13th Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary
Isaiah 51:1-6
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20
Catholic lectionary:
Isaiah 22:19-23
Romans 11:33-36


Living God, you sent your Son Jesus to your people.
Embolden your church to proclaim Jesus as Messiah, and to trust in him. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

 I runga i te ingoa o te Matua, o te Tama me te Wairua Tapu. Amine.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


‘But who do you say that I am?’
For an indigenous person, especially for Maori, the right response to the Jesus’ question to the disciples, begins with my own understanding and knowledge of who I am, my cultural identity. The first thought is always; ‘who am I’ in relation to the world around me, my connection to the natural world, my bond to my ancestral land, my link to the environment. Who am I in connection to my maunga (mountain)? Who am I in connection with my awa (river)? Who am I in connection with my moana (sea)?

The next thought is; ‘who am I’ in relation to my waka (canoe), my iwi (tribe), to my kainga (home), and to my whanau (immediate and extended family). I am a human being. I belong somewhere, and I belong to someone. As a member of my tribe, a descendant of my ancestors, a relative to all my relations, I can never be separated from them, whether by choice or circumstance. The ‘who am I’ question can be answered more accurately by someone who knows who they are, and to whom they belong.

We know who we are firstly by where we belong.
That is my ngahere (forest), my roto (lake), my whenua tapu (sacred lands) because my ancestors lived there. They hunted there. They gathered their food from that place. They tended their gardens there. They gave birth and raised their children there. They buried their dead there. There is always someone who will know your identity, and where you belong, even though that knowledge might be lost to you.

For example, for me, I am the son of my 2 parents. I am the grandson of my 4 grandparents. I am the great grandson of my 8 great grandparents. The great great grandson of my 16 great great grandparents. I am the nephew of my mother’s 18 brothers and sisters, and of my father’s 11 siblings. I am the brother of my 11 brothers and 1 sister. I am a first cousin to my 160 first cousins, and so on. I am who am I in relation to the world around me, and in relation to the family, to the tribe and community I belong to.

Our own identity is engrained into each of us. We are taught the stories of our people by our elders and parents. For me the stories begin at the time of the arrival of the canoes in these Islands. To me that is 17 generations in one descent line. The most recent arrival is only as recent as 14 generations, roughly 500-600 years ago.

Jesus, in asking his disciples the question, ‘what people were saying about him, was concerned that whatever people were murmuring about him, that it must be correct. He was concerned that they were relying on rumour or hearsay. He was concerned that they were merely repeating what others were saying for the sake of saying something. As it was, what they were saying was not only incorrect, it was false, and far from the truth. More to the point, they should not have been content with what they were hearing. Did they consider correcting the narrative? Did they think about putting those voices right? Did it enter their minds that they could have helped people to understand for their own good and salvation?

Should they have known more? Should they have known better? Should they have least known the difference between Jesus and Elijah, Jesus and Jeremiah, and Jesus and John the Baptist?The answer to these last three questions, is yes.

Jesus wasn’t satisfied that the people were just taking a stab in the dark. It seemed to him that his disciples were just dumbfounded and perhaps didn’t care. When he directed the question to their own knowledge of his identity, only Simon Peter had the courage to come out with the truth.

He knew Jesus’ whakapapa (ancestry). He knew where Jesus came from.
He was very much like himself. He was clear about Jesus’ mana (spiritual power and integrity). He had seen Jesus perform many miracles. He was certain about Jesus’ tapu (authority and righteousness). He had witnessed to his teaching and preaching.

Simon Peter never had an ounce of doubt. He knew Jesus’ true identity. His confession of Jesus, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,’ revealed Jesus’ real identity. Jesus’ response to Simon Peter, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven,’ is a revelation to him.

In his confession of the identity of Jesus, Simon Peter’s own identity, in turn, is revealed to him. ‘And I tell you, you are Peter.’ Only when we confess Jesus as Messiah, the Son of the living God, only then is our true identity is revealed to us, our identity in Christ.

This is our Christ name, our Christ identity. It becomes our tuapapa (foundation) in Christ. It is our turangawaewae (our standing place/rock) in Christ. Our real identity, our identity in Christ is made known to us by Jesus, when we confess him as Saviour and Lord.

Our new identity, our true identity, our real identity is that which is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. We are given a new identity in our confession of Christ. Jesus confirms our new identity by giving us a new name.

Not only that, we are given power to live out our new life in Christ. The Church is founded on our personal confession of Jesus Christ. The mana (power) in the form of the keys of heaven is granted to Peter, the rock. That power, that authority is for one purpose. It is to overcome the gates of Hades. To defeat evil in the world, and to conquer sin on earth. It is to bind and loose on earth, which in turn, will bind and loose in heaven.

Whatever happens on earth will have the same effect in heaven.
For an indigenous Christian person, I stand as an individual before God and Christ. I am not alone in Christ’s family. I do not live in isolation as a full member of God’s tribe, of the household of God. I am not alone in my whanau (family) and iwi (tribe). I belong to the community of God by virtue of the fact that I know who I am, and whose am I. I belong to Christ who has revealed to me my true and full identity. In Christ my real identity is revealed to me. It is affirmed to me daily, and is the reason why I can say, and why I must say with St Paul, with utter confidence and complete assurance,

19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,* who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2.19-20

Kia hora te marino.
Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana.
Kia tere te karohirohi i mua i to huarahi.

May peace be widespread.
May the sea glisten like the greenstone.
May the shimmer of light dance before your path.

And to add the words of the psalmist:
May God bless your coming in, and your going out,
from this day forth and forever more.

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Rt. Revd Te Kitohi, Pikaahu

The Rt Rev’d Te Kitohi Pikaahu, New Zealand

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