I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:6
At the beginning of my ministry I taught myself to cook. I was serving two small congregations in rural Maine. I was single then and rattling around the parsonage, so to keep myself occupied (and fed) I started reading various cookbooks and trying out different recipes.
I discovered I really liked to cook. I would buy the ingredients, follow the directions, and, at the end of the process, my dish either came out right or it didn’t. I liked that. There was no waiting around for the results.
One of the reasons I liked cooking so much was that it was different from my life in the church where you don’t see such quick results. In the church you seldom get the immediate sense of completion that you do in cooking.
I came to realize that the Christian life is more like gardening than it is like cooking. In the church, as in gardening, you plant seeds, you water and tend your garden, and you wait. You wait for God to give the growth.
Addressing a church fight in Corinth, Paul tells the congregation that the church is not about any one person. It is a team sport, and builds on what others have previously done. Paul founded the church in Corinth. He planted it, and Appollos, who came after him, watered it, but it was God who gave the growth.
The church’s business remains unfinished for now. Others will take it up. In the meantime we worship, we pray, we teach and learn, we care for each other and for our world. We move from season to season under God’s abiding care, waiting for that day when God’s great Garden will blossom and flourish over all the earth.
Make us faithful gardeners, O God, until that time when you bring to completion all the faithful work done for your reign and realm, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.