View images from the Service of Remembering.
The Memorial Celebration for the 2017 Annual Conference Session honored 49 departed souls.
The Annual Conference Session theme of “Creating Difference Makers” related directly to that afternoon’s celebration, Rev. Brian Milford told the gathering in his sermon for the service.
“Celebrating the lives of those who now rest from their labors,” he said. “We do so acknowledging the differences they made in our lives. We celebrate the lasting fruit they bore in their life.”
The families of those who passed this year know the sacrifice their loved ones had made better than anyone else present, said Rev. Milford.
He cited the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “The one who brags, should brag in the Lord.”
If that seemed like bragging about the departed saints, he said, “we do so ONLY to the extent that we are bragging of the work of the Spirit and power of God who is the ultimate reason we can boast of making any difference in the world at all.”
Rev. Milford, a former Iowa Annual Conference District Superintendent elected last fall as president and CEO of the United Methodist Publishing House, expressed disbelief at St. Paul having said of himself he was not an expert in speech or in wisdom.
“Paul had a distinct and profound impact on Christian thought and practice,” Rev. Milford said. “And always, he denied his own skills and abilities and pointed instead to the love of Christ and power of the Holy Spirit.”
St. Paul did not depend on the approval of others to prop up his own personal identity, he continued, his identity was grounded in his calling as a follower of Christ.
“It was Paul’s legacy of faith that makes him so significant to our faith,” he said as well.
But that legacy was not without challenges, the Reverend pointed out.
“Paul struggled with his faith, just as our celebrated saints did,” Rev. Milford stated, “and when we are honest we struggle as well.”
Paul struggled most with the role and function of the law and religious requirements in his faith, he said, and this is nothing new. St. Paul was raised to be a person of strict principle, rules, a man of the law.
St. Paul saw that this lead him to “spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” said Rev. Milford, quoting Acts 9:1.
“Paul tells us in Philippians in 3:4-6 he was a perfect law-abiding Pharisee, said Rev. Milford, then quoting, “As far as the Law can make you perfect, I was faultless.”
Rev. Milford continued, “Later in his letter he seems to wonder, “How could such perfect religious observance still create such a hateful and violent man like me?”
“That was Paul’s utterly honest and humble question,” Rev. Milford explained. “I sometimes wonder if we today would be wise to ask the same question of ourselves.”
Through St. Paul’s writing, he invites us to struggle with him in this tension between law and grace.
“I wonder today about whether those we celebrate struggle with this same matter,” he said.
Rev. Milford told those gathered for the Memorial Celebration that the purpose of spiritual laws is that they sharpen your awareness about your own weakness and about who God is in your life. And that when we recognize our own radical inability to really obey the purpose of the law and in the same moment ask for God’s mercy, we have achieved its deepest purpose.
“If you have ever tried to get rid of a negative thought by mere willpower, instead of by the power of God, you have surely experienced this reality,” he said. “Surrender is the goal, not personal achievement or success.”
“God not only allows us to make mistakes,” stated Rev. Milford, “but even more, God uses our mistakes in our favor!”
“That is the brilliant Gospel economy of grace,” he said.
“When you come out of the boxing ring of the creative tension of law and grace,” continued Rev. Milford, “you will know that you have finally won the match; but ironically, you will have won by losing. It is by grace that we are saved! The lives of the saints testify to that.”
He played a clip from the “This is Us’ television series to illustrate the point of reconciliation and God’s grace; the characters in the scene as difference-makers who embodied the love of God.
“And that is what we are here to celebrate today in the lives of these dear ones who have gone before us,” said Rev. Milford. “Their legacy of faith. The difference they made in our lives and in the lives of others they touched over the journey of their lives.”
“Their ability to respond to Christ’s love in their lives, and to share that love with others is why we praise God today,” he said further. “It was their ability to hold us and others in their hands and bless us with the love of Christ, to make a difference in the world, that is why we praise God for their legacies today.”
Rev. Milford told those present for the Memorial Celebration that today we celebrate legacies of faith.
Their legacy, what they have left behind and are remembered for is not illustrated in terms of their expert oratorical skills, he said, though many of them were fine speakers. It is not so much in terms of their personal wisdom, though each of them demonstrated deep wisdom in multiple ways.
“It’s not in their accomplished perfection,” Rev. Milford said, “though they never gave up trying to be perfect in love.”
“They were all weak,” he added, “oftentimes experienced fear, and I imagine even sometimes trembled.”
“Their legacy was not their own doing, but rather a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. What we also call love.”
From the First Letter of John, chapter 4, verse 7, the reverend read, “Dear Friends let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him.”
“That is our challenge you today,” he concluded. Love one another. There is no better way to honor the legacy of those who have gone before us – love one another.”
“Thanks be to God for these dear saints,” Rev. Milford exclaimed, “who are saved by grace! And thanks be to God for God’s saving grace which empowers us to love one another.”
Those remembered at the 2017 Memorial Celebration were:
Rev. Romaine H. Barber
Rev. Wayne L. Bartruff
Rev. Pacifico Camarin, Jr.
Rev. Arley Q. Ellingson
Rev. James S. Fouke
Rev. Ernest P. Hansen
Rev. Roy A. Hjelmaas
Rev. Harold W. Koughn
Rev. Doris H. Lindley
Rev. Howard J. Lord
Rev. William T. Miller
Rev. Rolllin G. Oswald
Rev. Judith A. Piper
Rev. Lewis P. Samuelson
Pastor Lowell G. Schaaf
Rev. Keith L. Scott
Rev. Wayne E. Shoemaker
Rev. Walter L. Sieck
Rev. Marjorie M. Smalley
Rev. Jerry L. Ulin
Rev. Norman P. Walter
Rev. David P. Waterman
Rev. Warren S. Webb
Rev. Nova L. Wells
Rev. Weldon A. Whitenack
Mrs. Betty R. Ayers
Mrs. Patricia Connor
Mrs. Margaret A. Dailey
Mrs. Bonnie Reger Foxworthy
Mrs. Roseanne C. Freeburg
Mrs. Lois R. Gruber
Mrs. Julie D. Johannsen
Mrs. Esther G. King
Mrs. Merle Lamb
Mrs. Jane E. LaMore
Mrs. Naomi Leatherman
Mrs. Nora L. Lott
Mrs. Verla J. MacCanon
Mrs. Shirley Ossman
Mr. Richard A. Poore
Mrs. Pauline F. Ritter
Mrs. Dorothy L. Spiker
Mr. Ernest N. Thompson
Mrs. Rose Wagoner
Mrs. Gladys M. Walter
Mrs. Marlene J. Zarr
Mrs. June L.Vanderhoef
Mrs. Joy O. Washington
Coy P. Howe