friendship

A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

A friend is someone you spend time with, sharing an affinity somehow, having a connection. One’s best friend I think ought to be one’s spouse or significant other. But one can have other friends as well, one of whom may be a friend in a way a spouse can’t. Actually every friendship is surely unique as the different people who are friends.

In a general sense we might have a good number of friends, any number of people you might feel comfortable with at a party or some kind of gathering. But real, true blue friends are rare, or much less in number. And actually we can be friends like that with only so many. Jesus himself spent a good share of his time, especially what private time he had, with the Twelve. And Peter, James and John shared the most intimate, closest times with him, John perhaps being the closest of all, calling himself in the gospel with his name, “the one Jesus loved.” Though perhaps that ascription was simply because of his own awareness of Jesus’ love for him.

Being friendly is important, and certainly a prerequisite to being a friend (Proverbs). But being friendly is not the same as being a friend. Friendship requires a commitment to be present with each other through thick and thin. It is two way, not one way. So that it’s different than a mentoring kind of friendship. And yet true friends are present for each other in ways that are not only comforting and consoling through the battering life often brings, but also to sharpen each other, as in iron sharpening iron (Proverbs). A good friend will love at all times, and that love will not let their friend off easily from what might be harmful, or less than desirable for their good.

I have come to think that true, deep friendship is rare. There will have to be a commitment to each other in which a multitude of shortcomings as in limitations and even sins are forgiven. True friendship isn’t easy. Sometimes between two people it’s impossible because one simply drains the other. None of us can be God to another. People need to be helped out of a “codependency” which is as harmful to themselves, probably more so, than to the one they unhealthily depend on. “Friendships” like that should be broken. Such people need friends, but it needs to be in a give and take relationship in which there is something of partnership and equality.

A good place to start in this is friendship with God, yes with God in and through Jesus. Through God’s reconciling work in Jesus, we can be friends again with God, and friends anew with each other. Jesus is the pattern in himself and by his example. So that friendship is to be edifying, in God through Jesus the most edifying and ennobling of all, beginning the restoring of the brokenness of our humanity into the full humanity that is in Christ.

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the peace of the promise in Advent

“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 39:8-40:5 

Father Michael Cupp pointed out in his sermon on Sunday that what is spoken of in Luke 3:1-6, taken from Isaiah’s prophecy, is about peace and security, as we can see from King Hezekiah’s thought. God’s salvation in King Jesus is about a peace and security which is promised when “the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” As Luke  puts it:

And all people will see God’s salvation.

There is no question that we long for peace and security, and the comfort which we believe only God can bring. We can being to experience this now, and we will in and through Jesus. But sometimes, as was the case of Israel, the journey there is bumpy and bereft of this peace. The missing link as is evident in Luke from the message of John the Baptist is repentance. Which simply means life lived in a new direction through the forgiveness of one’s sins so that one is praying and waiting for God’s salvation in his kingdom come in King Jesus.

Just as Israel of old experienced comfort from God at a certain point, so we in Jesus as God’s people are to experience the same now. In the peace and security that is a part of being God’s children even in this world with all its difficulties and dangers, yes even tragedies. God’s salvation is made known to us in Jesus, a salvation which begins now and is as big as all of life, even the life of the world. Part of the Advent promise from God that we have, to be completely fulfilled when King Jesus returns.

 

 

 

the sorrow of this world

I am rereading Karen Spears Zacharias’ gripping memoir, A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder, recounting the tragedy of the brutal torture, yes over time, and murder of a precious little girl. I will soon be offering a review of it on this blog.

This goes to show the depths of the tragedy of this world, the tragedies that are ongoing. Karen’s telling of this true story focuses on one important aspect which we need to be aware of, and on which society needs to get its bearings.

Some are more inclined to enter into such emotionally. I think Jeremiah was that way. We see this time and time again in the psalms, in fact lament is found in many places in scripture. It is good to be willing to pay attention and then go in depth so as to understand and empathize with the pain and hurt of this world. Besides bringing our own pain to God as well.

