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The Master Gardener

February 6, 2017

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth . . . For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field.” 1 Corinthians 3: 8-9

We often visit botanical gardens on our travels. Last fall our friends from Hilo took us to the Hilo Botanical Gardens on the “Big Island” of Hawaii. It is truly a sight to behold. We saw many varieties of orchids growing in the wild, plants that looked like prototypes for space travel, flowers that resembled a flock of birds, and honeycomb-like flowers, to mention a few of the wonders we saw. The end of the trail through the tropical forest spills out onto the beach. The sparkling turquoise blue ocean is a striking contrast to the many shades of green and the colorful flowers of the forest garden. I have no idea what the Garden of Eden looked like and can’t imagine the beauty of the heavenly gardens, but the Hilo Botanical Gardens provide ample fodder for one’s imagination. You can’t help but be in awe of God’s genius, artistry, and sense of humor in such a place.

In the epistle lesson for Sunday,[1] Paul explains that we are the raw materials through whom God works. We are the field. We are his fellow workers, but he is the master gardener: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth . . . For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field.” 1 Corinthians 3: 8-9. He is the one who makes it all work. We can’t take credit for what he has given us—the raw materials—our gifts and talents. He is he one who plans the garden and makes it grow. He is the one responsible for the beauty and artistry created in our gardens, in our work, in our families, in all aspects of our lives.

But God encourages us to use our gifts and talents and be useful and productive in the little field that is our corner of humanity. We can create beauty in our plots by nourishing those around us–providing love, assistance, and comfort to our families and others by using our God-given gifts and talents. We can thrive in our fields. Or we can reject what God has offered to us and let our fields go to seed. God gives us a choice: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, chose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19-20). This week’s Psalm echoes the path that we are to take to achieve true happiness: “Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119: 1-2).

The gospel lesson gives us some examples of what happens when we wander off the garden path, and get in trouble. It happens to everyone from time to time. Jesus isn’t telling us to literally take out our eye or chop off our hands. He is using metaphors to warn us to remove the things from our lives that cause us to wander off the path.   Remove those things from your life that distract you from your true purpose: to love God with your whole heart and soul and to love others as yourself. Are you neglecting your family and others who need you by spending most of your waking hours at work or on other less important activities? Are you engaging in practices that call into question your integrity or that have a negative influence on your physical or mental health? We all make a wrong turn from time to time, but you can rely on your trusty GPS to get you back on track: God, Prayer, and Scripture. God and his reliable tools, prayer and Scripture, will lead you back to tending your field, and on the path to cultivating the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our God is the God of second (and third, fourth, etc.) chances. He wants you to thrive. He wants you to enjoy a life filled with deep happiness and all of the blessings he has to offer. Use the GPS available to you, and watch the Master Gardener make something beautiful of your life.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture readings for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany are Psalm 119:1-8; Deuteronomy 30: 15-20; 1 Corinthians 3: 1-9; Matthew 5: 21-37.

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