Reflections by Rev Dr Paul Tonson - Interim Minister

Faith is Mind Changing - 21 February 2021

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Faith is Mind Changing

As a child, at home and church I learnt all about Jesus! But only in my -teens when I read the gospel with new eyes, was I deeply and permanently captivated by this man. His being his own man struck me. I wanted to have the same integrity and strength.  His story set me thinking.

Jesus was a sign of contradiction, as Simeon pronounced at his Temple presentation. His parents were perplexed by the independence of their young teenager; his ‘church’ friends were first amazed then angry; when Jesus talked with strangers, like the woman of Samaria the disciples wondered why. So did she! The Pharisees  saw him as a dangerous pied piper. He boldly quoted scripture and then said; ‘But I say..’

The gospels say that both John and Jesus preached repentance. This is not about being a groveling sinner. No!  it is about thinking differently, The Greek metanoia is literally a change of mind. At the heart of our faith tradition is the challenge to think differently.  What about?

1. Seeing others differently is one of our journeys, the Indigenous, the Catholic, the Buddhist, the refugees, the ‘deplorables’. Are we able to see the potential, the holy in the lives of others who are different, and support change to assist them.

2. Thinking about ourselves differently as a congregation:  In Lilydale, a lay preacher once affirmed: ‘We don’t do nice’ eg to please others, instead we aim to be candid and real, to own and love our differences as gift. We are not gate keepers of divine salvation but pilgrims with all people on a path of shared wisdom and mutual learning. 

3. Thinking of oneself differently. Maybe with Barak Obama ‘Yes we can’ – EVERYONE has capacity to enrich others and to change the world. Maybe to live simply that others may simply live, a favourite of Ghandi.

4. Think of the natural world differently, save threatened species, reduce our carbon emissions, plant a tomato in the flowerbed, install solar, ride a bicycle, take the tram.

5. Think differently about our pain. During Lent we ponder the way that Jesus’ provocations took him to an early death. Like him each of us has been misunderstood and hurt by good people. Lent is a time to see our pain as the potential for more sensitivity and more fruitful living.

As we change our thinking about our pain we will experience what Jesus said to many: Your faith has made you whole’. We will become whole people enriched by both joys and pain.

Like Jesus, may we see the divine in the life of every other person. May Jesus never cease to be a sign of contradiction to us. May we rise above every trial by choosing faith and hope for living, as we follow in the way of Jesus. 

“I’m changing my mind!”

Image by Brainless Tales:

Light & Sound Show - Light through Listening - 14 February 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021
Were you sorry there were no fireworks at New Years?     We were in the city to see the lights on the State Library. They were memorable. But what the disciples saw was phenomenal. To them Jesus was already a shooting star but in this story he is especially transformed before their eyes. What was the point?
Here as in other texts, the light theme interplays with sound, seeing with hearing. The conclusion states the reasons for the light show: ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’   
There is prequel to this story which helps us interpret it. In the story of the baptism of Jesus, a similar divine word is addressed only to him: ‘You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased’. Now on the mountain the divine voice addresses the disciples and the world: ‘This is my beloved son; listen to him.’
Hearing the word is reinforced by the presence of Moses representing the Torah, the Jewish teaching heritage, and again by Elijah representing the prophets who interpret events. 
Somehow John’s gospel missed this story. But John chapter 1 presents the same understanding: Jesus becomes both the Word and the Light of the world! Seeing and Hearing. Seeing Jesus lit up won’t mean much to us unless we hear what he has to say.
After years of counselling ‘listening for feelings’, a mentor of mine affirmed that behind every feeling is a thought. What we listen to can change our thoughts and then our feelings and all of life.  We choose the messages to which we listen, such as Neil Mitchell or Virginia Trioli. The gospel invites us to tune in to a message of forgiveness and hope and be changed by it.
But now, what more do the disciples have to hear? They’ve heard his parables. They’ve accepted him as God’s anointed. They’ve heard him speak of ‘Easter’ - rejection, Cross and resurrection. They have already heard the challenge to lose their lives in order to save them.              
We also have heard it all before. What more is there for us to hear? Matthew provides one answer.
He is bold enough to tell us: ‘You are the light of the world.’ Is there anything more profound, more challenging. Jesus did not hog all the light! Nor did he take on all the responsibility! Have we listened to this message? “Greater things you will do.”
The Latin word ‘transfiguration’ seems to emphasize a change in appearance. But the Greek word ‘metamorphosis’ means a change in form. We all know the story of the caterpillar, cacoon and butterfly. May we take the metamorphosis of Jesus as a metaphor for our own enlightening transformation when we listen and hear at depth the radical message he left us.
At age 22 I was in a student share house with 3 guys and 2 girls. Tricia was bright and a great debater but for 7 months I thought she was plain, until suddenly she was something else! I would like each of us to have the same ‘a ha’ moment of seeing ourselves differently.
In the story, Peter, James and John are as usual out of their depth. Later in the darkness of Gethsemane they fell asleep at the time most critical for Jesus. We also may hear a lot of deep truth but still not let it touch us in a transforming way. 
To help us avoid this, our services will feature conversations with other voices. Let us renew our journey as a congregation with a new intention to listen and hear the hopeful truth of our own lives and of others and to be changed by it.


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

St David's Centre
cnr Burke & Mont Albert Rds
Canterbury VIC

Habitat Spirituality Centre
@ Augustine

2 Minona St, Hawthorn VIC

Kew Uniting Church
23 Highbury Grove