Have you taken time to look outside the windows on a Sunday night? Our worship space is surrounded by trees, grass, and shrubs. God has planted us in the midst of a garden, and it is beautiful. I’ve lived in East Dallas for almost 6 years, and it to me is the garden of the city. A lake is the central feature. Neighborhoods named for geography surround the lake in addition to parks, thoroughfares, stores, and restaurants. We have been planted in a garden in the midst of a larger garden called East Dallas.
And Paul, speaking to the Corinthian church has something to say about how the garden of the Church grows. And his words are a great comfort to me because I’m reminded that while I have a certain level of personal responsibility and accountability to how I shepherd you all and seek and search after Christ’s lost sheep, I cannot in my own power bring about growth in flourishing in God’s garden. St. Paul says this: “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 Cor 3:6-7).
I’ll never forget praying one afternoon in our garden - our Church - and feeling the pressure and expectation to ‘make this thing grow.’ The Lord gently took my hand and through the Daily Office Lectionary took me to this verse which had been appointed for the day. I cannot tell you the sense of relief that came over me. But the moment didn’t end there. God then reminded me of my vocation to cultivate, tend, and expand his garden as he gives the growth. My focus went from the myopic question, “How can I make this thing grow?” to the more kingdom-minded question, “How can build with care on the foundation of Jesus Christ?” I was freed from meeting my own delusional expectations and those perhaps of men, and invited to step into God’s expectations of building where Jesus Christ is the foundation, God gives the growth, and I partner with him in his mission.
Don’t forget that we’ve been planted in a garden, are living, working, and playing in a garden, and are invited by our wounded healer to cultivate, tend, and expand his garden as he gives the growth.