Sunday, August 29 th , 2004
Pre-GOP Republican Convention in New York
Church of Holy Apostles, New York
Texts: Eccleisaticus 10:7 -18; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13:1 -8; Luke 14: 1, 7 -17.
Greetings & Introduction:
Talofa (Samoa), Kia Ora (Aotearoa/NZ), Malo e Lelei (Tonga), Fakalofa lahi atu (Niue), Ni sa Bula Vinaka (Fiji), Namaskar (Hindi), Kia Orana (Cook Islands), Ia orana (Tahiti), Malo Ni (Tokelau) Aloha (Hawaii). I also wish to offer you greetings on behalf of the Anglican Communion. Talofa, Talofa lava.
For your sake I will say my full name. I am Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavea .
Since many of you regards those long names as a mouth full, you may call me Archdeacon Tai Matalavea or just TAI. I inherited the chiefly title of Taimalelagi from my great-great-grand-father who received Christianity into Samoa from the London Missionary Society in 1830.
As your Anglican Observer at the United Nations, my job is to advocate for the needs of the 75 million members in 164 countries of the Anglican Communion on a global level at the world forum. I am also required to take the News from the World Forum at the United Nations and get it into all the corners of the Anglican Communion and into the hands of those 75million members.
Whilst I report directly to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), I actually receive my directives from the Church leaders in the Provinces including the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America – (ECUSA). So I actually have 38 bosses. They are the Primates of the Anglican Communion, some of whom are not talking to each other and some of whom are hostile to each other, but in all Christian love and charity, of course.
The Work of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations:
Since the beginning of 2003, I selected six main areas of Focus for my work as your Observer at the United Nations. These six areas were selected for two reasons:
First was to respond to those areas for which the office was established, i.e., to respond to the United Nations initiatives for Development; Disarmament; Freedom of Faith and Religion; and, Environment.
Second was the need to respond directly to the last three points of the 5 point Mission Statement of ACC i.e.; to respond to the needs of God's people through loving service; to break down unjust structures to maintain peace and justice; and, to safeguard the integrity of God's creation and to sustain and renew the earth.
The work of he Anglican UN Office therefore concentrates on the areas of:
(1) Human Rights;
(2) Gender Issues especially Women's Rights;
(4) Indigenous People's Issues;
Environment and Sustainable Development or Sustainable Communities; and,
Economic and Global Security for countries under conflict.
Since March of this year, your Anglican Observer fielded delegations:
of 55 men and women from the Anglican Communion to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
to the Third Permanent Forum at the United Nations for Indigenous Issues.
to the Annual Commission on Sustainable Development.
Currently we are arranging for a meeting between Ecumenical Partners at the United Nations and the Prime Minister of Swaziland on his vision for changes in Government policies. We are also in the process of getting our delegation ready for the Annual DPI/NGO Conference in September to examine the best practices for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
So our work is there and we do our best to meet the needs of the Anglican Communion and, I hope I have given you an idea of who I am and why I am here this morning addressing you.
Now as we turn our thoughts to reflect upon the Scripture readings this morning, one has to wonder, what God had in mind, when this plot was hatched, to get me to address you, on these propers, at this point in time!
We have received valuable advice from Ecclesiasticus. I would urge all of us to ponder these powerful words throughout our lives. The prophet opens with: “ 7 Arrogance is hateful to the Lord and to mortals, and injustice is outrageous to both.” We will agree that the world is full of injustice and that we are outraged by it
Some of you will comment that because I am not an American I should not comment on American policy. But look at it this way. I am one of those whom American Policy affects despite the fact that I had no part in the election of the Officials who authored the policy or executed the policy or maintained the over sight for the continuance of the policies in your country. I have relatives who have joined your arm forces directly from American Samoa .
America is the only super-power on the planet and I can understand your desires to maintain this status for as long as possible. Personally, I tremble at the thought of who else might be in charge. But remember me in your deliberations and when you vote in your elections. Your decisions and what you do here in America does affect me and my family half way around the world in Samoa . Yes, I now know what I learnt in social science many years ago that “Whenever America sneezes we all catch cold.” That is how your American policies affect most of the world especially the poor countries, and, I come from one of the poorest countries, often referred to as a least developed country for many decades up to this very day.
The Psalmist says:
9 They have given freely to the poor, * and their righteousness stands fast for ever; they will hold up their head with honor.
I acknowledge with much gratitude that this great country has done so much for the rest of the world – US Aid and Assistance programs reach out all over the world. You all enjoy the highest standard of living. You all enjoy the blessings of God on your Land and in your lives. In fact things are so good here that you also get to suffer from a very high influx of illegal immigrants. People will risk everything to get here to get a crumb under the table of the life you enjoy here. This should be setting off alarms and warnings to you Americans. It is not about working harder to keep them out please, but it is how you Americans can do a better job to export what ever it is that you have, that brings people here. If things were as good in their countries as they are here, (politically, socially, and financially while working with in a level of cultural respect) the illegal immigrants would not feel the need to emigrate.
