Meditation on John 14:1-7
In Memory of Raymond “Duke” Walters
Nov. 5, 1932-Jan. 26, 2020
Jan. 29, 2020
“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.”
I was an outsider a year ago when my family and I moved to Coshocton. I’m told that you will always be an outsider in Coshocton, no matter how many years pass, unless you were born here. So far, I haven’t found that to be true. Or maybe it just doesn’t seem to matter to the people I have met. They have always made me feel welcome and have been as curious about me and my family as I am about them and theirs.
This has been my experience with Duke and Nellie and all the family. Warm and welcoming. The first time I met Duke was in Coshocton Hospital, not too long after I arrived. The afternoon I visited, he was sitting up and smiling in his hospital bed. He was cold and pleased to have another prayer shawl crocheted by Betty Salvage, a longtime member of our church. He had been very ill and weak, but was feeling better. He would soon be going to Altercare for rehab, and Nellie would join him there after her surgery. Though they weren’t home, they would have the comfort of being together. They WERE home, I should say, whenever they were together. And they weren’t apart very much since the day they were married 28 years ago at The Presbyterian Church—Jan. 18, 1992.
In my visits to their home, later on, Nellie would share bits of their stories. They watched game shows together every afternoon and ate at Bob Evans every day because the people were nice and treated you like family, she said. One of the floral arrangements here, I saw, is from Bob Evans! They loved spending time with grandchildren and great grandchildren, whose numerous pictures lined a wall in their living room. Duke, a gentleman, always wanted to walk me to the front door as I left, though he used a walker, and it was difficult for him to get around.
Both Duke and Nellie lost their spouses much too early–Duke’s first wife when she was 54; Nellie’s first husband in his 50s, as well. Nellie was decorating cakes at Buehler’s when someone suggested she should meet Duke. She wasn’t sure she was ready for another relationship, let alone marriage. But Duke, who was working at Clow’s back then, had a way of making everyone feel comfortable, special and loved.
Scripture says the Lord knew all our names and had a plan for each one of us since before the foundation of the world. Psalm 139 says he knows when we sit down, lie down and rise up and “searches” every path we take, even when we don’t choose the right one. He is “acquainted with all our ways.” Our Creator formed us, knitting us together in our mother’s wombs, so that we could be his companions. He knows every word we are going to say before it is on our tongues—even the words that we probably shouldn’t say! God loves us anyway. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” “Your eyes beheld my unformed substance,” declares the psalmist, “In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.”
So, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Duke and Nellie’s finding true love for a second time –this time in middle-age—was meant to be. Their joining as man and wife would lead them to become one, big, happily blended family. Her children were never treated like “stepchildren.” Nieces and nephews were loved like daughters and sons. He treated everyone’s children like his own.
He was an encourager, a natural teacher. Duke, who was too busy working to finish high school, knew how to do almost anything. He was good at math and measuring. He was good with his hands. He patiently taught the boys everything mechanical—building, repairing and restoring cars and hot rods; building houses and garages; plumbing; bricklaying; and electrical work. You name it. If it was broke, he could fix it and, with his generous heart, he would. But he taught them important life lessons, too, allowing them space to learn from their own experiences and be there when they needed someone to talk to.
Although he was a hard worker and good provider, he wasn’t ALL work. He knew the importance of play and family time. He took the kids to Cedar Point. He square danced with Nellie on a moving float in Coshocton’s Canal Days Parade. They cruised to Alaska, traveled to Myrtle Beach many summers with extended family, and vacationed in Florida. He went boating, fishing, biking, and camping with the boys. Duke even tried to teach Mark how to waterski and didn’t mind that it took all day and a tank of gas to get him to stand up.
He was the favorite uncle, the grandfather who enjoyed spoiling the grandkids and great grandkids. Candy or ice cream before dinner? Sure!
“There’s not many kind people left in the world,” Mark Granger said, while sharing memories of Uncle Duke. “He was kind. He was always kind.”
In our gospel reading in John 14, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death and what it will mean, assuring them that it isn’t the end of their relationship. “Don’t worry,” he says. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He is going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for them, for all of us. We are all welcome, and it’s large enough for everyone; it has many dwelling places, but the rooms need to be prepared. Only Jesus can do the work because of being God’s only Son—fully God and fully human, but without sin.
Jesus’s leaving and going to the Father’s house before us is kind of like a big renovation or restoration project, where you actually have to move out of your home while it is being repaired, restored, and rebuilt. For that is what Christ’s death on a cross has done for us—it has restored us to loving relationship with God, after our sin going back to Adam and Eve ruined our relationship with him beyond any kind of human fix. But Christ’s sacrificial work—his suffering, dying and rising—has also rebuilt us into a new Creation, the Body of Christ. We are not like one of the old cars Duke might have restored in his younger years or even one of his hot rod model A’s with V-8 engines. We have become a whole different creature altogether—something new and amazing.
With the Lord, nothing is more important than relationships. Life isn’t about accumulation or worldly accomplishments. If we accomplish nothing more than loving God and our neighbor, then we have done the Father’s will. And God is Father to all of us equally, with no “favoritism.” We are precious in God’s sight—every one of us, children of God. The Risen Christ will tell Mary at the tomb in John 20:17, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
This is a God who created the world and us, but knowing that we would struggle, rebel, and fall, he already had a plan to bring us back to Him and cleanse us from sin. In John 3:16-17, Jesus tells Nicodemus, who has come to the Messiah with questions under the cover of darkness, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
This salvation isn’t a future thing, after we die and go to heaven, someday; it happens the moment we believe and accept him as our Savior. For in receiving his love and forgiveness, we make our home with him. We turn away from what we used to be, forgiving ourselves and looking to Christ for what we will become. For the one who has prepared a place for us in our Father’s house has made his home with us. He promises to complete the work in us that He has begun by the day that he comes again to take us to himself, so that where he is, we will forever be.
And while we wait and work for the Kingdom, serving others, living in peace, we bear witness to the kindness of a God who sent Christ to be the way, the truth, the life. You DO know the way, for he has shown us. The way is to walk in the path of love, mercy, and grace.
In a world so lacking in kindness, be kind, like Uncle Duke. Always be kind.