Yesterday at our final combined service for January at Glenfield Community Church, we sang the National Anthem as part of our worship, including the 1st verse in Maori but with all of the English verses. Of course, many in our society find reasons to dislike God Defend New Zealand because basically it's a prayer that acknowledges God, one of the reasons I actually like it.
However, some of the words of the original poem are certainly mysterious or anachronistic and belong in a previous era, which we are reminded of when we sing the whole thing. For instance, what is 'New Zealand's triple star'? No one can be sure. As for 'Guide her in the nation's van', as a child singing this anthem my very visual imagination saw some suitably intrepid folk guiding us in an actual van.
What I think the poem/prayer actually means is an invocation of God to be in the vanguard or forefront of our nation, actively leading and guiding those charged with governing us. I'm reminded of the pillar of cloud or fire guiding the Israelites through the Exodus wilderness. With God in the van no-one gets lost (In theory). This seems an appropriate prayer in a week when we have had a sudden change of prime minister and deputy. Also there is nothing stopping us, particularly as Christians, to exercise a positive, prayerful influence where we are able, thus contributing to the spiritual and material health of Aotearoa ourselves. We can be in the van to some degree.
Let's speak plainly at the beginning of 2023. Driving home the other night I saw a van with the registration plate VAN. Talk about stating the obvious. Let's own our collective registration plate CHURCH. This week I'm preaching on 'those who are called' from 1 Corinthians chapter 1. The Christian gospel may seem like foolishness in our society, but it is wisdom and life to God's people. In 2023 let's make sure God is in the front seat of the van, leading and guiding us into our spiritual calling.