The following is a kauhau prepared by Bishop John Bluck for the Unveiling of his friend The Venerable Hone Te Kauru O Te Rangi Kaa over the Easter weekend. Bishop John can no longer make it but the Bishop told the Revs he’d love it if we could still share his lovingly crafted message:
RANGITUKIA, 30 MARCH, 2013
LUKE 23:50 to the end
Why would you choose a day as holy as this for a man who was impatient with holiness, or to be more precise, holy and pious people?
Why would you choose a day as solemn as this for a man who delighted in subverting solemnity, especially when it became earnest and self important?
Holy Saturday for Hone Kaa’s unveiling?
One of the hardest days in the Christian year. It is neither about death or resurrection. An inbetween time, a waiting time.
He wasn’t much good at waiting either. Never the most patient of men.
Well there are good reasons for choosing the day. The marae wasn’t booked. Most of the people who needed to be here could come. And the ones who were looking for an excuse not to come could say they were busy getting ready for tomorrow.
If you have to preach tomorrow and you don’t know yet what you’re going to say, don’t worry. You will surely find something from what happens here today. The man we honour used to make people preach without hardly any warning, and he belongs to a family who delights in interrupting preachers.
Last time I preached in front of the Kaa whanau, standing at a lecturn, Wi Kuki was in the front row. He stopped me in my tracks and told to get up into the pulpit and do it properly.
And there are even better reasons for choosing Holy Saturday for Hone, once you start to dig into the gospel appointed for today.
If you believe as Hone did, that the gospel appointed for the day has something very direct to say, not by accident but design, God’s design, then you have to keep looking till you find the connection.
And the connection with this day is not so much its holiness, or even it’s call for patience.
More simply, it’s about the fact that there is always a connection between the calendar of the Christian year, the seasons and readings and colours and rituals of our church, and the rhythm of our own lives.
Before and after everything else he was, Hone was a man of faith, which is rare these days, and a churchman of faith what’s more, which is even rarer.
His life was shaped and moulded by the cycle of the church. Like his father before him and his son after him and all the other Kaas who found vocations in Te Hahi Mihinare, Hone’s seasons were the church’s seasons. He wore that connection easily.
Being a priest for him fitted like a well tailored coat. And no theological college principal could tell him otherwise. When the coat they had ready made for him didn’t fit, he shrugged it off, jumped out the window at College House, or over the fence at St Johns, and found another size and style that did fit. A Maori size and style. ( You think I’m making up this stuff about windows and fences, don’t you? Well, I’m not.)
The gospel and the Anglican way of understanding it were as hard wired into him as it was to be Maori.
So Hone would expect us to find something in the lectionary for this Holy Saturday to fit the occasion. So I went looking, and it wasn’t very hard to find.
For a start this is an inbetween day. It’s a day that requires us to sit with the weight of what happened on Good Friday, the violence and humiliation, the injustice and inhumanity of crucifixion, the loss of dignity and rights and respect by the innocent and undeserving, to bear that weight without letting it crush us into submission. But to wait with hope and trust, however impossible it might seem, that there is still a future for us, and a chance of new life.
That’s tough stuff. If you’re getting old like me, or you’re sick or disabled, or you’re carrying the burden of a family on a hard road, you know how tough it is. To be in the middle, to absorb the pain and yet keep a candle of hope burning.
A person who can live inbetween such forces is called a broker. Not a stock broker. A broker of life and death. Someone who can stay hopeful and committed and energetic even when the evidence says its too hard to keep going, too broke to fix.
The covenant between the Crown and Maori, the partnership between Maori and Pakeha that this country and this church is built on has been betrayed and broken so often, you could give it away.
The issues of child abuse and violence, the odds against liberation movements gaining ground, of confiscated land being restored, even continuing the simplest conversations between alienated people young and old, are simply too much for most of us.
