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Posted: August 2, 2012 8:38 p.m.

Scharf: The Right Way to Say Goodbye

They say you can learn a lot about a relationship by the way you say goodbye. Watch a married couple as they separate to go about their day. Watch the children being put on the bus by mom on the first day of school. Watch the scene on hundreds of college campuses in a few weeks as parents set their children free. You can learn a lot about a relationship by the way they say goodbye.

Today, I want to look at God's word, at how the apostle Paul said goodbye to the leaders of the church in Corinth. This comes from the second to last chapter of 1 Corinthians, but it's really closing the main message of the letter. After this, it is just some notes of business and personal comments. So after encouraging, rebuking, reminding and strengthening the Corinthians, Paul said this:
"Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)
I don't know about you, but for me, time has been flying lately. It seems like each year for me gets faster. This one is no different. I know, we're not at a time for a flip of the calendar page, but in our church, the beginning of August is a pretty big transition time.

It's time for the new elders to be installed. It's time for the new Sunday School year to start. But probably most notably, it's time for one vicar to leave and another one to come. It's time to say goodbye. (By the way - a vicar is kind of like an intern. It's someone in his or her third year of Seminary. They are assigned to a congregation to get some full-time practical experience before they go back for their last year of schooling.)

Anyway - that's where we're at. For those of you who have visited our church in the last year, you've probably met the man. His name is Dan Johnston. And it's been great having him here. But now, it's time to say goodbye. So I look to God's word for guidance.

Sure, we'll miss the guy. We hope we'll see him again, but who knows? God could have plans to send him overseas as a missionary, or to the opposite end of the country. So what do we say?

If you've ever been at a loss for words when wanting to say goodbye to someone you care about - look to God's word for guidance. You see, Paul hits what is really important.

Every year when we say goodbye to a vicar, there are plenty of people who say that they wish the guy could hang around here permanently. And that's good to feel that way. But Paul reminds us, it's about more than our wants. It's about more than our comfort. So he gives encouragement to the brother who is leaving: "Stand firm. Let nothing move you." He tells him to always go all out for God's work. Why?

"Because your labor in the Lord is not in vain." You see, as Vicar Johnston heads out and looks to do God's work wherever God sends him, he can take comfort in the fact that it is really God doing the work.

God already accomplished the salvation of everyone he's going to meet. God already paid for their sins and redeemed their soul. Jesus is risen from the dead. Their victory is accomplished. And it is God that works through his word to cause faith in that. So our labor...our labor has no pressure attached to it. It's just a matter of being faithful.

So as we say goodbye to vicar this Sunday with a special service and a great barbeque meal (to which you are all invited), it doesn't have to be a time of sadness, but of excitement to see what God will do through him.

And as I sign off on my column this week, you don't have to be sad that it is the end - but hear God's word that will strengthen you to do the work God has prepared in advance for you to do, the work he makes powerful and blesses.

So Goodbye! And stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30am. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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