Epiphany 6A’20
16 February 2020
I Cor. 3.1-9; Matt.5.21-37
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

“For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Amen. – I Cor. 3.9

My family and me enjoy some of the cooking shows like Master Chef, and Master Chef Jr., that are created and produced by the world-renowned chef, Gordon Ramsey.  One of his new productions is a show called “24 Hours to Hell and Back Again.” Ramsey and his design and culinary crew travel in a huge tractor trailer rig that features a world class kitchen on wheels. They scour the country for restaurants that are struggling and they actually go to them, where they sample their food, inspect their kitchens, and meet with the staff to see if they can identify some of the causes for the restaurant tanking, and to provide possible solutions.  Incidentally, Ramsey and his crew recently came to, are you ready for this, Maumelle, AR to a restaurant on the Blvd. called “SoBo’s.” The show aired recently and you can see it on the Fox Network or on Hulu.

Some common themes that were sabotaging many of these restaurants was lack of vision, many of them were family owned and had been started by a family patriarch or matriarch and it was successful for years, but somewhere along the way they lost sight of their founding principles.  Another contributing factor was the building wasn’t being very well loved and the furnishings were outdated. Frequently at the root of the troubles was jealousy, and quarrelling, among co-workers, and owners who were often family members.  The menus were overcrowded and they were attempting to offer too many dishes that resulted in poorly prepared meals.  The kitchens were frequently filthy, with bins of rancid food, and there were budget issues pressing in on them.

Ramsey’s goal is to come in and make sufficient changes in 24hrs that would give the restaurant a fighting chance to succeed again. The design team would clear all the furniture out and give the dining rooms a facelift. The staff would give the kitchen a thorough cleaning. Gordon, almost like a therapist would interview owners, managers, and employees to identify conflicts and attempt to resolve them. At the end of the 24hrs, the same customers from the night before were invited back to experience the newly decorated space, with improved atmosphere and service, and to sample the food. You should check out SoBo’s and see what they’ve done with the place! There are mostly positive comments on social media about the place now. Gordon Ramsey and his crew couldn’t force new customers to come in, but they focused on creating a healthier environment where growth is now much more likely.

I couldn’t help but notice some parallels between the TV show and with St. Paul’s message to the Corinthian church and for that matter, most churches. At Corinth there had been quarrelling and jealousy running rampant. Different factions attempted to gain control, there was a group that was for Apollos, a group that was for Paul. They had lost sight of what they were about –spiritual growth in soul and in the body of believers. They were immature and Paul compared them to infants in need of milk, rather than adults ready for meat.

Rather than remaining polarized and quarrelsome – Paul invited them to step up to higher ground, to feed their souls on spiritual meat and to join with God in partnership. He wasn’t fixated on numerical growth nor was he all that worried about growing in numbers because he knew that making growth happen was above his paygrade. He told them, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose.”  Growth is a byproduct of a group of people who have joined with one another and with God as partners and co-workers. For we are God’s servants, working together, this working together in the Greek language the New Testament was written in uses the word synergoi, where our English word, synergy comes from.  Synergy is: “the extra energy, power, success, etc. that is achieved by two or more people, companies or elements working together, instead of on their own.”[1] We can’t make anything grow, but what we can do are two things, we can plant seeds, and we can water seeds. We can join together with God and one another and plant and water the good seed of the Gospel. The Gospel is the most relevant thing we have to share. And as I have often said, ‘there are Episcopalians all around us, they just don’t know it yet.’

Our Keynote speaker at diocesan convention this weekend was the Rev. Nurya Love Parrish, and growing up she was one of those Episcopalians who just hadn’t known it. Nurya was born into a non-Christian/non-religious home and as she grew older, she discovered she had a sharp and inquisitive mind, and knew that she wasn’t interested in Christianity or any other religion. The reason for her not being a Christian was because the Christians she had met and been exposed to (more of the fundamental type) had told her that she had to make a choice between critical inquiry (meaning the freedom to doubt, question and explore) or religious faith, it couldn’t be both, or so she had been told. At the age of 25 she met some Episcopalians who not only had no problem with critical inquiry but said that their Episcopalian Christian faith encouraged it. She took classes to prepare herself and then was baptized, from that moment on her life started being transformed. She said that she would probably have become a Christian much sooner if someone had told her about their faith, and how there was room for her questions and doubts.   

Well, are you ready to plant? Are ready to water? I’m so glad you are because our ushers are coming down the aisle and they are passing out flower seeds – Zinnia seeds to be exact. I would like for us each to take the seeds home and to plant them in small peat pots or in a small milk carton like we used to do in school. Right before we enter the season of Lent, I’m going to ask you to tend your little flower plants. Make sure they get plenty of sun, and keep them watered. While we are tending our flowers, I want us to be mindful of the seeds we have to plant in the lives of those around us, someone we work with, longtime friends that have given up on the church, a stranger that God brings across our path. Treat them kindly, Invite them to St. Luke’s, invite them into our welcoming, loving, safe place where they can be fed and watered, and nurtured. And on Easter Sunday bring your flowers to church. Pot them in something that you can transport in and we will offer them to God as a sign of the new growth that God will bring as we join God and as we join each other in our common purpose, listen as I pray these very familiar words, and as I read them may we hear them with new ears, and may God bring them to life in us: “Almighty and ever living God, we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom. And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.[2]


[1] https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/synergy

[2] The Book of Common Prayer, p.366