Yesterday we received difficult news that Carol Collins passed away. Though she had battled cancer a few years ago, her death came as a complete surprise. It was extremely challenging to receive the news towards the end of our worship service, right before our church’s second anniversary party. Our church family meant the world to Carol. It was difficult to receive such troubling news about Carol on such a celebratory day for the church she loved.
Yesterday, as I reflected on Carol and her passing, I found deep comfort in Matthew 25. It helped me settle on this truth:
Carol was a faithful servant of Jesus, and is, right now, in complete joy in his presence.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus is teaching the importance of kingdom faithfulness with the resources, gifts and skills that God has given each of us. The servants who are faithful with what they are given are commended, and told these familiar words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into ‘the joy of your master’.”
I want you to know that Carol was a faithful servant of Christ. She loved Jesus, and was so thankful that he had forgiven her sins through his work on the cross. She responded to that forgiveness with faith and faithfulness.
Carol was at the first gathering of our church plant in November 2014. She was one of the very first people to commit to the launch team of the church plant. She showed up, jumped in and served.
Then in 2015, Carol found out that she had cancer and would have to undergo chemotherapy. This was terrifying for her. The uncertainty, at times, felt crippling. But I watched as she wrestled to be faithful and trust God during this unwanted season. Carol had her last treatment in September of that year. She was glad that season was over, even though she was physically tired from the treatment.
In 2016, Carol worked behind the scenes for the church, doing web design and social media, helping me with planning, and a wide variety of other tasks. She loved this work and was so glad to be helping the church plant.
I believe it was during this time that Carol invited me to come and support her at her Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Carol had been in recovery for some years, and was not shy or afraid to open up that part of her life. In fact, she desperately wanted her “church friends” and “AA friends” to get to know each other. So she asked me to come with her on occasion, which I did. At one of her sobriety anniversaries, she asked if I’d give a short speech and present her newest sobriety medallion to her. I was honored to celebrate her faithfulness in walking sober.
As our church moved to a new location and grew, Carol’s role solidified on the worship team. She edited and operated the lyrics and slides for the worship team and church. Carol loved words and grammar, and her skill was appreciated. She would notice and correct when I put an apostrophe in the wrong place or didn’t use an oxford comma. She was passionate about writing, editing and grammar, and detail. We relied on her for that.
Though there are many stories about Carol at New City, there are just as many from St. Andrews Park Road Pres. Years ago, Carol found a home there, and a place to grow and serve. Both churches will have many memories to share about her.
Carol’s faith in Jesus deeply impacted her service for him and others. Convinced she was a sinner, she had turned away from running her own life and given it to Jesus, trusting him for the forgiveness of her sins. Receiving this grace and love from Jesus motivated her to be a faithful servant.
And I can picture her now celebrating as Jesus spoke over her, “Well done, good and faithful servant” when she stepped into glory. Let us take comfort in that.
But we also find comfort in these words, “’Enter into ‘the joy of your master’.”
Right now, Carol is in complete delight in the presence of Jesus. She is fully aware, and deeply experiencing, his great love for her. Any pain or wounds that her soul suffered on earth are completely healed. All of her longings are now satisfied. Carol is right now experiencing more joy and freedom than we can comprehend.
Let’s allow this to provide us comfort. With Carol’s sudden passing, we may wonder, “Did she know that we loved her? Did I go out of my way to show her I cared?”
These questions are both sobering and normal. And it is worth our reflection as we think about the importance of opportunities to love others.
As we question if our expressions of love and care for Carol were enough, take comfort in knowing that those questions are not at all on Carol’s mind. In the presence of Jesus, she is full of his delight for her. We are sad that she is gone, but she is not. She has entered into the joy of her master. Let that comfort you.
Carol was a faithful servant of Jesus, and is, right now, in complete joy in Jesus’ presence.
We hope to celebrate Carol’s life in the near future. We are working on a time and day for a “celebration of life” service, and will let you know once the time is finalized.
May God comfort you during this time. Please let me know if you have any questions.