry Williams was known by Maori. It is the name he was known by in the church for the next forty years of his life until he died in 1894.

For me it was this new faith in God in which he received his identity in Christ. Being known, and respected, by the community that named him first, his whanau, his hapu and his iwi with his baptismal name never changed who he was to them. He lived comfortably in two worlds, Maori (indigenous) and Pakeha (missionary). He was able to reconcile two separate worlds, two universes: from the old world to the new world, from past reality to future hope to salvation in Christ.

The story of the origin of my whanau name, binds me not only to the tūpuna through my genealogical link, but also connects me to the faith that transformed his life, giving him a new identity. Through my whakapapa (genealogy) I am bound to the Christian faith expressed by Te Hahi Mihingare. This same faith comes with the name and is passed down from generation to generation, transforming my own life as a Christian.

“On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Anglican-Lutheran International Coordinating Committee has compiled a collection of Lenten reflections to commemorate the anniversary. The text can be used by small groups or individual, as a Lenten reading or as a resource for the weeks between Easter and Trinity Sunday. We are sharing these reflections daily during Lent, hoping that our common experience of God’s grace may draw our two families of churches closer together in this extraordinary year, and be used beyond 2017 and actually at any time.”