This is paramount in what Jesus did. Jesus entered into the pain of this world through his incarnation, life, ministry, and above all, death. In his death something of all the pain of the world due to sin as well as the pain experienced in this sphere, Jesus absorbed in himself. The final answer to this world’s woes, to all the suffering and tragedy in it is in a cross, that is in Jesus’ death. God’s amen to that ringing to this day in Jesus’ resurrection. His ascension, the pouring out of the Spirit, enabling an ongoing witness of this, as we in Jesus await his return, when the results at long last will be realized completely.

I have to look to the cross, at what Jesus did so as not to be completely swallowed up by sorrow. I know that all the evil of this world and its effects are swallowed up in his death. I look forward to the day when I will meet that sweet, wonderful, beautiful little girl, however she is to be in the resurrection. And what is past will be past and completely forgotten in that new world to come. We in Jesus look forward to that, and proclaim that to the world.

the tragedy at Aurora

We are in deep sorrow, with heavy hearts over the tragedy at Aurora in which twelve people were taken from this life by a senseless act, and others injured. Of course evil acts happen daily on this planet. And hearts are broken over unexpected death. We live in a tenuous existence with no certainty from one day to the next what might happen.

Hopefully these incidents can change society for good. There is no way society can guarantee that such evil won’t take place. But we do well to try to decrease the possibility through considering and addressing a number of factors.

We live in a world that is wonderful, but that is also plagued with sin. Sin is that which is an offense against God and humans, against all that is good. At its heart sin is a violation of love.

We Christians, followers of Jesus are the ones in which love should be seen the brightest, a love that forgives and helps others through God to heal. Though there are certain wounds we are never meant to get over. We pray for the victim’s families, and for the murderer, that justice would be done, and that by grace he would find God’s deliverance and salvation in and through Jesus.

The danger as Jesus said, is that when lawlessness abounds, the love of many may grow cold. The key here is that law is enforced, but especially among Christians, the law of love, of loving one’s neighbor as ourselves, or as one who is like us. This means it is not everyone to and for themselves, but all of us for each other. “One for all, and all for one.”

While we live in this veil of tears, we do so as those who mourn with the blessing that in and through Jesus and God’s kingdom come in him we will indeed be comforted. And we seek to extend that comfort to others by being in their presence, listening to their stories, weeping with them, and praying for them.

We look forward to the day when God will wipe away all tears, and death will be no more. When all will be well in God’s love in and through Jesus. As we now seek to extend that faith, hope and love together through Jesus to our world, and to the world at large.

out of one’s comfort zone

There is no doubt that we all like to get into some kind of zone, for most of us a routine that is to our liking. And we want life to go our way so to speak, relationships well, health of loved ones and ourselves well. And the better everything is doing in our world and beyond, the more comforting and comfortable it is.

But when Jesus calls us to come follow, he bids us come and die (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). Invariably we are taken out of our comfort zone, and put into a place in which our only hope and prayer is the Lord and to the Lord himself. Sometimes it seems like we’re just barely holding on, not so much to our faith, but more like to life itself. Of course all actually does depend on the Lord, our faith included. Even though in the mix of life, God has made us interdependent on each other in Jesus, as well.

God does comfort us in the uncomfortable places. That we might comfort others with that same comfort (2 Corinthians 1). But we will time and time again find ourselves up against it, sometimes nearly lost, or at a loss, clinging on for dear life to the faith we have. Looking to the Lord anew and afresh for what only he can give us.

I don’t like discomfort. But what’s the alternative? There is only one way in following Jesus in this life, and it’s the way of the cross. Death to self, and life to God. That is essentially what it means to be in Christ, baptized into him, into his death, burial, and indeed- resurrection. Only in this way do we experience his life. Surely we can say that to the degree we enter into this reality in our experience, to that extent we do experience his resurrection life. In the words of Paul:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Philippians 3:10

God, Help me today to embrace my cross, the way in and through Jesus. In all the down to earth ways needed, let me not hesitate. But follow him, come what may. Give me discernment in that direction together with others in Jesus. For your love and glory to be known. Amen.