St. Mary Nanoose Bay 

January 27, 2019

1st Corinthians 12:12-31

    Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.               Some time ago I attended a clergy meeting. I carpooled to the meeting with several people. At the end of the day, we climbed into the car to head back down island. Someone asked, “Well, how was that?” And in quick succession came these 3 answers: “Great, boring, and distressing.”            

How could that be? We were all at the same event! We all heard the same speakers, participated in the same Eucharist, sang the same hymns, and chose from the same food.            

How many of you saw the movie Roshomon released in the 1950’s?  In it, four people witness and describe a murder in four mutually contradictory ways making you think that each person had witnessed a completely different event.            

Our experiences in life are based on a couple of things (at least): our past experience and our current needs. For instance, with a dog, if I raise my hand, what will the dog do? If it has been beaten in the past, it will run and hide under the chair. Or, conversely, if it has been raised in a loving home that raised hand may mean a ball is going to be thrown and the dog will crouch down ready to run and play catch.  But if the dog has been working the farm all morning, or it is not feeling well, it may need to rest and won’t want to play.            

Back to our clergy gathering…. as a parish priest at a table of others who shared openly and supportively I found the day enjoyable and informative.  For those who work as chaplains in prison and hospitals, much of what was covered had little relevance for them and they felt left out of the conversation. And for a very few, there was a dissention at one of the tables and no one seemed to have the conflict resolution skills to bring about understanding and compassion. Those  people were left feeling disillusioned and frustrated.            

Those of us in the car had the luxury of seeing the day from each other’s point of view and experience, and were thus enriched. But so often people leave gatherings alone with no one to debrief; or if they do, conversation can descend into gossip or disrespect.            

We all have our own perspective, or point of view. That’s what makes life interesting. When we can see this, we move beyond right/wrong thinking into the rich world of diversity. A diversity that God created!            

Being willing to be open to seeing people and situations from different perspectives enables us to be discerning and compassionate, and we come to understand that we are part of something larger than ourselves.            

In today’s reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul offers us the image of a body to convey this idea; a body where each part of the body has an important function, each part has its own experience, and each part is dependent on the whole. This body is Christ’s body and in this body, everyone belongs, everyone is included.            

This is the one body we sing about, pray as, live into. As we learn to see people and life through God’s eyes, not as good or bad, but as members of the one body, we support others, encourage others, learn from others. We see others’ health as important to our own well being. We stop comparing ourselves; we stop competing. We get curious.            

Because when you are a foot, walking on pilgrimage, your experience is going to be very different than your eyes that are enjoying the land you are walking through.  When you are a heart yearning and pounding, your arms and lips are going to be very important allies in helping you express your love.  When your ears don’t work so well anymore, it’s your eyes that will assist you to make out what others are saying. A body working together can do marvellous things!            

Where we are physically and developmentally can determine how we view the body. If we are in Syria watching women and children being bombed to bits, we might have a despairing view of the body and its ability and willingness to work together. But if we live in a part of the world where we have enough to eat and our children can attend school in safety,  we have a different view of the body; all is well, life is good, the body is thriving.            

Jesus came to tell us to pay attention to the whole body; and prepared us so that when he would no longer be with us; it would our hands, words, feet that would carry his message of love, forgiveness and freedom out to the world. Paul reminds us that we are all part of the body; we are essential to the well-being of the whole, and this sense of well-being embodies a message to the world. God’s own, God’s beloved.            

We are sitting here this morning being asked to remember who we are. Through words, music, silence, prayer, liturgy, we are invited  to remember that we have been made in love, for love. We are created for relationship; with God, with neighbour. In loving our neighbour as ourself, we discover the mutuality and reciprocity of life, the divine giving and receiving that sustains, energizes and cares for all.            

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” We go beyond that kind of thinking; no wall can keep out the sounds of suffering in the world, no fence can keep the pollution of the world from us. We now know how small our world is, how decisions made on one side of the planet affect the lives of those on the other side, how plastic collects in the waters we all share, how the internet allows for good connections and horrendous crimes that affect us all.            

We are one body; here at St. Mary’s and in the world. And as the Body of Christ, we are being asked to “have the same care for one another” that we would have for our own family; because our own family is simply a taste of the larger body to which we belong.            

Here at St. Mary’s we are learning how to live into this body; to bump up against the different parts, the different experiences and different perspectives in order to smooth off our own rough edges, our harsh judgments, our impulse to defend ourselves. And in the process we become an example of how people can live together, love together and thrive together.            

This is the building up of the kingdom. Helping everyone know they belong, helping everyone find their unique way to contribute so that the body can become healthy and work well in concert.            

Because the one who is the head of the body, Christ, came for each one of us, and for all of us, to help us realize who we are, and who God is, and what we have to do and be.            

There is one bread, one body, one Lord of all. Amen.