Friday, May 19, 2006

Sixth Sunday of Easter, John 15:9-17, May 21, 2006

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2006
(From a sermon by Glen Neilson)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.  (John 15:9-17, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.
Jesus calls us his friends.  Right in the middle of this reading we hear him say to us, “you are my friends.” Right there in the middle of all that talk about doing what I command, obeying the Father, bearing fruit, Jesus says we are his friends.  He says that he has a relationship with us, actually being our friend.  
We all know how precious and rare a good friend is.  We all need someone to be friends with.  There are times when we need a friend to discuss the troubles in our life.  We all need someone to sit with for a cup of coffee, shop with, and even commiserate about life, kids, work and school.  We know how important is it to have a good friend to do all those kind of things with, and yet, we also know how really rare good friendships are.  
Today, friendships seem to be extra hard to build.  They take time, and time is a luxury we seem to have so little of these days.  Everyone is so busy, with school, work, family there’s little time left to develop a good friendship.  And even when there’s time we often lack the energy.  Life today is full…
There’s another problem too.  Lot’s of people really don’t know how to be a good friend.  All too often people use relationships for their own benefit, and their own purposes.  People want you around and call you a friend when you can do something for them.  They want you to be there when you can make them feel good, but as soon as a little trouble starts or as soon as you’re not useful anymore they split.  Friendship is difficult when you get used, in the process.
Friendship makes you vulnerable.  That’s just the nature of the beast.  Friends see us for who we are, with our masks removed.  We let our guard down and tell them things we don’t tell anyone else.  When the true you comes out you put yourself in a position to be hurt easily.  That’s another reason why friendship is rare.  
Friendship is so rare that maybe it makes Jesus’ offer of friendship a little difficult to accept.  We do what him to be with us, after all we gather together here Sunday after Sunday to come into contact with him.  We want him to listen to our problems and he promises to do just that.  He promises that nothing is to small a matter for him, and we can confide in him anytime.  He always has time for us.  He always treats us right.  He promises to give us whatever we ask in his name.  He actually was the friend who gave his very life for his friends.  Jesus loves us, in spite of who we are.  He promises to fill us with joy.  He knows us for who we are and never turns us away.  Jesus is the kind of friend we really want.  What a precious gift it is to be chosen as a friend of Jesus.  “You are my friends” Jesus says.  
Unfortunately we aren’t good friends in return.  We don’t spend the time and energy necessary for this friendship.  We know what the pressures are.  It’s difficult to get everyone up and around in the morning, just in time to catch the school bus, or off to work.  Who has time for adding an extra half hour, or even fifteen min.  for devotions? Sunday is a day to rest and catch up.  It’s a day to relax and do nothing.  No wonder our minds wander from the task at hand in worship.  There’s so much to do today, especially with Memorial Day weekend approaching.  Dinner’s in the oven, or being prepared at Papa J’s.  And with meals are all too often around the TV instead of the table.  Family devotions don’t fit very well during commercials.  With al this busyness, with all this eating on the run, it is our friendship with Jesus that suffers.  No time.  No energy.  No will to do it.
Maybe his friendship with us isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Does he really treat me right? Does he really hear my prayers? All of them? Being chosen as a friend of Jesus hasn’t made my life any easier.  Where’s that joy that he promises anyway? I’ve got pain in my life, and lots of it.  And Jesus, “my friend” seems a long way away.  My friendship with Jesus is filled with doubt.
Jesus, our friend, shows us all our weaknesses.  It’s painful when we compare ourselves with him.  The bible tells us that He is perfect.  We know that we are not perfect.  He does everything right.  We constantly fail.  He loves perfectly.  We give our love with conditions.  He is a good friend.  We are simply friendly.  Who wants to hang around someone who is always opening those wounds? Who wants a friendship with someone who’s better than we are?  It’s easier to avoid Jesus, and let that friendship with Jesus die.
And we’d let it die.  But Jesus is too good a friend for that.  Jesus considers His friendship with us so precious that He won’t let it die.  He didn’t choose for us friends so that we’d wither up and die, like dead branches on the vine.  He wants us to bear fruit.  He promises joy and that’s what He gives with His friendship.  
Jesus is a true friend.  He gives his time to us fully.  As a matter of fact he lived his whole life only for us, His friends.  Jesus is no earthly or worldly friend.  You don’t have any friends that are anything like Him.  He did what was best for us even when it meant his own death, even when it meant sacrificing himself.  He has that “greater love” that he was talking about.  That’s true friendship, to lay down your life for your friends.  He offers Himself, His very life for you.  That’s why He took on human flesh.  You and I are lousy friends.  That’s because sin lives in our hearts and makes us selfish instead of selfless.  The sinful nature that lives in our hearts doesn’t even want anything to do with God.  That selfishness, that rejection of God, that lack of friendship, deserves punishment.  God’s only punishment for rejecting Him is death.  I know it seams harsh.  We don’t run around killing people who don’t want to be friends with us, but God is different.  He is perfect and holy.  Rejection of God means rejection of everything that He is and stands for.  There is only one place for people who reject God and His holiness.  That place is hell.  Because of that sin that’s in here, without friendship with God we are hell bound.  But, that’s not acceptable to God, so in steps Jesus, our friend.  He leaves His Father and is born as a human being.  He’s a perfect friend of God.  He’s a perfect friend to the people all around Him.  And He’s a perfect friend to you and me.  You see, He gives his very life for us, even when it meant death and execution.  Jesus laid down His life for you, His friends, on the cross.  His friendship takes him to the darkness and pain of death.  His friendship causes Him to suffer the punishment of hell for us that is the eternal separation our sinful nature really wants.  So, you and I don’t have to face hell and its punishment.  Jesus our friend has paid the price in full for us.  But His friendship doesn’t stop in death.  He takes His life up again.  That’s where the joy is.  It’s Easter joy!  Jesus friendship for us didn’t die in the tomb.  He rose again, and came alive.  He isn’t a dead friend who gave up everything for us.  He is alive.  A dead friend isn’t a good friend at all.  Jesus is our friend forever.  He’s a friend that is able to do whatever we need.  He proves it by dying and rising again.  That’s how He shows us that He will never leave us or forsake us.  He knows who we truly are and He is still our friend.  He knew us before he died.  He knew us on the cross, and He still died for us.  He knows us now and still calls us his friends.  
What a friend we have in Jesus!  Do we need a friend to talk to?  Take it to the lord in prayer.  Do we need a friend to walk with?  He comes to us in His Word, right here.  All we have to do is open your ears and listen to Him.  Do you need to be close to your friend, Jesus?  He comes to us in His very Body and Blood at this altar in the meal He gave us to eat.  All we have to do is open our mouths and eat.  That’s the personal touch of friendship that only Jesus gives.
So we’ve got lots of friends.  If we rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, Jesus is 1,000,000.  He’s the best friend that you will ever have.  Do you need a friend?  I do.  You do, too.  We need Jesus as our friend.  A friend who has such great love that He lays down His life for us.  A friend who has such great love for us that He give us the forgiveness of sins that we need.  He is our true friend.  Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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