We told you about Rev. Harvala’s comments at our recent convention and the effect it had upon this observer. I found it to be heartfelt and a wonderful expression of the Gospel. Here is the text.
Thank you for the opportunity to be at this convention. I have been able to see and talk to many of you that I have not seen for quite some time. Of course, there were many faces, familiar from previous conventions that I did not see. There is one chair in particular that is empty, not that he would have sat in any one chair for three days, that of Bill Sharpe. Bill served as Executive Director of the Board of Directors for three terms with my predecessor, a few months shy of three terms while I was District President, and after that, with other titles, and as Business Manager at the time of his death. With Bill’s military background, I often referred to him as the “XO”, the Executive Officer, somewhat reflecting the many things he did.
Passing through Fargo one day, I stopped at the District Office. Bill wasn’t there, so I went to his house. Gail wasn’t there, nor were any of the grand-kids, so Bill and I had a chance to talk, just the two of us. We talked about life. We talked especially about our life together, our time together, in the District Office. At times, I did step on Bill’s toes in my desire to push him…to push things forward. I regret that. In studying the theme of this convention, Unity in Christ, preparing a Bible Study I led in one of our churches on Sunday, I now realize that when we are both united in Christ, we are put so close together that we are going to step on one another’s toes occasionally. Although Bill was more vulnerable, in stocking feet, literally, much of the time…spiritually his feet were shod with readiness coming from the gospel of peace. (Eph 6:15) That peace comes from sins confessed and forgiven and gone by the grace and power of God. This forgiveness comes through our readiness to confess and God’s readiness to forgive. Bill and I had that peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. We talked about death. We talked about eternal life. That was the last time I talked to Bill. When I think about Bill’s death, it makes me sad. When I think about Bill’s life, it makes me smile and sometimes laugh out loud. You know the life he lived. When I think about Bill’s eternal life, I rejoice. In the sense President Harrison reminded us, I really rejoice.
This may be the last time I see the faces of many of you. As Paul told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, there was sadness because he said it would be the last time they would see one another. But I don’t think sadness is appropriate for us. Just as I rejoice at those I knew from previous conventions, I rejoice at all of you. Because of our unity in Christ, we also work very closely and we will step on one another’s toes, especially over those individual differences sticking out through the unity God has given. Our feet are “shod with readiness that comes from the gospel.” When we step on each other’s toes, confession and forgiveness with God’s reconciliation is the answer. For we are united in a very important work. I like to think of it in terms of the hymn verse:
Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave
And at death no longer tremble.
He, the Lord, who came to save
Will at last His own assemble;
They will go their Lord to meet
Trampling death beneath their feet.