- Rabia (c. 717-801)
Reading: But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile? Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.
- 1 Corinthians 3.1-9 (The Message)
Reflection: God’s field – from the unplowed soil in which seed is sown to the bountiful crops awaiting harvest – is a familiar biblical symbol for the Reign of God. It is, indeed, a rich and fertile symbol, but it would be a mistake to attribute to God’s Reign all the characteristics of agriculture in the everyday world of the farmer, ancient or modern. Every farmer depends on the regularity of the seasons, from the cool, fresh days of seedtime; the warmth of the sun and adequate rain; to the mature days at season’s end when the crops mature. For every thing there is a season, Ecclesiastes asserts with confidence, and the farmer depends on such regularity.
In God’s Reign, however, there is real, impenetrable mystery in the transition from seedtime to harvest. Jesus makes this clear in his parable of seed & harvest found at Mark 4.26b -29. The farmer sows and, at the appropriate time, the farmer harvests, but in between the fields grow secretly, mysteriously. The farmer neither tends nor watches over the fields. He neither weeds nor fertilizes. The crops’ growth to maturity is dependent upon God and God alone, and always arrives as a surprise.
Paul understood this mysterious aspect of God’s Reign; it is evident in the humility with which he speaks of his role working in God’s field. It’s not the one who plants or waters who is at the center of the process. Rather, it is God who makes things grow. He compares his role (as translated in the Message) as a menial servant job at minimum wage. Recognize this mystery, he exhorts the Corinthians, and live in humility, and your eyes will see clearly the vision of ministry God offers.
This message of humility before the mystery of God’s Reign should not be overlooked as we at OPCC attempt to discern God’s vision for our future ministry. We can neither create this vision nor bring it to fruition. While our role is and will continue to be significant because God always chooses to work with and through God’s people, this role is also humble. We can only stand awe-struck before the mystery of God’s Reign that grows secretly and mysteriously. Even in periods when no progress is visible and things seem to be at a standstill, we can know that the Reign of God is growing, maturing. Joachim Jeremias expresses this aspect well when he says, “The fruit is the result of the seed, and the end is implicit in the beginning. The infinitely great is already active in the infinitely small.” Let us begin in humble faith, knowing that the end is present and active in our efforts.