b. July 9, 1923 d. April 5, 2019
Meditation on John 13:36-14:7, 12
The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton
April 13, 2019
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him….12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Nonie Hooper grew up on a farm in Meigsville, Morgan County, the oldest girl of 6 kids during the Depression years. When asked about her childhood, she would recall hard work and hard times, even as a small child. She learned to do things such as churn butter, and she was tied to a chair to wash dishes before she was big enough to reach the sink. If she wasn’t working at home, she was working for neighbors. But the work for neighbors was easier and more enjoyable—a break from the hard work at home.
It wasn’t love at first sight, but Nonie and Cecil knew one another at Malta-McConnellsville High School. The first time they spoke was when Nonie, with friends at the entrance to the opera in McConnellsville, called for Cecil to save her a seat. It’s hard to believe a woman as shy as Nonie would be the first one to speak—and not Cecil, the outgoing one. But she must have seen something special in the young man who would become her husband on April 5, 1942—5 months before he would be drafted into the U.S. Army. He was sent to serve as a medical technician in the 113 General Hospital in the Persian Gulf Campaign in Iran in WWII. Nonie and Cecil were married in a Presbyterian church in McConnellsville, where Cecil had become a member in high school. Then, she didn’t see him again, save for once after his initial training, until late 1944 or 45. She kept all the letters Cecil sent her during the war, treasuring every word—fearing each one might be the last word she would ever hear. While her husband served his country overseas, Nonie went to Meredith Business College in Zanesville and got a job in Columbus, working for the State bridge commission and several other Ohio State offices.
But the Lord had a plan for their lives together. Cecil did come back from the war and they settled down in McConnellsville. Nonie quit her job after Cecil came back, as many women did, to concentrate on making a home and raising their 2 girls—first came Diane, then Pamela. When Pam was 3, the family moved to Coshocton County where Cecil worked as a carpenter. In 1957, Nonie and Cecil joined The Presbyterian Church here. That was back when women wore hats and white gloves to church. Nonie had many hats, some with flowers, some with a little veil on the front. The girls wore them, too. The family sat together in the balcony, with Cecil often serving as an usher. Nonie’s involvement in church included serving in the kitchen, helping to cook and serve meals for the annual congregational meetings, and joining with Presbyterian Women for their circles and many mission projects, such as crocheting baby layettes for needy families. What she liked to crochet the most was white lace doilies and lace-edged handkerchiefs. She did this in her spare time, when she wasn’t caring for her husband and kids and their country house, tending to a large garden, canning vegetables and fruits in summer, planting and raising flowers, cooking from scratch and selling Avon door to door. Nonie’s cooking knowledge was evident in the early 1960s when she was the first to call in to a local radio station and answer correctly a question about how much salt is needed to cook fish. She won a $10 shopping spree!
Nonie, first and foremost, was a mother. She had definite ideas about what was good and what wasn’t good for her girls. She wasn’t a fan of TV. The girls would come home from school and she would tell them the TV was broken, so they had to go outside and play. And the TV was broken; the TV repairman had showed Nonie how to take one of the TV tubes out and she would hide it in a dresser drawer. She wanted the girls to ride bikes, play in the creek, tramp through the woods and go sled riding in winter—probably things she had wanted to do as a child, but was often too busy with chores to do.
She wanted peace in her home, so when the girls were fighting, as they often did, she came up with unique punishments. Once, they had to sit in chairs, facing one another, holding hands and looking into one another’s eyes. Another time, Nonie preached a sermon, Diane told her, just like Billy Graham! Anger turned to laughter. Once in a while, the punishment waited till Dad got home. Like the day the girls, acting on Diane’s idea, dug a swimming pool in the garden. Nonie let them do it; it kept them busy. Away from the TV. But when Cecil got home, Diane had to fill the hole back in.
Diane recalls fondly evenings on the front porch swing, smelling honeysuckle and snapping beans with Mom. Pamela remembers eating Mom’s butterscotch raisin meringue pie and the peace of sitting beside Nonie, newspapers spread across their laps, peeling tomatoes for canning.
Years later, Diane would come to know her mom in a new role– doting grandma, sending care packages to the grandkids, not just on birthdays and holidays but just ‘cause, and making up silly bedtime stories to their grandchildren’s delight when they were small.
The disciples are troubled in John 14; Jesus has told them it is soon time for him to leave. He has already told them that he must suffer and die and be raised on the third day. But they can’t comprehend that; they can’t accept the possibility that they will no longer be with their dearest friend. Because that’s how they see him, no matter what they say. It won’t be until after the empty tomb that they begin to see the Lord in a different light and their relationship in a new way.
When Peter asks, “Lord, where are you going?” they are too upset, too grieved, too scared, perhaps, to listen and be comforted when Jesus assures them that they will later follow him.
Peter asks again, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!”
Jesus knows that while Peter’s heart is genuine, none of the disciples will be faithful in the end. “Will you lay down your life for me?” he asks. “Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”
But the Lord doesn’t hold Peter’s frailties against him. This is a gracious and merciful God that we serve. And this is God’s plan for salvation—Jesus gave his life so that all the world would not have to perish in its sins, but might have everlasting life through belief on Him.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says. Don’t worry! “Believe in God, believe also in me… If you know me, you have seen and know the Father!”
Someday, Jesus will come again and take us to himself. There are many dwelling places, many rooms in the Father’s House. It’s not like here, when we can’t always live with our loved ones, because of jobs or school or because of growing older and becoming more vulnerable and needing a place where we can receive special care.
We will all be together in the Father’s House.
After Cecil died in 1994, Nonie struggled with her health and mobility, and, though she traveled some with Pamela, she became almost bedridden in the past 20 years. She held onto her faith. She read her Bible and devotionals.
Then, 3 years ago, she moved to Altercare when her health needs could not be met at home.
She never stopped worrying about her daughters. She would ask Pamela, who remained in the house they had shared since she was 3, if she had been eating and was she cooking for herself? Pam would tell her mother, “Yes, I’ve been eating. Have YOU been eating?”
While mothers will always be mothers and see their children as kids, there comes a time when our roles may shift, relationships change, and parents and children may see one another in a new way. They become more like friends.
Pamela would bring fresh flowers to her mom’s room at Altercare to remind her of her country home, where once upon a time, they lived together as a family of 4, with a large garden that very nearly became a swimming pool.
Three weeks before Nonie died, she told her family she wanted to go home. She was adamant about going home. They didn’t understand, then, that it wasn’t the home on Orange Street. She was ready to go home with the Lord. And she did–on what would have been the 77th wedding anniversary for her and Cecil.
Now, we see in a mirror dimly. But then, we will see face to face. Salvation is a gift, my friends, we receive by faith.There is room enough for everyone in the Father’s House. For you. For me! For all who love Christ and seek to do the works of love that he leads us to do—even greater things than he, says Jesus, the Messiah and Son of the Living God. Someday, he will come again and take us to himself. Our Lord, our Savior. Our brother. Our friend.