Now let us look at the instructions from the letter to the Hebrews: “Let mutual love continue.” This reminds us to respect each other's point of view and passions for holding those views. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Hospitality is very central to our cultures in my part of the world. Some of you may have experienced the Leis or garlands ceremonies welcoming visitors to Hawaii . Great hospitality is done culturally throughout the nations in the Pacific Ocean . All of us must be vigilant to see that “visitors” are welcomed when they are among us, no matter who “those people” May be. Remember that when Jesus and the angels come to visit, they are not going to be recognizable, other wise what is the point of their visit to us? Furthermore, Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.
We are all humans and human nature is a fallen nature, and we will all revert to be uncivilized if we are given the situation and a chance. My comment is not to pass judgment on any acts that took place, but to your honor I have to acknowledge that this is the only country that cares enough about the rights and the treatment of the “enemy,” and will prosecute its own citizens when they cross the line in the treatment of those held as prisoners.
Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. This isn't so much about who gets married as it is about what “they do” once they are married. Weddings that are longer than the marriage and serial monogamy are not the way to go. Neither is getting married on Saturday and finding the love of your life the following Tuesday. I was married once, actually for 28 years. I am the mother of 9 children and the Grandmother of 20 grandchildren. Some days were good some days were not so good. Some days were easy and some days were difficult. But we kept our marriage vows. We were faithful to each other and 11 years ago my husband was called to his reward. I have noted the Divorce rates here are quite high. They are estimated to be about 40% and possibly 50 %!!
We need not worry about who wants to get married. Who ever they are, they all need to be told that marriage is:
“Not something to be lightly entered into.”
Marriage should be for the rest of your life.
Marriage is not a bed of roses. It has to be worked at on a daily basis.
Marriage is not a wonderful idea to be fallen in love with. Fall in love only with the one you marry.
Finally it is not something to pressure children into because they are still living at home at the age of 35, and must start their lives elsewhere.
Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.' So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?' Well there are hard verses and there are hard verses and in this land of great wealth and bountiful plenty, these are hard verses. Look around you. Look at your lives. In this great city, you have brothers and sisters who have nothing and what little of that which they have, is liable to be what is found in tomorrow's trash. Most of us feel over whelmed by what we see of those who live on the street or very close to being on the street. We all hide behind the catch phrase “I am just one person, what can I do?” Hiding won't help the situation. Do something, anything, but be pro-active. Your country has some great social welfare systems in place. Take a stand and make sure they are secured to serve and help those they were set up to help. I therefore give credit to Holy Apostles for responding to the needs of God's people with loving service through your soup kitchen to name one of the loving services you are extending to the poorest amongst us.
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. So as good Anglicans we are required by the Book of Common Prayers to:
Pray for Frank, your Presiding Bishop, he needs your prayers.
Pray for Rowan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, he needs your prayers especially at this time.
Pray for Mark, the Bishop of New York, he needs your prayers.
Pray for your President, he needs your prayers as much as any of the others do.
The Prayer Books of all Anglican Churches throughout the world, whether you like it or not, require us to pray for our government leaders. God judges them and can even arrange for a change of heart.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. I get the feeling this morning's message to us from the Gospel is best summed up by the verse from the Epistle “ Keep your lives free from the love of money,” because in our Gospel lesson, we have Jesus talking to us about the best seats at the feast. Humility is emphasized here than the love of money, which in this world can lead to pride which is the beginning of sin.
So what is it that these lessons are calling us to do, today? Well we could take a very simple and fundamental view and say, the words of the Holy Scripture say it all. Or we could take a more Anglican view and say there is a message buried in all this. We must therefore continue the dialogue.
The message I believe is about becoming better versions of who we are. We all need to proceed from the position of saying to ourselves: “My brothers and sisters are living on the street, can I, in my own abundance, do with less?” Then put that which we have not spent on ourselves to be used for the good of those who have nothing.
Some of this cannot be legislated. Some of this needs to be written in our hearts.
You are citizens of the greatest country the earth has ever seen. Everything your government does impacts the rest of us who are residents of our global village called earth.
Despite many objections, your leaders took you to war for what, at the time, appeared to be sound causes. Your soldiers have done some good in this war. You have gotten yourselves cast in the role of the international policeman. You need to appreciate and realize that there are other places, where the same sort of conditions and situations are currently in progress and degenerating. Will you be able to respond?
I don't get to vote in your elections, yet what you do affects me and not just me but everyone else the world over. You all need to remember the rest of us are out there and, you need to remember what happens at the convention not only affects you but all the rest of us too.
Those of you my brothers and sisters at the convention must understand from my perspective that you are walking in a mine field. You will be called upon to balance the good of the USA against the good of the rest of the world. As Christians that reasoning is held in creative tension against the Scriptures you heard and must hold dear in your hearts.
I don't claim to have the answers, but I hope I have cleared up some of the questions for you.
What I can leave with you is my own favorite quote from Scripture.
Micah 6: 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the L ORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Walk with love and care on God's earth;
Walk with vital awareness of God's comprehensive vision and purpose for creation;
Walk with awe and gratitude to ensure justice to the trees and rivers as well as the person next to you. They are not without purpose in God's vision.
As Christians, we are servants of Christ, all of us. None of us has any greater authority or power than the next. In the eyes of God – we are all equal – Equally beautiful and equally frail. God bless you all.
-- Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavea