Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The love that calls us friends has come. . .

Sermon for Easter 6B, preached on Sunday, May 10, 2015.

    My parents have had lifelong friends, from grade school to death.  I don't have those kinds of friends.  This is a partial consequence of living their whole lives in one community and my mobility but it is also a consequence of their age and generation.  Facebook has redefined friendship into something that begins and ends with the click of a button.  It is more likely today that we call people friends whom we have never met and our relationship will consist solely of social media.  Such friendship is too easy.  This is not the friendship that Christ is speaking of in the Gospel for today.
    Friendship according to Jesus is not who you hang out with on the internet but the person for whom you will die.  Jesus calls us friends but He is not speaking of the kind of friendship of buddies who share common interests.  Jesus is speaking of the love that will suffer and even die for His friends.  Greater love has no one that to lay down his life for his friends.  He gives us this friendship and He also asks us for this friendship:  to live as His friends in the world, to walk in His ways, to keep His commands, and to love others as He has loved us.
    You are Christ’s friends.  You did not choose Him but He chose you.  We love because He first loved us.  Only from Him did we discover the kind of love strong enough to suffer and strong enough to die.  He chose you and appointed you to be His own, to live under Him in His kingdom, and to bear His fruit in your life.
    He came into the world in order to define the friendship of God and to live up to its definition even to death.  You do not come to Him but He comes for you and to you by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And His friendship is not defined by good times shared but by suffering in your place for your sins and dying your death so that you might live.
    You did not die for Him. . . at least not yet.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus prophecies that some of us will face death in order to be faithful to God's friendship.  Some of us will be persecuted for righteousness sake and some of us will lay down our lives for the sake of the kingdom.  It happened to Jesus’ own disciples, in every generation since, and it happens still -- more now than in any time before.
    You are Christ’s friends.  You are the people to whom He has revealed Himself and through Him has made known the Father.  He has spoken to You the Word of life.  He has addressed you with the grace of forgiveness.  He has called you by name in baptism; you belong to Him.  And He has called you out – out of darkness into His light, out from the world and into His service, and out of the ways of sin into lives of holiness, righteousness, and blessedness.
    Christ has called you friends and sealed this friendship with His own blood.  His love lives in you and endures and to you He has gives His presence and His promise.  Once you were friends of the world; now you are His friends.  You cannot have it both ways.  Such is the nature of His friendship!
    And lets be blunt.  Christ calls you friends also because He has set you apart for new and different life -- for good works, for lives of holiness, for voices of witness, for actions of love.  So Scripture reminds us that you cannot be friends with Christ and live invisible lives in the world.  Our friendship with Christ compels us to stand up and stand apart.  We are the witnesses of His saving death and we are the proclaimers of His glorious resurrection; we are the instruments through whom His love reaches the lost and the needy.
    Friendship is at the heart of the Gospel – what it means and how it looks.  It means the suffering and death that purchased and won us and it looks like the cross.  You are His friends because Christ has forged this friendship in blood.  So we are warned against cheapening this friendship by picking and choosing at what we believe from His Word, walking in our own ways, or living anonymously in the the ways of the world.  You and I are called out and called forth to walk in love as Christ has loved us, bringing to the world a radical new definition of friendship.
    On this day we honor moms, the great temptation is to think being a mom means being the kind of friend our kids have with their peers.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A mom’s friendship with her children is to look like Christ’s friendship to us.  It is not for fun or pleasure but for values that shape lives, of love willing to sacrifice, and the courage to speak truth.  No child fully understands this until he or she is a parent.
    If mom has done her job well, she is a witness to Christ’s friendship in the home to husband, children, and her own parents.  She is an example of Christ's faithful love, a voice of His truth even when it is unpleasant to hear, a safe refuge of His grace when there is no place else to turn, and a certain guide to virtuous and godly living.  And moms, as hard as this is, bless you when you do this.  And kids, blessed are you when you know Christ’s friendship through a faithful mom.
    It is always our temptation to make friendship merely a matter of the heart but Christ shows us it is much more.  It is cross shaped, with arms outstretched in suffering, it bleeds red in sacrifice, and it dies so that we might live.  This is Christ’s friendship to us and with us. And it is in this friendship we are called to walk through this mortal life until we pass to everlasting life.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.  Christ is Risen!

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