Epiphany 6A (Proper 1)
Sunday February 13, 2011
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
The Garden of Good
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready,for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 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, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. Since Leanne and I and the kids have moved into the house we built in April last year, we have been going about the task of establishing our garden. Of course, as a bloke I am most interested in the growth of the lawn. I think I like lawn because I get to use power tools on it often – my Dad’s big reel mower and the 1000W whipper snipper!
Leanne, however, is into flowers, trees and veges. But given our different interests and way of going about things, we are still on the same page. We both want the garden to grow and be healthy. Over this summer it has been my goal to help our rather water deprived new lawn establish itself. At the same time, Leanne has been planting all this stuff and tending it regularly. It is quite a pleasure of an evening to both be doing our own thing in the back yard, planting, watering, seeing some results, but also wishing there were more immediate results at times too.
I wonder whether that desire to see fast results is the beginning something unhealthy or ungrateful towards God? Paul speaks of this planting and watering imagery in our text as he tries to help the people in the Corinthian community deal with some unhealthy things that have beset them. He paints that beautiful picture of people working together in a garden with the same purpose – one planting, one watering: Each person labouring; putting in time, work, thought – in different ways but for the same purpose. The interesting thing is that he says while this is the vision for the Christian community to live in, it is always God who actually makes the thing grow. It is only God who has the authority and power to make a thing grow – or make a community healthy and full of colour and life – like our garden! Even though Paul says that the Christian community is at its best and its most healthy when people are planting the seeds of faith and nurturing those seeds with one purpose and with the good of the whole community in mind, he then has to name some unhealthy things that must have been happening in the Corinthian church. There seems to be people taking sides on some issues. People seem to be so entrenched in their disagreements that they have begun to use Paul, Apollosand Peter who at various times led this community into existence as the authority behind their strong stand against the other side of the argument they were obviously having. That would be like me telling Leanne that Dr Phil says that gardening is bad for you and that she is doing it wrong – not according to the Dr Phil handbook and Leanne telling me that I am doing it all wrong because I have no idea about lawn because I have not read the “10 steps to healthy lawn” book by the Garden guru! If we held that line then we would not be planting and watering with common purpose and our garden would suffer and so would we. The enterprise of working with God in the establishment of a lovely garden (because only he gives the growth) would be hard, disagreeable and actually life-taking, not life giving. Same with what we are involved in here in this community and in our families and jobs as disciples of Jesus. If for whatever reason we stop working for the common good and mostly work for ourselves in God’s mission to make this community and our families beautiful gardens of colour and life and healthy growth, we will do great harm to the planting and watering of the precious seed of the gospel of Jesus, and harm to the people in whom it is seeded.
But here is the thing: our waywardness or disagreement or lack of understanding about the seed, or where and how to plant it or where and how to nurture it for healthy growth in the garden of our family and community does not mean that God stops growth and healthy community and life growing. Sure, our arguments and disunity can hinder the growth, but God does not withhold the growth, however slow it may be in unhealthy conditions.
Despite the conflict and sometimes hurtful words and actions that we are capable of doing and saying that hinder the planting and seeding and growing process of God, God still tells us who we are. We are… “……. God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building”.
And that is who we are now: God’s servants. We are God’s people whom he is calling to get on with the life-long business of giving our lives in service to the garden God is growing – a garden of people – people needing the word of Jesus to planted and nurtured within.
It is a good garden. It is a garden with colour and life and an eternal future. It is a diverse garden – different kinds of plants, but all with their place and their purpose – from ground cover to shade and a place for the birds.
Friends, we serve the Lord in his garden. He gives the growth. Our task is to plant and water together and in as much harmony and common purpose as we can muster. In this way the seeds of the good news take root and people receive the living water they need and the community of God grows and lives in his power and life.
We are God’s field.. So, in as much as it is up to you, plant well water well, and together with others in God’s garden of good – his good and life-giving purposes.