Te Pouhere Sunday is a celebration of partnership across cultures.
“Pou” means post, like the large posts that hold up a whare nui; and “here” means to guide. Te Pouhere is the framework that guides how the church lives, prays, meets together; and how we give freedom to each partner to join in Christ’s mission in their own cultural context.
Our three tikanga of Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha are woven together and free to pursue our own ways of being. This constitution of our church was created in 1992 and it was a radical vision for its time. A vision of partnership and sharing of power, in particular at General Synod. As with all institutions it is far from perfect but it strives to create a more just and equal way of being the Body of Christ together.
We are being challenged to look again at our own cross cultural relationships in Aotearoa as we watch the Black Lives Matter movement sweep the world. After the horrendous murder of George Floyd the fires of protest have swept the US. And it does seem that even though there have been protests before and change has been promised before, that this time change is more possible. In conversations I have had in the past week with friends and colleagues in the US they are saying this time is different.
But also the craziness of “fake news” is also present. One friend told me about theories going around that the video of the murder of George Floyd was fake. And Trump followers are hanging on to their belief that the president is doing a good job. It is very easy for us to look from a distance and say how terrible it is in the US. And how their history of slavery has crippled their society and their race relations. And it is terrible and they need the support of the whole world to bring about change. We should always speak up about injustice when we see it.
I know our Episcopalian colleagues have appreciated the support of the worldwide Anglican Communion in condemning the photo op visit of President Trump to St John’s Lafayette Square. You know the one where he is holding up the Bible – quite why we do not know.
Bishop Mariann Budde, the Bishop of Washington said this:
The President just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for. To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard.
I am outraged.
The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.
We in the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in His Way of Love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest. 
And so we support them with our messages and our prayer and our marches. But we do so while looking at ourselves and allowing ourselves to be challenged. We need to learn our own history; we need to ask our own questions. Why is 51% of our prison population Maori? Why is there so much income and health disparity between Pakeha and Maori?
In the church why are most of the Maori clergy unpaid? We need to be open to challenge and to learn; to catch ourselves if we rush to make assumptions about someone from another culture; and to dig into the concepts of “white privilege”, colonialism and systemic racism.
In our faith tradition one of the places we can look for inspiration is the OT prophets. The prophets call out those in power and challenge the people to wake up and change their ways. The prophets are not polite; they call it as they see it. We heard from Isaiah this morning – Isaiah living around 540 BC when the people of Israel were in exile in Babylon but hoping to return.
Isaiah says to the people “Sing to the Lord a new song … let the sea roar …let the deserts and its towns lift their voice”.
Walter Brueggemann says that Isaiah is teaching the people “disciplines of readiness” to be ready for their homecoming to Jerusalem. 
The homecoming will not happen if the people are not living as people of hope, open and ready. He says first the people have to retell their “dangerous memories”, the truth of their own failings; and the truth that God has always been with them since the beginning of creation. And then they have to speak out against the empire that currently oppresses them – that too is dangerous. Then come the dangerous promises – the promises that God has made to the people of a return to home and the promises the people make to keep their hope alive.
“Sing to the Lord a new song … let the sea roar …let the deserts and its towns lift their voice”
And what will they sing?
They will sing praise to God who can be described as a soldier going to war; and then in the next breath a woman crying out in labour.
“For a long time I have held my peace … now I will cry out like a woman in labour … I will lay waste to this land and any who trust in false gods will be put to shame.”
Brueggemann says “The important point is that Isaiah’s poem is outrageous and unreasonable. It invites exiles to sing against reality, to dance toward a future not even discernible, to praise the faithful God who will not be held captive by imperial reality. The singing and dancing and praising is an act of hope, a betting on God’s capacity for an inexplicable future. It is the sort of hoping serious, baptised people must always do, always against the data, with trust in God’s promise.” 
So when we sing and pray and recite the story of our faith in the eucharistic prayer; when we march in a BLM march, or cheer marchers on from the sides; we claim that dangerous promise. We claim the hope that we can do better and be better; that we can look at ourselves and our history with the unflinching and searing eyes of the prophets.
And when we are found wanting we can pick ourselves up and sing to God a new song, praising the God who has created us good and created us better than we are.
Hannah Skinner, a chaplain at Manchester University in the UK wrote this:
And when a black man that I never knew suffocates beneath the knee of an oppressor that I’ll never meet…when life is crushed and death prevails… when the strength of the mighty is felt yet again upon the neck of those judged less safe, less precious and – ultimately – less human because of their skin colour…
Then anger surges like labour-pain, deep within my bones and forcing me to my feet. I am not black, but I am minority. I am not man, but I am sister. I will not meet George Floyd or lay my flowers where he met his curb-side death, but I live among my black and brown neighbours and encounter maybe something of his experience in them each day. So I will bring my minority anger, and I will stand as a sister-in arms – bright anger coursing through the fingers I use to weave each word and web of solidarity. From my own privilege I will offer up my anger alongside others, still dreaming that together we can create a world where children will be judged by the content of their character.
Power with those who protest, and power to them to bring change. Power with all us who are angry today, and power to us all to bring change. 
On this Te Pouhere Sunday we tell our story of partnership, of good things achieved and failures too, and hope that we can do better.
As the young people of the Diocese lead us in prayer before the BLM march we commit to looking at our own nation while calling for change in other nations.
We claim against all the data to be people of hope and faith who trust in God’s dangerous and wonderful promises.