I’ve never been a posse kind of person. I’ve always only had one – maybe two really close friends at any time in my life. It was just enough to not feel excluded in society. Friendship is a delicate word. In our relationships, we count as friends those who’ve supported us when we needed it the most, spoke the truth when we needed to hear it and only a friend would let you know that you’ve hurt them. Not everyone will do that for us. I feel blessed that I can count as friend someone I’ve known since middle school, and a few I’ve known only within the past decade. The story of the paralytic being carried by four people and brought to Jesus to be healed at first seemed phenomenal to me. Then I remembered my faith community. Perhaps at the time the four coming together did not realize the power behind their action to carry the burden of this physically marginalized person. Particularly when the going is tough for us, it is an example of the strength of our friendship with Christ. When the posse scatters, a true faith community of friends will carry us through.
…all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” Mark 2:1-12
A few years ago I visited an elementary school in South Africa. The children there didn’t get a lot of visitors from the U.S. so they had a ton of questions. My niece who was still in college was traveling with us became very popular with the girls and most of their questions were directed at her. Thinking that she was close to their age they clung to her very word. I think they were quite amazed that someone so young got to travel away from home just to visit their school. Whenever I think of my niece at that school, I am reminded that in the midst of so many friends near and far away, God is always who we need God to be, that one friend in a thousand friends – not because we identify with God but because God identifies with us.
I do not call you servants any longer because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends. John 15:12-27 When I was in South Africa two years after it’s first all-race democratic election after decades of sanctioned racial oppression under the apartheid system, I learned that true reconciliation involves both sides giving something up. The apartheid minority had to give up its “blindness” and the oppressed majority had to give up its “sight” in order that they may begin to see one another and fashion a new common vision for its country. Christ gave up his life. As we live into the resurrection, how will we fashion a new vision for our own reconciliation with the Christ? What might we give up in order that others may be reconciled with Christ?
Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. Mark 6:47-56 Although they were struggling with the wind, Jesus actually intended to go past the disciples who had left without him. He was all too willing to allow them to struggle with the wind until they saw what they thought was a ghost and became afraid. At this point the disciples have lost their focus. This happens to me. I start my day without thanksgiving in my heart and I am fighting against a simple wind all day. But then Christ makes himself known in some uncanny way like finding a forgotten letter from a friend or seeing a hummingbird outside my window. At first these kinds of things catch me off guard but slowly they invite themselves into my space and whatever I am struggling with seems to dissolve. I am able to refocus my actions and safely find myself right where I need to be with God close by my side and on the other side of the struggle, that has been ceased, by praise and thanksgiving in my heart.
What does it mean to be friends with Jesus? The disciples have only had a three-year relationship with this person called Jesus and from my own experience the older you get you realize that’s really not that long of a time to get to know someone. We begin this thing called friendship at early ages, some years adding and other years subtracting people in our lives, in what we soon discover is a very small world. Some of us even gave our friends group names like the crew, peeps, brothers & homeboys, sorors and home-girls, posses, and entourage. However, unless you were the leader of that group, were you really friends with all of them? Remember when Jesus was resurrected he immediately went to be with his disciples and one of them wasn’t there. Thomas apparently, quite possibly in his grief was nowhere to be found, yet it was important for Jesus to make sure that Thomas believed, because it was important for Thomas’ witness (even as a doubter) to be a part of the growth of the Gospel (John 20:24-29). We know that today leaders don’t tell everybody in the group everything. So it’s not unusual to lose track of our “friends” simply by lack of communication. As time goes by some of these same people whom we have called friends ten or twenty years ago are today, now just acquaintances or people you know. The good news for us today is that Christ’s desire to be friends with his disciples is also his desire to be our friend and if that were not true of Christ we wouldn’t still be talking about him today. The question is whether we are ready to be friends with Jesus.