Reflections by Rev Dr Paul Tonson - Interim Minister

Relinquishment - The Pathway of Faith

Friday, April 02, 2021

‘Letting go’ can be agonizing, and yet to do so is precisely the invitation of this day, Good Friday. Three years ago when we moved house, we had over 100 wine cartons of stuff. But we had also got rid of a comparable amount. When we move house, we discover how attached we are to our books and pictures, our garden, even the house itself. Some are attached to work and cannot cope with retirement. Moving church is hard when we are overly attached to this place full of memories. At a deeper level we are attached to our familiar beliefs and prejudices, some about others, some about ourselves. Can we get free?

‘Letting go’ is a major theme throughout the Bible. Adam and Eve had to leave the garden – no comfort zone; Noah and family left the ark – a new life must be established; Abram and Sarah left Ur – each generation makes its own way; the Israelites left Egypt – sometimes we have to take flight and create a new space; the Jews went into exile in Babylon. Simon and Andrew left their nets. They began to live out Jesus’ message of repentance as a change of mind.

The same happened to the thief in De Mello’s story. Seeing how Nagarjuna readily gave up his precious Golden Bowl, he realized what he really wanted was not a thing but a new knowledge and attitude, not something outward but something internal. Isn’t this what draws us to Jesus – to learn a new way of looking at things, a new way of being ourselves, of being together? 

We recall today that Jesus faced the ultimate relinquishment that is Death. It seems he was reconciled to this fate. Sadly the gospel was soon boxed into the message that Jesus died for our sins (Rom 5:6) because we were dead in our sins. We may not find this meaningful. However, dying to self is an ethic of lasting value shown in both the death and the life of Jesus. Shall we follow it?

For St Paul it meant dying to the law, to the flesh and sin, but this dying was a transforming liberation making him alive to the Spirit. Paul affirmed the ironic truth Jesus taught: ‘He who would save his life will lose it, but he who will lose his life for my sake and the gospel will save it.’ Have we discovered this truth?

Baptism by immersion is the great sign of our living out this dying Way of Jesus. Going down we die; under the water we are buried, then we emerge to new possibilities. The self-giving life and death of Jesus means that he was never a victim of circumstances but master of them. Inspired by him we can be the same. Are we going to keep sitting around mending our nets to keep our old life going, our old church? Or are we going to take the road less travelled by into a new future of adventure, faith and freedom?  It will be OK



Some years ago, ‘Leave your nets, follow me’ was a synod theme and nets were named: being tied to pews, traditional music, meeting on Sunday mornings, dependence on the minister, religious talk, prejudice against people of other cultures.

Let us name the nets that hold us back from adventurous faith - as a congregation

May we relinquish churchy ways of thinking that others do not understand.

May we relinquish anything that is merely familiar and comfortable for us and no longer life giving.

May we have freedom in worship to draw on both old and new patterns and resources, and on the gifts and energies of old and new people.

May we relinquish attachment to church property and make the perimeter of our space entirely open and not separating us as a ghetto in the community.

Let us name the nets that hold us back as individuals

May our attachment to the adventurous Way of Jesus enable us

to relinquish our emotional attachment to all material things and to stand up again and live hopefully regardless of any grief and loss

to relinquish long held prejudices about other people close to us

to relinquish self-doubt and fear that inhibits our close relationships and the use of our gifts and resources to make a difference in the world.

May relinquishment from a survival mentality and self-centeredness free us so that the rich resources of life experience enable others around to stand up again.


Habitat Uniting Church Office
2 Minona Street, Hawthorn VIC
phone 9819 2844

St David's Centre
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Canterbury VIC

Habitat Spirituality Centre
SWell Centre (Ex Augustine)

2 Minona St, Hawthorn VIC

Kew Uniting Church
23 Highbury Grove