Meditation on John 14:1-7, 15-19, 25-27
In Memory of Joann Chambers Haynes Thompson
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH
Pastor Karen Crawford
Sept. 18, 2020
Here is a link to the entire service:
You know how when you meet someone and you feel like you already know them? That’s how it was when I met Joann Thompson last year. She came through the greeting line after worship. Lisa introduced us, and Joann told me she lived in Beavercreek. I immediately thought of Beaver Creek in Pennsylvania. That’s how new I was to Ohio! Am I saying it right? Beavercreek?
Joann told me how much she enjoyed worship and loved this church, the church of her childhood. She wanted to share memories, I think, but there wasn’t time. There were other people in line behind her. Isn’t that how it always seems to be? We are in a hurry and yet these seemingly small but important openings for relationships to develop present themselves, like a beautiful but short-lived flower that blooms then fades quickly in bright sunlight.
I didn’t know that would be the only opportunity I would have to speak with her. I can only give thanks for the privilege of meeting her, and the honor of sharing her story and the promises of Jesus Christ with you.
Joann was born in Logan, Ohio, on Christmas Eve in 1928. She would be a middle child, with an older sister, Mary, and younger sister, Emily. Her parents, Harold and Thelma Chambers, would live on 16th Street in Coshocton and later on Cambridge Road. Joann’s dad was a Coshocton County Extension Agent; her mom was a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School. Harold and Thelma were longtime members of The Presbyterian Church. Joann and her sisters attended Sunday school. All three girls, though they would move away when they grew up, would be married here.
Joann joined the church on April 6, 1941. Our records say that her first name was Natalie! Her middle name was Joann. Why didn’t she like the name Natalie? I think it’s beautiful! Isn’t that funny—how we often don’t feel as if we fit the names given to us at birth? I do know this for sure, that whatever the name is that we call ourselves, God knows our names and everything about us. Psalm 139 tells us this—that God knows us before we were born. When he knit us together in our mother’s womb, we were fearfully and wonderfully made!
Joann possessed musical gifts. She sang in choirs, played piano, and played flute in Coshocton High School’s marching band. After she graduated in 1947, she went on to study music at Ohio State. She graduated in 1952 and found a position teaching music at a school in Fairborn. She actually lived on the same street in Fairborn where her daughter, Lee, lives now–and Lee didn’t know that when she moved there!
Joann met Howard Haynes through mutual friends while living in Fairborn. They were married June 26, 1954, here in this sanctuary, by Rev. John Abernethy. She continued to teach music in Fairborn and attended Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dayton, transferring her membership from the church of her childhood on Sept. 15, 1958. She took some time off from teaching when she had her own children—Susan and Lee Anne. When Lee was in 5th grade, the family moved to a new home they had built in Beavercreek. Joann went back to school, before that move, and attended Wright State University to study Elementary Education. She taught 3rd graders for 17 years. Isn’t that awesome?
Tragically, Joann’s husband, Howard, died of cancer in 1986. He was 59. While some people are blessed with only one loving companion for their lives, God provided another for Joann. It was also a second chance love as Joann and Henry Thompson had dated in high school. Their relationship had ended when Henry was drafted into the U.S. Army after graduation. Joann was brokenhearted. Henry served in Korea before attending Miami University and coming back to Coshocton to work in the real estate and insurance business with his father.
Joann and Henry married on June 23, 1990 in Tucson, Arizona, where they would make their new life together. Henry worked as a realtor there, and they attended Catalina Foothills Church. Joann sang in the choir for many years, and her daughter, Lee, sang with her.
After Henry’s retirement in 2010, they moved back to Ohio. As we grow older, we often feel the pull to go to the place we called home when we were young.
They were married 28 years when Henry went home to be with the Lord on April 3, 2018 at the age of 88.
Our reading in John 14 is about the place Christ’s disciples will call home when the Lord goes to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house, then comes again and takes them to himself. “So that where I am,” he says, “there you may be also.” The disciples are grieving as Jesus speaks of his departure, telling them about how he will die; this is just too much for them to bear for the one they love.
When Jesus says, “you know the way to the place where I am going,” Thomas interrupts with an emotional plea, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
It’s simple, Jesus says. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
What really touches me in this familiar passage is the promise that Jesus won’t leave us orphaned! That seems especially important today as we remember the life of Joann—a mother, stepmother and grandmother. No matter how old we are, when we lose a parent, we feel like an orphan. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to all who love Him and seek to keep His commandments. The Lord will abide with us forever—here, now, in Spirit, and face to face in the world to come!
Jesus says at the beginning and end of this passage, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He repeats this phrase because he knows they ARE anxious, just as you and I are anxious at the thought of living without our loved ones with us. Jesus knows this because he is both God and one of us, feeling all the same emotions that we do.
Christ’s promise of peace is a gift for his earliest disciples; it strengthens them in their time of grief and helps them to continue his ministry on earth, following in his footsteps. It’s a peace that lives in us and strengthens us today to do God’s will.
When I asked Lee to tell me about her mother, she said. “Mom was a strong woman, who could calm your fears and make things make sense. She was a good listener when I needed to vent. She had a great sense of humor. She had a good memory! Three things she told everyone to have: a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and a glass of wine every day!
“She used to enjoy sewing clothes when we were little; later years she enjoyed counted cross stitch and quilting. She was an avid reader, enjoying books by James Patterson and Bill O’Reilly and historical novels about Scotland or England. She also was a fan of Fox News!
Family meant everything to her. Joann was happy to be able to attend her step grandson Justin’s wedding on July 25—days before she went home to be with the Lord on Aug. 11. Psalm 139 assures us that the Lord knows the number of our days and that they are written down in God’s book, before they even existed.
I am convinced that Joann, the special lady I met too briefly in a greeting line after worship, would want her family to know that it was her time to join Christ in the joy that He had prepared. This same joy awaits each of us in the house of our heavenly parent. “I will not leave you orphaned!” Christ is saying to us right now. “I am coming to you….
“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”