February 17, 2020
Scripture 1 Corinthians 3:1-11
“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.”
1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NRSV
Often, we get a bit bogged down in the details of what we are doing. A garden plot takes a bit of planning, some time, and a lot of determination. If you want ripe tomatoes in June or July, you had better start on that project in early spring. And, that is just the beginning of things: there are decisions to make about unwanted plants and insects and how to deal with them. Do we apply external nutrients and pesticides that can produce some harm to ourselves or to the environment? It is difficult, because few, if any, of us like shriveled tomatoes or the destruction brought on by tomato worms. If tomatoes are to grow to full maturity, they need help!
In the scripture above, the apostle Paul is seeing trouble at a church he founded. He skillfully uses these images of planting, watering, and growing to describe the community of faith in Corinth, a principle city in Greece. In order to redirect their thinking and emotions, Paul uses the images of planting and growing to encourage and guide them through this struggle. Without spiritual direction and, perhaps, divine intervention the church will not mature or experience spiritual growth.
Paul’s words speak to us today. While we are toiling in the garden, we may start to take credit for the bountiful changes that we see developing when the growth process is really a mystery. This is part of God’s wonder of Creation. In a similar way, Paul is quick to point out that in worship and service, and in our growing faith and commitment, the workers are simply part of the setting: They also are part of Creation, brought about through God’s power.
Paul planted, the talented speaker Apollos watered, but it was God that gave the growth. May we always look up from our labors to acknowledge the source of all that we are and all that we do. For, all glory goes to God.