by Rev. Joan Kessler
John 15: 12-15
Before I begin today’s reflection, I would ask that you take a moment to bring to your heart and mind those individuals you call friend… maybe there is one best friend you are thinking of or perhaps it’s a circle of people you share time with on a regular basis and you know what is going on in each others lives… or maybe it’s a long lost friend you are thinking of… someone whom you have lost touch with due to circumstances and haven’t connected with for a very long time… so I invite you to take a moment to do this and to bring them into this space.
The past twenty years has seen friendship reimagined. With the rise of social media, friend has become a verb. We “friend” people on Facebook and we relish in the growing number of “friends” who follow us, a few or maybe many we have never met nor are we likely to. The online world has changed our experience of social connection and friendship. But it has also helped us maintain friendships during the pandemic with platforms like Zoom. But I learned this week of a new kind of social relationship known as micro-friendships. Micro-friendships are those people we cross paths with on a regular basis… you see them at the gym, or the grocery store, or the coffeehouse and they become familiar to you… perhaps you have even exchanged pleasantries and you might know their name. I found a poignant example of this new kind of friendship that I invite us to watch. It is from a CBC online series called Humor Resources…
This clip is both comedic and based in reality. Social media and the arrival of the pandemic has seen us redrawing the picture of friendship you could say. Friendships are a challenge. They take intentionality and effort to keep the connection alive and the bond strong. This past week, I did a lot of personal reflecting on the friendships I have shared in over the course of my life. I took the opportunity to get in touch with my friend Tara. Tara and her family moved in next door to us. We were something like out of an episode of the Flinstones. Our kids played together, we exchanged eggs and cups of sugar, we worked on community projects. Then we moved away. Leaving my neighbor was one of the hardest parts of the decision to move. I recall being in our new community and the first time I ran out of some ingredient I needed to make supper… I wept all the way to the store, mourning the experience of just being able to pop over to Tara’s and borrow whatever was needed. This past Friday afternoon, I sent Tara a text for the first time in ages and I just told her how much I still miss living next door to her and watching our kids grow up together in a safe and caring place. She responded with her thoughts and feelings of what the friendship meant to her. I am grateful for this bond that still exists. We may no longer share our daily lives with one another, but we shared something that counted and was important, a friendship that had purpose and meaning.
Friendships change as we age too, I have discovered. One friend shared with me his thoughts on this very topic. He said in his university days, he friends of the good… people with whom talked about life with and what the future could look like… the girls they would marry and the families they would raise. They were conversations that mattered, and although he seldom sees them or keeps in contact, those friends will always linger among his closest. As my friend ages and considers the years ahead of him, he longs to establish the same quality of friendship as he did as a young man…friends whom instead of helping him prepare for adult life are helping him prepare for the ending of life and to make meaning of the time that is left.
Today Jesus tells his closest friends what they mean to him; he knows that their time together is coming to a close. He doesn’t want them to forget what they have shared together and how he loves them. Jesus showed them firsthand how to love with radical inclusivity…that a stranger was just a friend they hadn’t met yet. His love was one of justice and equality and Jesus wanted his friends to go and do the same even if it meant they would be doing it without him. But it is this love that starts a movement… it is through the bonds of friendship that we experience the presence of the Spirit. For us, this love shows up in our creation of community… a place where all find welcome and the comfort of belonging. We come together on Sundays and throughout our week to grow into one another and notice the ways we find mutual dependence, we notice who is missing. This is a gift of the small community.
I leave this reflection this morning with a quote from C. S. Lewis who said friendship has no survival value, rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. How true this is. Friendships make life worth living. This is what the Holy longs for… to see us changed and shaped by experiences, supporting one another through life’s celebrations and upsets… this was Jesus’ example. Life is a constant ebb and flow, circumstances change, people come in and out of our life but our time with them, if even briefly, shapes us and sends us on our way. I hope todays’ message has you thinking about your friends, your family who are like friends, your friends who are like family. May they enrich and bless your life so that you may do the same for another.