Tag Archives: Friendship

What a friend

James Tissot: Jesus discourses with his disciples. Image credit: Brooklyn Museum via Wikimedia

James Tissot: Jesus discourses with his disciples.
Image credit: Brooklyn Museum via Wikimedia

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”; but it was Jesus who named them disciples and he named some of them apostles and he called them Friends. Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants . . . .instead I call you friends.” (John 15: 15)

A saying with a greater significance for those who actually heard Jesus say it than for us. In those days to be a servant of God was a great privilege – a title of honour. But Jesus says “there is something greater still for those who follow me, you are my friends.” And I think he is telling us in the same breath that friendship with him brings us closer to God or more accurately, brings God nearer to us. A God who is no remote, distant potentate, away far beyond the human scene – up there alone with the stars. There is a relationship with God that is denied us with the Queen. If you are of the privileged few invited to a Palace Garden Party, you cannot reciprocate as you would with an ordinary acquaintance and invite the Queen to come to your house for tea and scones. On the other hand, God in Christ is our companion on the journey.

When you think of the motley crew Jesus chose to be his friends, God is no snob. Jesus mixed with all kinds of people. If others looked down their noses at any of them, Jesus certainly did not. There is no evidence of hurt or annoyance on his part as his contemporaries accused him of being a socialite, a party-goer, the friend of outsiders with whom no decent person would have anything to do. Or, as the gospel puts it, “a glutton and a wine drinker, friend of corrupt tax-men and outcasts”. What may be more difficult to accept is that if we are friends of Jesus, his friends become our friends – the scruffy, smelly, homeless alcoholics straight from a night’s refuge under the bridge down by the riverside; getting in the way as you try to pass them on the pavement, waiting for the off-licence to open to become even more helpless or repulsive. There are others of like ilk, you will have little difficulty in identifying them, Jesus’ friends. In the course of ministry I have been privileged to be the friend of truly, saintly folk. Alas ministry has brought me into contact some odd characters, who would not consider themselves to be friends of Jesus. I have to confess that whatever Jesus said on the friendship scene, I have found it difficult, nigh impossible to envisage then becoming my friends! A real test of faith, a test of vocation and a challenge to discipleship. Following Jesus would be easier if one could ignore the maxim that He came not to bolster the ego of the pious and self-righteous, but for the despised and rejected. We cannot ignore one important word of Jesus, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

A true story . . . . A church was engaged in a mission to the community, conducted by a visiting preacher. One afternoon the missioner and the local pastor set out on a house to house canvas, by car. The visitor noted from the map that there were three housing estates adjacent to the main road on which they were travelling. On the completion of their visit to the first community they drove on in the direction of the second estate, only to pass by it at speed to do the rounds of the third community. To the astonishment of the evangelist there was no suggestion of a return to the neglected area and no explanation given,. So the visiting preacher asked the pastor why they had not visited – and, the reply? “Oh! They are not our kind of people!”

No comment . . . . .

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Friends

Friendship Image by Tiago Ribiero via Wikimedia

Friendship
Image by Tiago Ribiero via Wikimedia

It has been “that kind of day” – sometimes a happy time when things have gone well and there have been some surprises. We feel good, reminisce with a song, What a day it has been, What a rare mood I’m in, And I think I am falling in love! Although I suspect my blog reading friends may have fallen long ago! But you get the idea. More often than not, I imagine, it could be a different story. We’ve had a bad day, a miserable week. In spite of everything the preacher promises (or the blogger!) or how earnestly we try to hold on to our faith, “trust in the Lord and don’t despair” and all that, we cannot see the bright side. What a day – we all have them and I am no exception: pessimistic thoughts, irritating doubts, faith under threat and all too often behaving like there is no bright side. Forgive, if I appear to boast! It is not meant to be. It is testimony to what is known as Saving Grace that I continue to be who I am and what I am.

It would be dishonest to pretend I enjoyed every minute of my forty-one years of active ministry. I remember all too well a time around the “middle years’ crisis” when I had actually composed in my mind my resignation from the ministry. I was so fed-up for a spell with what I was doing, perhaps more accurate to say, with what I was not able to do. Praises be! My crisis moments chose not to last too long. When I turned my gaze away from inner self and focused on those loving people committed to my pastoral care, their faithfulness to church and Lord and their love for one another, allowing me to share their hopes and fears and showing me love and friendship, I could not walk away. Testing times, frustrating times, unhappy moments, but I have never regretted being “called and sent.” “My people” as much as anything else have kept me on “the straight and narrow.”

A saying to remember (quote on fridge magnet): A friend will joyfully sing with you at the mountain-top and silently walk beside you through the valley.

The evening before our departure from one of the four churches I was privileged to serve in the USA, albeit for six weeks only in each venue, we were presented with a small framed piece of cross-stitch which I have kept and cherished. On it, the stitched saying reads, Don’t forget – let this remind you – you left a lot of friends behind you. We did, not only in Kansas but in Michigan, Alabama and Nebraska, and the truth of it was to be confirmed in subsequent holiday visits to the friends we left behind. We were welcomed and treated like we were one of them, one of the family. Although separated by thousands of miles and unlikely to meet again, the friendships survive. The same might be said, even more emphatically, of my experience here at home. For over 40 years, moving from one appointment to another, we made countless friends and although many have gone to “a better place”, there are many homes into which we could go and know we will be received with love and affection, with whom we might spend a happy hour of intimate and warm fellowship. As Christian disciples we belong to a Church committed from early days to a ministry of hospitality. Friendship should be second-nature to us.

There is one Friend who complies more than any other, who matches completely the criteria of friendship. We used to sing Jesus friend of little children be a friend to me; Take my hand and ever keep me, close to Thee. Saint Paul assures us in his letter to the Church in Rome, “There is nothing in the whole of life that will separate us from the love of Christ.” What a friend we have in Jesus, Jesus the best friend, Jesus the friend of all. Jesus who said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13; 34) And there is John Wesley’s oft quoted mantra, “I am the friend of all and the enemy of none.”

Friendships make lives brighter. . . . .