1 CORINTHIANS 3: 1-9     

Holy One, let my words be clear to those who listen to them as they come from my heart.  In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Hey, check out the palace on the top of hill—what a view!

We are fortunate to have a roof over our heads when there are so many sleeping in the streets.  And look what’s out in front of that palace.  What a ride and what horsepower!

We are just lucky to have sandals on our feet to carry us to the market.  They spend more money than we would ever see just on a woman for a night, and there is plenty of that going on.  Their wives better not say a word either.  Those who have got it, flaunt it while we have barely enough to eat much less money to throw around on wild nights out on the town.

I think those that just do their bidding, take care of them and live in their house have it better than we do!

You are so right, sister!!

Where would you think this conversation between two people walking along the street together might be taking place?  Vegas? L.A.? Miami?  New York?

Would you believe Corinth probably in the mid 50’s CE?  Did you like the “what a ride and what horsepower” for a description of the chariot?  Historians have described Corinth at that time as a town of approximately 650,000 people with a socio-economic status probably similar to the cities I mentioned right here in the United States.  It was what we might call a happening place in its time!

In our Epistle today Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians that he cannot talk to them as spiritual people, because they are still people of the flesh, still quarrelling and jealous—they are still babies and certainly not ready for solid food.  They are infants in Christ.  Sound like any place you know?  He must certainly be weary of trying to teach them about the ways of Jesus because he has been working on it for a number of years, and they still don’t get it.  He tells them it is not about who belongs to whom on this earth, because that is not where it’s at or what it’s about! He goes on to share an example of the workers in a garden who plant the seeds and water the plants as they grow.  But, they are not the ones who make the plant grow.  It is only God who makes the plant grow.  The people are just the workers in God’s garden.  They are God’s servants working together; they are God’s field and God’s building.

And my friends, the “they” in “THEY” that Paul was speaking to in first Corinthians are the “WE”—you and I here today.

Now, unlike Corinth, I do not believe we are infants in Christ’s teachings. I am most proud to be a part of St. Benedict’s because I know that this is a church of action in a great many social areas whether it be helping out at the Abundance Shop to make funds available for donating to various charities in our own community and other nearby communities, or working on behalf of senior citizens, or working for the environment or working for projects helping people in need clear across the world.

And, yet, with all of that, there is always more work to do.

You might wonder what happens at a clergy conference like the one Caro+ and I just attended for three days at St. Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista.  Certainly it is a time to catch up over meals with folks that we haven’t seen who live and work at the other end of the diocese.  It is also a time to meet those new to the diocese and remember those who have gone.  It is a time to share ideas on all manner of activities and worship as well as a time for us to sing and worship together.  And, it is a time to learn some valuable information.

Bishop +Mary always has a great guest speaker who works with us each day of the conference and offers us valuable insights and ideas.  This year our speaker was a scientist, Dr. Lucas Mix who among other things has worked for NASA.  But he is a scientist who is also a priest and is currently the president of the Society of Ordained Scientists.

And, what was he trying to share with us and why was what he had to share so important particularly at a time in our country’s life when it is so necessary that what we have to say be understood in a way that engenders actual dialogue and not just shouted rhetoric?   Let me first tackle part of the “why” it was important.

Today there is a great turmoil not only in our country but unrest and upheaval that extends all over the world.  Perhaps God sent us a “wake up” call here in our country to get involved in what is going in and about our great country.  I still believe with all our faults, we are the greatest country on earth.  But perhaps we have gotten a little complacent over recent years in accepting politics as “business as usual”  So, with our wake-up call we have begun to make our voices and feelings heard in non-violent marches, speeches, and letters to those who represent us.  A lot of us are saying that we are watching what’s going on and a number of things don’t represent our country’s core values.  There needs to be more discussion and work to bring opposing sides to the table to find solutions that enable us to more forward together.

We should not be naïve to think there is a magic fix.  I am reminded of the famous words from poet John Lydgate, later adapted by President Lincoln— appearing in various permutations:  “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

My take on why that seems to be true is that God made us all different, thank goodness!  We are different, and we think differently.  But, if we are going to try to affect change, perhaps the most effective way is to talk to another one on one in some way that allows for communication with understanding.  Not just talking to shout our opinions, but talking with someone, where we listen to where they are coming from, and share where we are coming from so perhaps we can find a common path or at least a path of understanding our differences.  The whole point is not to prove we are right, because perhaps they are making very valid points that might change our minds.  In other words, we need to begin by opening that dialogue and listening as well as talking.  That is planting a seed.

Then we need to water the seed.  Which brings me to the “what” part of Rev. Dr. Mix’s presentation.

If I show you a glass that has what looks like water in it, what do you see?  How many see a glass that is half full?  How many see a glass that is half empty?  The old saying is we have an optimist and a pessimist looking at the same object.

But, even beyond that, some people might see a glass that has what looks like liquid in some kind of container and want to investigate both the liquid and the container.  Let’s call them explorers.  A lot of scientists are explorers.

What about the person who looks at the picture and says there is enough water in that glass to quench someone’s thirst.  They are thinking about the way two or more people or things are connected.  Let’s call them relational.  A lot of pastors and counselors are relational.

And then there is the person who looks at the glass and says “I need more water to fill up the glass because it needs to be full to get the maximum use out of the glass.  Let’s call that person a problem solver.  A lot of engineers are problem-solvers.

I think by now you are starting to see where this is headed.  We all look at things from different mind-sets and these are just a few of the more general categories.  And, it’s very important to remember that we are not just one mind-set all the time.  We may put our mind to work to fix our child’s bicycle in the morning and in the afternoon simply sit and listen with tissues at the ready to our teenager when she comes home to say her boyfriend broke up with her.  And knowing that most all of us move back and forth between mindsets even expands the difficulty of successfully communicating.  But, if we want to be successful, we need to work at knowing where our mindset needs to be in order to cross the bridge into another person’s head.

So knowing this you might ask what does this have to do with anything?  It has everything to do with the way we communicate with each other using language.

A priest, scientist and engineer were playing golf.  The group ahead of them was all over the place and taking forever, so they asked the groundskeeper what the problem was.  He told them that the firefighters were blind and had lost their eyesight while saving the course’s clubhouse, so the club lets them play for free.  The priest said, “I will pray for them tonight”.  The scientist said “I am going to investigate the stem cell research being done to help the blind”.  The engineer said, “Why can’t they just play at night?”

We can communicate with each other with body language such as gestures, facial expressions, and general demeanor.  But when we open our mouth and words come out, we can sound like someone from a different country speaking an entirely different language.  How many of you remember ET trying to learn all different ways to be able to say “phone home” to communicate that he wanted to go home?

So, if we view our conversation with another human being with the intent of making a connection in order to communicate our feelings or just as importantly understand their feelings, we have to think about how that other person’s mindset might understand the words that are coming out of our mouth.  We need to get on their wavelength.  The end game is to understand one another.  Are they hearing what is coming out of our heart through our mouth, and are we taking into our heart the words that are coming out of their mouth?

We are here in God’s garden to plant seeds and water them. God has given us the fertile field and the water to use.  We just need to go get the right tools to do a good job!