When my GP invited me to “join us for Matariki” at his family practice to give a “small scripture sharing”, I initially didn’t want to do it! In our cultural moment, it’s not always welcomed when Tāngata Tiriti (people here by right of the Treaty of Waitangi) speak for Māori about their customs and values. Nevertheless, the Lord rebuked me from 2 Timothy 4:5: “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” So I showed up at Meadowbank Medical yesterday without my community services card but rather, with a guitar and Bible in hand.

It turned out to be a beautiful time. The hangi was delicious, the chats were appreciative, and I was even roped in to sing “Tutira mai nga iwi” together! Significantly, one of the members of our church (Billy Davis, Ngāti Porou) kindly offered to join me in sharing about what Matariki means to Māori. For my part, I used my time as an opportunity to share from Job 38:31 to the dozen or so GPs, nurses, and healthcare professionals about the unanswered questions that confront us, the wisdom of pondering on Matariki like God challenges Job to do in this verse, and of the joy that stargazing brought to some wise men many years later. I’m still working on the art and craft of being gentle, respectful and persuasive among non-Christian audiences (especially as a novice learner of all things Māori). So feel free to let me know how this 8-minute whakāro (thought) from this whakatauki (saying) speaks to you!

“Unanswered Questions” (Job 38:31), 27.6.24, Meadowbank Medical Centre Matariki Celebration

Tēnā koutou e te whānau Ōrakei, (Greetings Meadowbank family)

ko Maungarei te maunga, (Mt Wellington is the mountain)…

ko Tāmaki te awa, (Tāmaki is the river)…

Kei te noho au ki Tāmaki Makaurau, ki Pakuranga, (I live in Auckland, in Pakuranga)…

nō Taina, Taiwana me Marēhia ōku tīpuna; (China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Aotearoa is my ancestry)

ko Wiremu tōku ingoa; (my name is William)

… and most times I’m here as Dr Choonwei’s patient, but today he’s asked me to give a short whakāro (thought) on Matariki. I do so as Tangati Tiriti (non-Māori), and a Christian minister from Te Hahi Iriiri, the Baptist Churches of Aotearoa. Billy and I are both part of Pakuranga Chinese Baptist Church not far from here – with a number of our members also enrolled at MMC, we are supporters of Manaaki Healthcare and your kaupapa.

(No one wants kai that’s cold, and it’ll be great to hear some of your thoughts on what Matariki means to you. So I promise to stay under single consult length!)

Whatever your faith background, all of us can embrace Matariki at some level. We all love a long weekend (though perhaps not the emails afterwards). Some of us will try out some stargazing, or spend time appreciating our country’s Māori heritage.

And as people who care deeply about health and wellbeing, we will resonate with some themes of Matariki: honouring those who have died, giving thanks for seasons past, asking questions about about the road ahead.

[Questions ahead]

Matariki may be our newest public holiday, but the questions around this season are as old as time itself. Granted, sometimes we Christians don’t do ourselves any favours by acting like we “always have the answers” from this 2000-year old book called the Bible. So I find it really interesting that one of the three times the Bible names Matariki itself, it comes not as an answer, but as a question.

Let me read out Job 38:31 with you, it says:

“E taea rānei e koe te here te huihui o Matariki, e wewete rānei ngā here o Tautoru?”

“Can you bind the chains of Matariki? Or loose the cords of Orion?”

It’s obviously not the typical question you’d hear in a consultation room! But it’s worse than you think. Some of us here get worried about consults going overtime, but be thankful Job’s not enrolled in your practice: his problems were too many to count! He lost his fortune, his children died in a storm – and he got an incurable rash! So yes, Job naturally had a lot of questions for God.

It’s always nice to give clients clarity, and patients good answers. (Dr Luke’s latest answer is caffeine for pain relief!) But when God finally shows up in chapter 38, He gives Job no answers – just a barrage of questions, including this one: Can you tie up Matariki’s chains? Or undo Orion’s belt?

Maybe we can relate to poor Job. Suffering can seem like a riddle. Perhaps this Matariki you have similar unanswered questions. In my line of work, there’s been many a time where I’ve driven home with unanswerable questions. Why did it have to be stage 4 cancer? Why this family and not that one?

[No easy answers]

One thing we learn from this whakatauki (saying) on Matariki is that it’s OK to not have answers straight away. It might seem odd to question the limits of our knowledge: I’m sure your patients don’t walk in thinking: “I need to see a doctor who doesn’t have all the answers!” But Matariki should humble us. Can you bind those stars? No! None of us are good at everything. I may be familiar with the Bible, but I can’t auscultate for chips. You’re some of the smartest people serving in Meadowbank, yet you still google for help during some of your cases! It’s OK not to have all the answers straight away. So this Matariki, I plan to fly kites with my kids and leave the messages unread. We can enjoy some rest this holiday, even if our to-do lists are unfinished. You can have a coffee with a struggling friend, leave their tough questions unanswered, and just be present.

Job’s whirlwind encounter with God didn’t turn him into an expert. Yet he was transformed. While Job never got all his questions answered (and nor do we), the next time he saw Matariki rising, he was wiser from his encounter with Te Ihōwa Atua, the LORD God who made the stars (Gen 1:17) and asks this simple question:

E taea rānei e koe te here te huihui o Matariki?
Can you bind the chains of Matariki?

[One stellar answer]

Every time I gaze into the stars on my morning run, I have many unanswered questions. Yet I see the fingerprints of a Maker who loves me and sent His Son to rescue me.

Because many generations after Job’s Matariki moment, a different star led some wise men to the town of Bethlehem. Some of you will know this story. But in this Middle Eastern town still surrounded by soldiers today, the night sky gave one answer to the many questions these magi had. “Where is the King?” they had asked. “For we have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2).

But instead of a god of their own imagining, they come face to face with the boy Jesus. Ihu Karaiti. Descended from kings. A “Bright Star” for dark times: born in Bethlehem, lived in Galilee, died in Jerusalem, rose again to give life everlasting. For Christians, this Jesus is the Bright Morning Star. Our Matariki. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Mt 2:10) And if joy sounds too good to be true, talk to someone about it. Find a Wayfinder for your spiritual journey. Can we bind the chains of Matariki? No. But can they point us to the King of Kings? Can I encourage you, don’t leave that question unanswered. Ngā mihi o Matariki, te tau hou Māori. Tēnā koutou.

For Reflection:

  1. How will you enjoy this Matariki holiday? What will you leave unfinished and unanswered to do so?
  2. What hard questions are you facing in your practice / family / life? What will help you, like Job, be OK about not having all the answers?
  3. How can the stars (or who they point to) humble you or change your perspective?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *