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“God Gives the Growth”
1 Corinthians 3:5-11


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—August 18, 2013

Dear friends in Christ.  The text for my farewell message to you is today’s Epistle Reading from  1st Corinthians.  The Apostle Paul writes about himself and his fellow worker Apollos:

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Today, as we look back over the history of this congregation during my ministry here, and also look forward to the future of this congregation, it is a day of sadness and joy.  Sadness because the Pastor whom the Lord of the Church gave to you, and the congregation to which he assigned me 11 years ago, are now to be separated. 

The Lord has directed your Pastor elsewhere.  You did not ask your Pastor to leave, or do anything to cause him to leave.  Neither did your Pastor request this change.  This is the Lord’s will and doing.  The Lord himself directed another Call to your Pastor, and he moved your Pastor to recognize this Call as the will of God that he should enter a new field of service.  We may indeed say with Job in this situation, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

So, this is a day to look back, with sadness at our parting.  But, it is also a day to look forward, with joy in anticipation of the future God has in store for his flock here, as the Lord promises in Jeremiah, “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  And we trust and anticipate that, just as the Lord gave me to be your Pastor 11 years ago, and just as the Lord worked through my ministry among you, he will provide another shepherd for this flock.

In our text, Paul first of all stresses that a Christian’s allegiance is to no man except the God-man, Jesus Christ: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.”  The Lord Jesus does not build his Church upon the personality of any individual.  Those who during my tenure have joined this church owe their allegiance not to me but only to the Lord whom I proclaimed and of whom I am only a servant.  “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” 

Paul goes on to stress that the Lord alone receives the glory for whatever is accomplished by his ministers: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”  God in his grace has richly blessed Holy Cross over the past decade.  And I know that the growth of this congregation will continue, because it is not coming from me or based upon me, for it is God alone who makes his church grow. 

This church has an exciting future!  There are many challenges and opportunities ahead, and the Lord will give you the new shepherd you need to embrace those challenges and opportunities and to take advantage of them for the continued growth of his kingdom here.  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

Paul also stresses that the ministers of Christ work together in a mutual ministry in which they build on one another’s work: “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.” 

In my work here, I built on the labors of my predecessors.  Not only my actual predecessor in the Pastoral Office of this congregation, but also countless other predecessor Pastors, in the lives of the individual members of this church.  And, after me, the Lord will send another, the third Pastor called to serve here in the 18-year history of this congregation, who will build upon my work.  “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.”

Finally, Paul stresses that all the Lord’s Pastors and all the Lord’s people must build only on Jesus Christ, only on the pure doctrine revealed in God’s Word:  “But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 

Terry is of course from South Dakota, and we very much hope and plan to come back here to visit.  Perhaps for the 25th anniversary of this congregation in 2020.  And, Lord willing, maybe even for the 50th anniversary of this congregation in 2045. 

When I do return, what I hope and expect to find most of all is a congregation of faithful believers abiding by the pure doctrine of the Holy Scriptures.  Continue to build this congregation on that foundation alone!  “But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

I want to close with a personal note of thanks to all of you.  The Dakota Dunes community and especially the Holy Cross Lutheran Church family will always be very special to Terry and me.  It is very fitting that one of my last pastoral acts here was confirming our daughter Anna.  For, it was here that our children grew up, and it was among this gathering of God’s people that our children were all confirmed and received their First Communion at this altar.

My service as your Pastor has truly been a great joy for me and my family.  You are very kind and loving and simply wonderful people.  Whomever the Lord chooses to direct here as your next Pastor is very blessed indeed.

Amen.

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