Every month, on the 3rd Sunday, the documentaries of Présence Protestante make us discover the Protestant world: testimonies of the grace of God, portraits of those who share it, who live it, who give birth to it.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1
Maeva, manava, of the Church of God which is in Polynesia, to those who have been sanctified in Jesus Christ, called to be saints, and to all who in any place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Be, dear reader, dear reader, welcome among the Maohi people. The people of French Polynesia salute you.
Many of you know our big island, Tahiti, by name, but few have made the trip as we are so far from France. From the metropolis, it takes almost two days by plane to come and meet us. Our islands are in the middle of the South Pacific. The largest, Papeete, is 16 km from Besançon. Our lands in French Polynesia form an Overseas Country (POM) of 121 archipelagos and 5 islands. We know each other so little...
These few lines could have been written by Mitema Tapati, pastor of the Maohi Protestant Church, one of the speakers in Julie Clavier's documentary, God, creation and the Polynesians.
To greet and meet, we must adapt our words. “In the beginning was the Word”. What was that Word? French ? Maohi? Certainly not. What is this Word for us? How do I translate these words into my story today? What meaning to give them?
Reading the Bible and living the Word of God is, like young Samuel, moving three times: in time, in space, and by responding to God's call.
First, in time: two thousand years ago did words have the meaning we give them today? Then in space: are the words Bethel or Jerusalem transposable to reality, for example, Besançon or Issoudun? The third movement is that of the call of God. Take the example of the Last Supper: in Polynesia, there is little wheat and few vines. How, then, to share the bread and wine of the Last Supper so that it makes sense? Did Jesus ask that we drink romanée conti or rather new beaujolais? Is it unfair, as is the practice in some churches, to share grape juice?
Here is another example, quite classic, but worth recalling: if I read to my Inuit friend the seventh verse of Psalm 51 “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Chances are he'll ask me, "What kind of snow is this verse talking about?" And if I read this same verse to my other Chadian friend, he will just ask me: "What are you talking about?" »
The call of God in our lives is not linked to an AOC, a territory or a climate. It is not a custom, or a cultural practice. It is no better cultivated on the banks of the Doubs than in Bora Bora. “God's love and mercy are not limited to a few glasses of wine,” says Pastor Tapati. He knows neither place nor time, he does not know us, individually, like Samuel, without Elijah.
God, creation and the Polynesians speaks to us about this, about this fine line between the literal application of the Word of Life and politically correct acculturation to local customs and traditions. Where should the cursor be placed in the relationship to the land between reasonable ecology and pagan devotion? What to do with the relationship to the ancestors? Should we consider the deceased with respect, as we respect Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or any creature of God? Or should we, for fear of an unhealthy relationship with the dead, subscribe to a cancel culture that would cut off all roots?
Said like that, the stakes seem clear. On the Polynesian islands, they are not. And, come to think of it, it's kind of the same thing all over the world.
I was very moved by the first episode of the second season of The Chosen. It opens and closes with this magnificent verse from the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word is God. It is not a word, a grape variety or a culture. She is the one who “is”. To live in us, it must be revealed.
God, creation and the Polynesians, a documentary by Julie Clavier, produced by About productions and france.tv studio.
Christophe Zimmerlin, for Protestant Presence