Flying kites

sermon audio for ‘Flying kites’ by Martin Malina

For one week in August every year the community at Long Beach in Washington State hosts a kite festival. Tens of thousands of people from the Pacific North West and across the continent travel to the Peninsula to witness a beautiful thing: hundreds of kites painting the skies along the long and wide beachfront. 

My family and I were there the week before the festival began, and already we saw several enthusiasts testing their wares and skills at kite-flying.

Practising my faith is like flying a kite. I don’t make the kite fly. But without me doing something, the kite won’t fly. Somehow I must hold the tension in my hands. 

It’s scary. Jessica flew a couple small kites. So did I. When I held the line taut as the wind took it, I realized that flying a kite requires being able to read the wind, know its direction, and respond to its fluctuations in order to launch it and keep the kite afloat. Sometimes it pulls hard, unexpectedly. It is also scary, knowing that if you let go of the string, all is lost—literally. We have to hang on!

A life of faith is not passive. Even though living out our faith isn’t about us, we do play an important role in the much bigger picture. We have a job to do. 

On the other hand, we ruin it if we do too much, move around too much. We need to let the wind and the kite do their jobs, first. Christian faith becomes ineffective when we over do it, over-function, over-react, assuming it’s all up to us. We’ll just end up spinning our wheels and burning out despairing and exhausted from all the effort. 

In a life of faith, we need to live in that tension between giving up completely, and staying in the game. How do we live in that tension, that balance between active and passive, doing and being, taking the initiative and letting go?

Jesus instructs his followers in today’s Gospel “to give up all your possessions.”[1] A challenging word for us, today. And it’s not just one or two things. We can’t compartementalize our possessions. Give up all of it. 

The religious word for letting go is the word, “forgiveness”.[2] The question, then, turns from just material possessions to the state of our soul—our heart and mind, our attitude, our interior state of being. So, what is forgiveness?

We pray together, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” An older version of the Lord’s Prayer goes, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those endebted to us.” This talk of ‘debt’ is helpful and reflects the agrarian culture and economy of Jesus’ day, over two thousand years ago in Palestine when this prayer was first given.

In the bible, forgiveness resulted in forgiving debt. On a regular, cyclical, basis the land and all who were dependent on it were called to forgive. Let the land rest and go fallow for a year. Let those who work it be released, set free, from their endebtedness to you and the land.

This concept of “Jubilee” originated in the Hebrew scriptures out of which Jesus taught.[3]Forgiveness was a radical departure from productivity which is primarily interested in accumulation, profit and securing material possesions for oneself and one’s own.

Forgiveness begins by letting go of our continual drive for private, individual interest and gain. Closely tied to the concept of sabbath, forgiveness calls us to give from a place of release and rest. 

In all our relationships—economic, personal, family, friendships, work, school—we let go of, or at least loosen, our grip on all that we hold onto so tightly in order to give of ourselves and be generous in all our dealings with those around us.

How do we do that? Good question.

On our last day on the Washington coast, we were at Kalaloch Beach, home of the Tree of Life. As we made our way down to the beach—a good distance from us still—we noticed a solitary kite flying high above. But for the longest time we couldn’t see who, in fact, was flying the kite.

Once on the beach, we headed toward where the kite string was moored. To our surprise the kite string was tied securely to a post sticking out of the sand at the high tide water mark. No one, in fact, was flying the kite.

The winds along the coast blow almost constantly. You don’t even need to manoever the kite to keep it afloat—the winds are that strong. The persistent, relentless breezes maintain a kite’s lift and place in the sky. 

The only thing you would really need to do, for the most part, is decide at the onset how far out you wish to draw the string, how high you want your kite to fly. Once the end is secured to the post, it will fly for a very long time without you even needing to do anything.

Letting go of all your possessions is fundamentally an interior movement of the heart we call ‘trust’. Trusting something bigger than you and your efforts. This interior state of trust, then, leads to our generous, compassionate behaviour with others.

Letting go of all your possessions means forgiveness. And it’s not just a one-off – not just in one situation or with one person. Not just on Sunday mornings with our friends. But it’s curating a life of forgiveness on a daily basis, nurturing a regular pattern of forgiveness – in all our ordinary cirumstances and with others we encounter.

So, this letting go is meant to be practiced. Very few of us are born to do it naturally or easily. We need to practice—in the way we pray, in the way we manage what we have, in the way we spend our money, in the way we relate with those closest to us including with ourselves and with God.

And God’s Spirit will continue to blow, persitently, relentlessly, through all our mistakes and missteps, despite and because of our failures. The Spirit of God will always blow through the land, lifting us and all our honest and humble efforts to meet God, lifting us to respond to God’s grace and love in our lives.


[1] Luke 14:33

[2] Richard Rohr, “Letting Go of Our Innocence” in Daily Meditations (www.cac.org, 5 August 2022)

[3] In Leviticus 25, we find the first reference to Jubilee, as part of the law given by God to the Israelites. These verses describe God’s intent that the Israelites should remain free from slavery for all time by instituting a Sabbath year every seven years.