Life is eternal, love is immortal
The Rev. Dr. Theodore J. Weeden Sr., retired, made a trip to the Holy land. He took a picture of a sunrise on the Sea of Galilee and another of the “Wailing Wall” in Jerusalem. He exposed the same film twice, resulting in a “miraculous” creation of a Galilean sunrise emerging from the “Wailing Wall.”
“The sunrise is God’s promise that out of today’s suffering, tragedy, and seemingly hopeless moments shall come the resurrection assurance of new hope, the abundant new life, and a better tomorrow,” said the Rev. Susan Shafer, pastor at the Asbury First United Methodist Church.
Rev. Susan Shafer spoke at the Memorial Service on Thursday at the 2015 session of Annual Conference. She spoke to a theme of “Life is eternal, love is immortal.”
“We have come in thankfulness for the lives of those who now have gone before us and been given back to God,” she said. “Their lives of commitment to Christ and proclamation of God’s love and grace have furthered God’s kingdom in the hearts and lives of myriad others.”
The Memorial Service honored the 22 clergy and 26 clergy spouses that have passed on within the last year. The deceased clergy include: Margaret “Mari” Rockwell, David Franke, Ruth Gray, Daniel Berry, Eric Blidberg, Frederick Jackson, Eric Roy King, Arthur Andrews, Arthur Melius, Charles Hess III, Joseph Fiske, Richard Elliott, Alice Hobbs, Marian Thomas, Malcolm Howard, L. Alden Smith, Claude Corbett, Jane Borden, Robert V. Smith, Billie Jean Melton, Donald H. Turk, and Victor Zaccaro. The deceased clergy spouses include: Barbara Brockway, Evelyn Young, Dean Nelson, Kathleen Mihaly, Marjorie Greenfield, Ellen Stanton, Reta Karan, Harry Maines, Ruth Wait, Patricia Arnold, Wilma Burt, Ashton Bruce Cornell, Barbara Vollmer, Ireta Beeghly, Roma Marie Gould, Nancy Vanloon, Beverly Boston, Ramona Andrews, Deborah Campbell, Jane Babcock, Joan Kirk, Louise Rees, Frances Ackley, John Poorman, Florence Benton, and George D. Vineyard.
Drawing on Romans 8, Rev. Shafer said Paul expresses his personal conviction that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
“St. Paul’s proclamation reminds us that we do not have to live pretending that death is not something that comes to all of us,” she said. “He asks us to trust that death does not have the last word.”
One college student dying of a malignant brain tumor spoke to Paul’s affirmation, ending her poetic words on “Death is tender and life … is a triumph.”
Rev. Shafer said it’s a “sacred privilege” to affirm the faith with one who is moving from this life to the next, and to pray and companion another in the critical days has an unforgettable impact. She emphasized that the deceased could not have lived their life of faith without the love and support of loved ones, who helped them along the journey.
Loved ones feeling sorrow and grief can learn again about goodness and mercy through faith, she said. She mentioned that God gave His Son as a love offering, showing that God will do anything to ensure our spiritual flourishing.
“As the beloved of God, our lives stretch on far beyond the boundaries of our birth and death,” Rev. Shafer said. “Our belovedness is eternal … God’s love is divine and everlasting!”
Rev. Shafer said there is much people do not know about life and death. She compared living and dying as “trusting the catcher,” believing in the continual creating power of God.
“It is believing and living and trusting that nothing can separate us from the love of God,” she said. “The One who has given us the good gifts in the past can be counted on to give continued meaning to our lives. Our task and challenge is to remain trusting enough, flexible enough, faithful enough to let this happen.”
For as the “ancient prayer of committal” states, “… Death is only a horizon … and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”