Hone Kaa was a broker in all these settings, both at home and overseas. He had the courage and confidence, and yes the bloody mindedness to stand in the middle of conflict and impossible breakdowns, until a way ahead could be found
But Hone Kaa was a broker in all these settings, both at home and overseas. He had the courage and confidence, and yes the bloody mindedness to stand in the middle of conflict and impossible breakdowns, until a way ahead could be found. Especially between Maori and Pakeha, frustrated with, despairing of, bewildered by each other. Living between two cultures as he did, he had more than his fair share of that. When I first knew him he was almost the only Maori student in a monocultural college and university. Yet he played the role of cultural broker, even to those who didn’t know back then there was anything to negotiate.
Many times I watched him pick up a conversation he’d had years before with old enemies, overheated and angry back then, laughing now. You have to be someone who can live in inbetween to do that.
On one of his several close misses with death in Auckland Hospital, I wrote him a poem saying I didn’t worry too much about him because he had a “ healthier grasp of death and resurrection than anyone I know”.
So who better suited to be honoured on this Holy Saturday, standing between the cross and the empty tomb than Hone Kaa?
But the gospel appointed for this day speaks even more directly about Hone than the day itself. It tells the story of a remarkable man called Joseph from Aramathea, as out of the way as Rangitukia. A member of the Sanhedrin Council or Synod, elected, respected but at odds with many of their decisions. Quite likely to take an action of his own. Now where have you heard of someone as contrary as that before?
Simon had two sons who had to watch their father giving away what was precious to the family, and taking risks for people in trouble.
Simon’s actions in subverting the council’s move against Jesus and giving him his family tomb were costly. In the Gospel of Nicodemus we’re told Simon was imprisoned for an act that was both highly political and incredibly generous. He gave space to a stranger in what was as personal as his own house. I was often amazed who ended up staying in the Kaa house.
But we’re also told he was on the receiving end of a miracles in his prison cell that are beyond all understanding. I’ve seen some things happen to the Kaa family in Auckland hospital after some karakia and himene that are beyond my understanding. Pity the miracles didn’t continue into some electoral synods, but that’s another story.
Simon was a broker and a bold one at that. As a good Jew he went to the governor and asked for the body of Jesus the outcast, crucified as a criminal. That took great courage.
The legends about Simon grew after his death. Some claimed he became the first Bishop in the islands we call Britain. Some tell he visited there with the boy Jesus. Certainly that legend is the source of William Blake’s Jerusalem, “And did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England’s pastures green..” Another story has Simon’s walking stick planted in Glastonbury and sprouting green leaves to become a tree.
You have not heard the last of Hone Kaa. His legacy as child advocate, broadcaster, writer, orator, liturgist, theologian, teacher, broker and priest is only just beginning to be appreciated and valued. Make no mistake. It will continue for generations to come.
Too his loved ones I say, don’t fear for him though he is greatly missed and the void he leaves can not be filled. He was better prepared for most of us for dying, too soon though it was, and he lived more fully than most of us ever dare to do.
“While others trim the edges, he planted new lawn.”
I told him he had the courage that let him stare down deep into the heart of things.
He looked into things full on, where most of us only peep.
In one of his hospital crises I wrote to him and said:
“However dark it gets, Hone
You walk in the light.”
What better day to honour you this last time that today, on the eve of Easter morning when the light of a new dawn will break over your headstone. An Easter dawn.
A light that you know better than any of us,
A light that will never die.
Thanks be to God.
A lovely reflection here, written by Bishop John Bluck for the upcoming 2013 Holy Saturday Unveiling Ceremony for our distinguished Maori colleague, The Venerable Hone Kaa. As a priest of the Auckland Diocese, I well remember resting with other pilgrims on Hone’s marae at Holy Sepulchre’s church hall, en route to the Lower Hutt celebrations for ‘Anglicans in Aotearoa’ in the 1980s. We shared stories and worship in a setting that I have never forgotten. Hone was truly ‘A Man of God’ – to both Maori and Pakeha. May he Rest in Peace and Rise with Christ in glory
(Thanks to ‘REV Talk’ and Bishop John Bluck for this timely Holy Week article)
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand