Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Meditation on John 14

In Memory of Joyce Robinson

12/2/1937 ~ 6/24/2022

June 29, 2022

First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown

Pastor Karen Crawford

1‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In 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? 3And 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. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’…

18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you…

25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you.26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

***

When I shared with our church family on Sunday that Joyce Robinson had gone home to be with the Lord, there was an audible gasp. The news was a surprise and a shock for some of our members, too hard to absorb right away. Somehow, with the pandemic and pastoral transition, we had lost contact with Joyce and her family. We didn’t know how ill she was.

It would have been my joy to be that peaceful presence of Christ for Joyce and her family in their time of need. I wouldn’t have been the only one who would have reached out to her. Our church would have been praying for her, calling her, and sending cards. Those who knew her well would have visited.

I am sorry I wasn’t able to meet her in person so that I could have encouraged her in her faith and thank her for her kind service to the Lord and His Church.

Joyce joined our church family on March 17, 2009. She was ordained a deacon on July 19, 2011. She had some family connections with our congregation; her mother and sister or aunt may have been members some time ago. I will do more research on that!

I wish I knew who it was who may have invited her to come here that first Sunday she walked through our doors. Who was it that made her feel welcome, right from the start? I am pretty sure what made her fall in love with our congregation was the wonderful people in our congregation! I know she felt loved and accepted here. She was!

No matter who invited her and made her feel welcome, I know it was ALL God’s doing. The Holy Spirit used us for God’s loving purposes. The Lord had a plan to bless us—and to bless her, giving her an opportunity to minister with her gifts and talents, using some gifts, perhaps, she didn’t even know she had.

I want Joyce’s family to know that she was there for other people in our congregation in their time of need. Testimonies of her kindness and compassion started pouring in by email after word of her passing was shared. Members wrote, “This is sad news indeed.” Another said, “I just want you to know that Joyce was such a caring woman. Always made the effort to check with you in church or at home.” Still another said, “That’s so sad. She was a lovely woman.”

More than one shared their regret at not being able to attend this service today. One said, “as I knew Joyce, and she was a warm, wonderful person.”

Another shared, “I remember Joyce as a very reliable and caring deacon. (She) provided me with useful and compassionate information regarding home health aides for a close friend of mine.”

Joyce’s children, Pam and Jamie, shared some of their mother’s life story with me on Monday.

She was born in 1937 in the South Shore town of Bellmore. She was the second oldest of 5 children. She met 31-year-old James Robinson on a blind date when she was 20. He was just getting back from serving in the U.S. Army, stationed in Alaska. They began a 43-year-marriage which included children and grandchildren, work, and engineering courses at night for Jim till he finished his college degree. In their retirement, they traveled, camped, cruised, and enjoyed their own boat. Jim, her companion and great protector and provider, passed away in 2001.

Joyce worked as a legal secretary and for a real estate agency and later as a driver and personal care assistant for senior citizens. She took pride in keeping an immaculate home, using her Electrolux vacuum to make neat rows in the carpet. She was a good cook—and made meatloaf, pot roast, and turkey breast Sunday dinners.  She had style and flair and liked to go shopping for clothes and accessories. Her clothing, shoes, and handbags always matched! At Christmastime, there many presents under the tree. Joyce would have started her shopping months before; each gift was artfully wrapped. She enjoyed music and sang soprano with a local choral group, “Sweet Adelines.”

The greatest joy in life was her family and especially her grandchildren. They could always make her smile.

I learned that she had overcome many difficulties in her youth. Many people who knew Joyce didn’t know about the trauma she experienced as a child. Her father died from liver cancer when she was 14. After his death, her mother was not able to support the family on her own. Joyce and her sister were given to another family in foster care. Eventually, Joyce’s mother was able to earn enough money in her job to reunite and provide for all 5 of her children under one roof. But Joyce could never again feel peace or security in her home and family of origin. She had deep emotional wounds, broken places inside of her that she didn’t want other people to see. She struggled with anxiety and perfectionism, with high expectations for herself and others.

It wasn’t until the last year or so, after her health became more fragile and she had to give up driving and independent living, that her family began to see a change in her personality.

I like to think it had something to do with her growing faith—that the Spirit was helping her to accept the things that she couldn’t change, as she prayed in her favorite Serenity Prayer, posted all around her home. The Spirit was giving her courage to change the things she could and the wisdom to know the difference.

Finally, peace had come.

***

This is the peace Christ promises all of us, as he did for his first followers. He doesn’t give as the world gives.

As he prepared his already grieving, confused disciples for his death on a cross, he told them that they already knew the way to the Father—because they knew him.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he said, knowing how anxious they were at the thought of his death. Don’t be anxious! He says. Don’t be afraid. This is NOT the end.

Nothing in this world can change the wonderful future God has planned. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God shown in Christ Jesus.

Christ is our peace with God, with one another and ourselves.

He has sent His Spirit to help us. We are not alone in our suffering and sorrow. Christ knows and suffers with us. He wants to heal our broken places.

And we ALL have broken places we don’t want other people to see.

Here in this place of refuge and safety, acceptance and love, we can be vulnerable with one another—and admit that we still struggle with our broken places and long for healing.

The Kingdom of heaven and our new and abundant life in Christ starts here in this world, in this moment. We have the hope that Christ will come again—and take us to himself, to the place that he has prepared when he gave up his life on the cross.

The way, the truth and the life is speaking to us now.

Believe in God, he says. Believe in me.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not let them be afraid.

Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, New York on Long Island. Come and visit! We want to share God’s love and grace with you and encourage you on your journey of faith. I have served Presbyterian congregations in Minnesota, Florida and Ohio since my ordination in 2011. I am a 2010 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and am working on a doctor of ministry degree with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I am married to Jim and we have 5 grown children and two grandchildren in our blended family. We are parents to fur babies, Liam, an orange tabby cat, and Rory, a standard poodle.

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