Dear Church,

I will never forget the first time I met Jack Robinson. After worship on my third Sunday as Senior Pastor, we gathered in our Fellowship Hall to have a churchwide lunch. The occasion was really intended to celebrate two things. First, we were celebrating that the church had embarked on a new chapter in its history by calling me to be the 28th Pastor. Five years later, I still can’t believe I am so blessed to be in this role. The second reason we were gathering together was to celebrate the 90th birthday of our Pastor Emeritus, Jack Robinson. At the beginning of the festivities, I made my way over to the Robinson table to say hello and formally introduce myself to Jack and Charlotte. I had heard stories of Jack’s tenure at FBC and was slightly intimidated by a man who was held in such high regard by our church.

I sat down at the table with Jack and before I could even say a single word, he reached across the table and grabbed my hand. With a light in his eyes and a smile on his face, he said, “Will, it is so great to meet you. The first thing I want you to know is that if anyone ever says that I’ve said a bad thing about you, I want you to tell them that they are a liar!” From that moment on, I knew that I had a friend in Jack Robinson. Whether it was sitting in the Robinson’s living room or stopping by for a quick chat on Sunday morning, I always knew that Jack was someone I could count on as a mentor and a friend.

By the time you receive my letter, many of you will know that late last night, Dr. Robert Jackson Robinson went to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Just shy of his 95th birthday, Jack lived a full and beautiful life. He loved people and he loved Jesus, which is why he had such a wonderful tenure as the Pastor at First Baptist Church. On Monday of next week, we will gather together to worship God and celebrate the life of a man who represented Jesus so well in this world. Over the course of my five years as pastor, I was privileged to officiate ten funerals with Jack. At every one of these services, Jack would read from John 14:1-6, where Jesus tells his disciples,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

            These words of Jesus are a reminder of the hope we have for our life after death. They are poignant and powerful. They are words we need to hear in moments of pain and grief. But what always struck me about watching Jack proclaim these words from Jesus was something so slight that most people probably didn’t notice. At each funeral, his rhythm was the same. Jack would stand at the appropriate moment and make his way to the pulpit. He would place his Bible on the lectern and proceed to steady himself with both hands on the pulpit. He always opened his Bible to the incredible words from Jesus and then by all appearances he would read them to the congregation. I always watched with a sense of awe, and in the midst of watching I noticed that Jack, in fact, wasn’t reading the words at all. He wasn’t looking down into the pages of his Bible. Instead, he was looking out at the congregation and proclaiming these words of hope! What I began to realize about Jack is that these words from John’s Gospel were so much more than just ink on a page, so much more than a great saying from a historical figure. When Jack spoke those words in a funeral, he didn’t need to read them because they were fixed at the center of his heart. He knew those words of Jesus in the same way he knew his own name! Jesus was the defining figure in his life and he boldly spoke from John 14:1-6 because they formed the rock on which Jack stood over the course of his life.

When we gather next week to worship God, I trust that we will hear those words of Jesus once again, and we can celebrate because Jack has arrived at the Father’s House. That, my friends, is Good News.

Grace and Peace,