The Scripture Readings for this week are:
1 Corinthians 9:16-27
The Sermon Title is A Man for All Seasons??
Early Thoughts: Can you truly be all things for all people? Should you even try?
This section of Paul's letter follows on a number of verses where Paul is defending the fact that the communities he has founded provide him with material/financial support (apparently there were some in the Corinthian community who took offense at this). But in these verses he takes a bit of a new tack.
Paul can be a difficult person to understand. He can be a difficult person to agree with. But it is undeniable that both the book of Acts and Paul's own letters (along with the traditions of the church) make a clear statement that Paul was very accomplished at sharing his message in a way that reached whatever community he was speaking to at the time.
In these verses Paul claims that this ability to tailor his message to specific audiences comes from his ability to see life as they see it. He claims he can be a man for all seasons, a part of any community, he can (in his words) be all things to all people.
Paul casts this as a sign of his freedom/enslavement in the Gospel. But modern thought would tell us that trying to be all things for all people generally won't work. Do that and you come across as insincere. People want to know the REAL you, not some face you put on like a mask.
And yet I wonder. Some of our most "successful" politicians are successful precisely because they can make the common populace feel like he/she is "one of them"--even when looking at basic facts and statistics make it openly clear that they are not from the same background, socio-economic status, or world. To be an effective leader and communicator you have to get to know the people with whom you work. You have to know what concerns they have, what questions they ask, what language they use. This, I think, is what Paul did so well. There is no sign that Paul was being insincere or non-genuine (although he may well have been accused of doing so). But he was able to take the pulse of a community and translate his message into that idiom.
ANd so the challenge I lay before all of us is to figure out how to be a person for all seasons, to be "one of the boys", to make connections witht he people with whom we work. If we want to communicate we have no choice.