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You can pick your friends

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“You can pick your friends…”

John 15:12-17

5th Sunday in Lent ~ March 25, 2007

When we decided to dedicate this Sunday to Friendship Sunday I couldn’t resist this phrase, “You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. Bit you can’t pick your friends nose.” All kidding aside, we know how important friendships are to our lives. Friends are people we turn to when times are good or bad. They are people have things in common with us and who we can relate with and share our lives. Friends are important!

When I was in Middle School I had a really good friend, in fact I would call him my best friend. He was adopted as an infant from the Philippines but had adapted quite well to life in Wisconsin. We had a lot in common – we went to the same church, attended the same school and played in band together (he played the baritone sax and I played the trombone). We enjoyed the activities of Junior High together at church and went through confirmation at the same time. I remember that our church always did Advent and Lent meals that the youth put on and we worked together in the kitchen at these meals. Another thing we had in common was our name – he was Michael and I went by Mike.

In the 8th grade we were preparing for High School and all the changes that would entail. I was nervous about starting High School but I knew that Michael would be there as a support. We had decided that we wanted to continue to be in band and so we tried out for Marching Band together and both of us made it in. I really was looking forward to being with Michael in Marching Band since I had heard that the week before school started was band camp that was usually likened to military “boot camp.” We had our plans in place. But then it all changed. The summer before High School Michael’s father took a job at a new store opening up in the Twin Cities area about three hours north of us. Michael was moving. I was devastated. My best friend wasn’t going to be there with me as we went on to High School together. What was I going to do?

Jesus said, 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 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. 16 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. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” John 15:12-17 (ESV)

In this text for today Jesus uses that important word, “friend” to describe His relationship with us. As important as friendships are in this world we know that because of sin they can fail. Maybe we have hurt our friend by words or actions or maybe they have done it to us and the friendship is strained or broken. Maybe it is conditions out of our control like my friend Michael who had to move. Maybe the relationship changes because of illness or ends with a death. Whatever the circumstance, we know that earthly friendship, while vital, can fail us. But Jesus takes something good and makes it better. He calls us friends!

This is God’s Son, the one who was part of the creation of the whole universe, the one who is holy and perfect, the one who is almighty and everlasting, and He is calling us His friends. Wow! When we choose our friendships we often choose them based on likes, values, similarities, etc. We chose people like us who we can relate to and who understand us. We don’t often choose people who are very different from us or who may even be hostile to our values and interests. But look at what God has done. We who are sinners, and the Bible is clear on this that we all are sinners and hostile to God, are now being called friends. God didn’t choose us to be friends because of something good we have done but has chosen us because of the good He has done for us in Jesus. God is calling us friends! God has chosen us! That is Gospel. The Law is we have turned away from God; our sin has made us enemies. But because of Christ’s death and resurrection God has now made us His friends. In the text Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” God has shown us His true friendship and love by taking on all our sin, all that separates us from God, and dying for us. He has laid down His life for us and calls us friends. What an awesome friend we have in Jesus!

Our Isaiah text today talks about a new thing God is doing for His people. I think that is what happened in my story of friendship. As I entered High School without my best friend God was doing something special. About halfway through the first year I meet another friend. His name is Greg. He had just moved into the area from Minnesota and had also joined our church. We hit it off right away and had many things in common. He wasn’t in band but we enjoyed many activities together especially in Youth Group at church. We did many fun things together and often got in trouble together too. In fact we had so much in common that we went to the same college together and went to seminary together. He is now serving as a pastor in Minnesota as I am serving as a pastor to you here in Colorado. Actually we may have shared too much in common – Greg married the girl I went with to junior prom. God knew what I needed and provided a friendship in my life that I cherish.

And that is what Friendship Sunday is all about – to see the friendships we have in our life and know that the most important thing we can share with them is our friendship with Jesus. Probably many of your friends share in your faith in Jesus Christ that is what you have in common. But maybe some of your friends don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. What a wonderful gift you can share with them. It is great to see that many of you have brought friends today to hear of Jesus love for them. Thank you for doing that, for caring for your friends so much that you have brought them to see Jesus. Those who are here by invitation we welcome you and hope that you will see Jesus as one who can be a friend to you. But all of us need to share the friendship of God with those we call our friends. Jesus command is to love one another and the greatest gift of love we can show is by sharing our friend Jesus with others. Amen

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