Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Truest Friend. . .

Sermon for Easter 5B, preached on Sunday, May 9, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

We don’t live in isolation. We have relationships. Some of these relationships we get to choose and some we don’t. We have family relationships: husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. Today we recognize and thank God for one of those specific family relationships, our relationships with our moms. Without our mothers, we wouldn’t be here. Literally wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for them; and for that, today, and really every day, we thank God and our moms for their love and care. That mother/child relationship is a great blessing.

We’re also blessed with friendships. This is one of those relationships that we get to choose. Take a moment and think about everyone who you call a friend, and not just your Facebook friends. I mean actual friends you have physical interaction with. What do those friendships look like? Oftentimes, those relationships are built around some kind of commonality, like similar interests and hobbies or fandom of a team. Friendships can come from sharing similar beliefs and opinions or connections made from the school we attend or the company we work for or the church we worship at.

One of the hallmarks of friendships is that they include encouragement and support. But this encouragement and support isn’t just sentimentality. It isn’t emotion and words only. This encouragement and support comes from doing, it comes from actions. Friends do things for friends.

All relationships require action. Whether we choose those relationships or not, in order for it to work, in order for it thrive, in order for it to survive, the people in it have to do something.

All of us know what it means to be a good friend. A good friend is someone who thinks about us. They remember specific things about us, what our likes and dislikes are. Good friends are there for us when we’re in need: whether that need is something simple like an extra set of hands to help move our stuff into a new house, or something more serious like letting us live with them for a time after our house has been destroyed by a flood. Good friends are always there, whether it’s to celebrate the joys of life or to mourn the sorrows. We all want friends like these.

But of course, if we know what good friendships look like, we also know what bad and hurtful ones look like.

Bad friends think about themselves first, they’re more concerned with what they can get out of a friendship instead of what they can give. These kinds of friends will be there to celebrate, but when it’s time to mourn, they’re nowhere to be found. Bad friends make promises they don’t keep. Hurtful friends betray trust. All of us know these kinds of friends...and if you don’t, then look in the mirror.

None of us are perfect friends. We fail our friends. We fail in all of our relationships. We sin, thinking of ourselves first. That’s our default concerned with what we can get out of the relationship. We say hurtful things to those we call friends. We promise things and don’t follow through. And because of these sins, and so many more, we have to confess that we fail at being good friends. We don’t deserve to be called someone’s friend. … But, that’s exactly what Christ calls you.

All of us are friends. All of us here, together today, in first service and in second service, everyone in the Church at large, all of us are friends, because that’s what Christ has called you. Jesus said, “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” (Jn 15:14-16). You are Christ’s friend, and in that friendship you’re called to be a good friend, to do what He has commanded you to do; to love one another as He has loved you.

When Jesus talks about love, He doesn’t talk about how we talk about it. Too often love is just an emotion. It’s either the romantic feeling that exists between two people, or it’s the favorable emotion we have for something trivial, like loving ice cream or pizza. Rarely when we speak about love do we think of it as a commitment to someone that requires action and self sacrifice on our part. But that’s exactly what Christ means when He talks about love. His friendship is built upon His love for you, what He has done for you.

Christ’s friendship isn't a Buddy Jesus relationship. Christ’s friendship isn’t sentimentality. Christ’s friendship is the truest friendship. His love is the truest love. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13). Christ’s friendship is His self sacrifice for you, giving His life up, on the cross to pay for your sin to save you from death, because that’s what you need.

When true friends see their friends in need, they act, no question and no delay. You’re in need, in need of rescue from your poor and failed friendship. You’re in need of saving from your sin. You’re in need of the life that only Christ can give. And so Christ met that need. He did for you what you can’t. He chose to be your friend.

Friendship is a choice, and Christ made that choice for you. You didn’t choose to be Jesus' friend. I didn’t choose to be His friend. The disciples and others who followed Him didn’t choose to be His friend. He chose you. He chose us, people who are terrible friends, people who sin and think about themselves first, people who fail in every single relationship that we have. And yet, with unconditional love and mercy and grace, He chose you.

Our friendships are often conditional, and so that’s how we hear Jesus’ call of friendship. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” We assume that our friendship with Christ is conditional. As long as I continue to follow His commands, then He’ll keep calling me His friend. But that’s not what Jesus is saying.

There’s no stipulation with Christ’s friendship. It’s not that Christ calls us friends because we’ve keep His commands. No, we keep His commands because He has already called us friends. We keep His command to love because He has first loved us. Remember, He chose you, while you were still a sinner (Rom 5:8). And because of that kind of love, we want to share that love of Christ with others. Jesus calls you friends. But to say He is your friend doesn’t mean He’s Buddy Jesus. Jesus isn’t just one of the guys. He’s your truest friend, acting in love. He’s your friend doing the one thing you need the most, dying for you, giving up His life for you, and gaining for you everlasting salvation. What a friend we have in Jesus. In Jesus’ name...Amen.

No comments: