"You are my friend" Sermon by Vicar Sarah Kretschmann
Read John 15:9-17
“You are my friends,” Jesus tells the disciples.
You are my friend. What a lovely thing to hear someone say to you, especially if that person is Jesus! But what does that statement actually require of us? What does it mean to be a friend?
Of famous friendships to aspire to, Jesus and the disciples aren’t necessarily the first that come to mind for me. As we have travelled through their story together the past weeks, it has been clear their relationships with one another was tough. They challenged each other. They struggled with opposing values and lifestyles. They caused one another heartache and even harm at times.
But as I reflected a little more this week, that actually sounds pretty much just like any of the best sisterhoods I read about or watched on TV which modeled friendship for me growing up. One of my favorite groups of fictional besties were Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.
Their story begins here in Maryland and follows the four best friends who have been inseparable for as long as they can remember and now face together the challenges of growing up.
As they prepare to spend their first summer apart from one another, they come across a mysterious pair of pants while shopping together that magically fits them all perfectly even though they have entirely different body types. They take it as a sign and decide then and there that they will send the pants back and forth to one another with letters and updates while they are apart.
The pants arrive to each new recipient with news of successes and heartaches, accounts of new discoveries and old wounds that need to heal, stories of growing families and difficult losses. Over time, the magical pants become a symbol of the girls’ unique bond and connection to one another. Through the pants and the friendship they represent, the friends discover more about their own identities and learn about all forms of love – self-love, friendship, and family of all kinds.
When Jesus tells his disciples, “You are my friends,” this is exactly the kind of friendship that I think he had in mind. A friendship that is all about connection, no matter the distance. A friendship that teaches us each day about what it means to love and be loved.
The Greek word for friend that Jesus uses in our passage from John 15 is philos which directly translates as beloved, or someone dearly loved.
Just like Jesus is describing, Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget dearly loved one another and showed their love by remaining connected and encouraging one another across oceans and miles.
Throughout the book of John, Jesus has modeled just that, an abiding, connecting, enduring love and now invites his disciples to do the same. “You are my friends (my beloveds),” Jesus says. “I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
When Jesus calls his disciples (and us) friends, he is reminding us of our belovedness. Jesus is reminding us that we are dearly loved.
I know I can certainly need that reminder from time to time. We all can really. And it’s left me wondering. How might we remind others of their belovedness?
Sometimes a phone call, or a letter or a special delivery is all someone needs to be reminded they are dearly loved. Other times, showing someone that they are dearly loved means taking risks like speaking out when a person or system is causing them harm. Jesus even goes so far as to say, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Whatever your way of reminding our neighbors of their belovedness, I encourage you this week to connect with someone who may need a reminder that they are dearly loved.
If this invitation feels like a weighty one, take courage. We are not alone on this journey of loving one another.
In this chapter of their story together, Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples, his dearly loved ones, his friends. He may not have left a pair of magical pants for maintaining connections with them and with us, but he does one better, come Pentecost, and leaves us with the Holy Spirit as a guide and source of connection to him.
The same Spirit who descends as tongues of fire in the Pentecost story, is moving and active in our world today. She shows up in many ways encouraging us to go and bear fruit in the world, pushing us to be our best selves, and guiding us along the way of love.
May we take courage as we seek to love one another well. May we be reminded of our belovedness on those days that we forget. May we never tire of showing others that they are dearly loved. Amen.
Image from: "For the Stars of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the Franchise Stays Alive via Instagram," Vanity Fair, 2017.