Seeds are such mysterious things. Here in South Carolina, it’s already time to start planting the hardier stuff–greens, roots, some herbs, so I took advantage of the sunny, warm days over the weekend to fill up my boxes, sprinkle some seeds, and water the soil. I’m always amazed when I open the little paper packets at how small and wisp-like seeds produce these (comparably) huge, delicious, totally-different-looking fruits and vegetables. Last week’s lectionary epistle lesson has been bouncing around in my head as I’ve been working the dirt:
“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:3-7
Looking around the church (all people who call Jesus their God and Savior, believing in the triune God) these days, it’s hard to ignore the battle lines that crisscross Jesus’ body throughout the world like the scores in a ham. Screwtape’s words, through C.S. Lewis’ voice, come to mind once more:
“We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials–namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the “low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that, the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility.”
Of course, part of the trouble is discerning which things are inessential–a literally life-and-death matter which I don’t mean to downplay–but what draws me more this morning is the solution which Paul offers: God gives the growth.
I can put good soil in my boxes, and plant the seeds, and beg the sun to come and warm up the dark dirt, but all I’m really doing is making room for growth to happen, giving the best environment possible–making room for a miracle to happen.
In our lives, we choose how to use our time–what kind of soil (habits, relationships, mental tape loops) we put in the boxes of our minds, our spirits and our bodies. We choose the sorts of things we read, watch, eat and ingest–the seeds we plant in our boxes; and we choose how to nurture those seeds with the sunshine and water of prayer, spiritual disciplines, service, and learning. Then we’ve done all we can–we can’t make growth happen, in our own lives or in the lives of our churches.
We cultivate, plant, and water, but the growth itself is out of our hands; we prepare and we present ourselves–make ourselves open and ready to be transformed.
God, come into the spaces we make and grow us. Show us how to make room to be open and to be transformed.