God gives the growth.
You and I are like plants in a garden. And though the garden may be marked with quarreling and strife, God gives the growth. Though the land may suffer with sin because of human failures, God gives the growth. And even when every one of us can find mention of some way we have messed up, or failed to live by the way of Jesus as he laid it out in his mountain top sermon, God keeps giving growth to all of us planted here in the field together.
Our gospel reading from Matthew offers potent images of judgment. It looks a lot like the limbs I will be cutting off an apple tree in my backyard. And so, this morning I am digging into the rich soil of First Corinthians to find the help I am sure that we all need. You know, Paul may sound frustrated with the church in Corinth as he mentions their many struggles. And then he makes a statement about working together as God’s servants. “…each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:8-9). What a beautiful image we can all relate to, whether as a field that grows or a building that stands. We cannot ignore the call to righteousness from our Lord. Still, we need to be rooted in the promise that Paul speaks.
The weeks that follow in the season of Epiphany feature reflection on how the truth of Jesus becomes manifest – becomes “made known” – in all our lives. We learn all the more how God’s love for the world is shown in our neighbors through faithful living. We hear once again from Moses giving us a description—not a prescription—of how “walking in God’s ways” (Dt. 30:16) brings long life in the land. As Lutherans, we celebrate every week that God’s mercy is what makes such living possible.