|“It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish!” was the catchphrase of Rev. Dr. Dennis Keller’s message to those gathered for the Memorial Service at the 2015 Susquehanna Annual Conference. His message was centered around Hebrews 12:1-2.|
By Deb Steransky
Last evening’s Service of Celebration of Death and Resurrection remembered those who have gone on to glory with a somber, but meaningful, celebration.
Members from all around our conference have joined together to form The Susquehanna Conference Mass Choir under the direction of Matthew Wensel. Their beautiful performances of “Without His Cross,” by Joseph Martin, and “Praise His Holy Name,” by Keith Hampton, added special moments to the service.
In his message to the Conference, Rev. Dr. Dennis Keller stated that the end is the key. “It is not how you start,” he said, “it is how you finish.” He continued, “Abraham was a liar to start, yet God blessed him as the father of the faithful.” He then recalled the lives of Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Peter, Matthew, and Paul. All started on rocky soil and ended up on solid ground!
Rev. Dr. Keller then called on the Conference to remember that great cloud of witnesses who surrounds us. “They are not spectators,” he said, “they are cheering witnesses. A spectator sits on the sidelines and watches you go through something. A witness is someone who has been down on the field where you are and knows the trials and temptations we face.”
In further remarks, Keller urged the Conference to remove what is on us. Quoting the call to, “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely.” Keller said, “I don’t know what baggage you may have carried into this gathering. My prayer, brothers and sisters, is that during this Annual Conference you will remember the witness of those who have gone before us, and you will be able to lay it aside, whatever it is.”
Dr. Keller concluded his remarks by calling on the Conference to finish by looking to Jesus, who both began and finished the race we are in. He concluded with the story of Kayla, a teen who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, who was an elite 14-year-old athlete who set a goal of winning three state titles by her senior year. She worked and struggled, practiced and became the best on the female track team. She even started practicing with the boys’ team, pushing the males to do their best, as she was doing. She discovered that she could not feel her legs as she ran. She could not come to a controlled stop at the finish line, because she had no feeling in her legs. So her coach was there at every race to catch her as she crossed the finish line.
She polished off the state cross-country race with a first place win. She next won the winter indoor track 3600-meter race for the state. Her final race was the two mile at the state outdoor track and field championship. Dr. Keller then turned to a video of Kayla - it showed her falling during the race, getting back up, pushing on, and ... yep, she won the race!
Keller likened her story to those who have “finished the race” in Christ and have run into His arms. It’s How You Finish.
The evening’s offering will be given to the on-going ministry of Mission Central. The service further honored the lives of those who have finished the race with a celebration of Holy Communion.
The video of the Rev. Dr. Dennis Keller’s message and a full transcript can be found at http://susumc.org/index.php/component/content/article/51-media/susumc-videos/1364-2015-ac-memorial-service-sermon-finishing-the-race