Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: John 15:13,14
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.

Jesus, your special friend

Come with me to a year two classroom.  Adam is sitting at his desk doing art and all of a sudden, there is a puddle under his chair and the front of his pants is wet.  And he hasn’t spilt the water for his paint brush. He thinks his heart is going to stop because he cannot possibly imagine how this has happened.  It's never happened before, and he knows that when the others kids find out he will never hear the end of it.  He puts his head down in embarrassment. He looks up and here comes the teacher and he’s sure his ‘accident’ has been discovered.

As the teacher is walking toward him, a classmate named Susie is carrying a container of water with paint brushes in it.  Susie suddenly trips and inexplicably dumps the container, the water and the paint brushes down the front of Adam and onto his lap.

All of a sudden, things have changed for Adam.  Instead of being laughed at, everyone gasps and feels sorry for him.  The teacher sends him to the office to get dry clothes.  The teacher’s assistant mops the floor and when Adam gets back to the classroom the other children kindly ask him if he’s all right.  Even Susie who had caused the upset receives sympathy as her friends assure her that it was just an accident.

At the end of the day, as they are waiting for the bus, Adam walked over to Susie and whispered, “You did that on purpose, didn't you?”  Susie whispered back, “Once I had an ‘accident’ too”.

It’s great to have friends that we can count on when things really get hard for us.  Friends step in and quickly help each other without thinking about it too long or considering what the limit might be to the help they could give.  Friends just help because they are friends.

What are other ways that we can describe what a friend is?
Someone who really cares for you.
Someone you can talk to about anything.
A good person you can trust.
You can be yourself with a friend.
A good friend is faithful and dependable – someone who sticks up for you.
Someone you can call on any time to give you hand.
A person who will do anything for you, maybe even give up their life for you.

Why do you friends behave that way?  May I suggest it’s because there is a special bond, a special relationship, between you and your friends. 

Jesus is that kind of friend. When you were baptised Jesus promised to be the best friend that you could ever have.  He is the kind of best friend who is prepared to even give his life for you.  He has promised to stand by you not only in the good times but to be a true friend when things are really tough and even when you aren’t a very loyal friend to him.  When he made a promise to be your friend as he did at your baptism, he promised to forgive your sins, and to one day take you from here to be with him in heaven.  “You are my friend”, Jesus says.  “When you stay close to me, follow me, be my disciple, trust me, you will realise that I am close to you; ready to help you, comfort you, and support.  We will be true friends”.

A friend is someone we can talk to.  We can talk to our friend Jesus.   

We can share our most intimate, personal and even embarrassing thoughts and feelings with him; share our sorrows, the good, the bad and the ugly.  To say that Jesus is our best friend means to share the intimate insides of our souls.  We can talk to him about anything and he will always understand because he knows what it’s like to be sad, to be hurting, to be in pain, to have our feelings hurt, and to face death.  He listens with love and like a brother or a parent wipes away our tears and comforts our aching hearts with his understanding and sympathetic concern.

Jesus not only listens but as a good friend he also talks with us.

Jesus doesn’t tell us what we necessarily want to hear, but what we need to hear.  He speaks to us through the Bible and there is a lot to be said for finding some time in every day to listen to Jesus speaking to us through the words of the Bible. The more you listen to Jesus the better you will get to know him. 

He speaks to you through sermons, devotions, your conscience, and your prayers.  Jesus often speaks to you through your friends, through your teachers, through your parents and grandparents. He uses other people to pass on what he wants to tell you at just the right moment.

Like a good friend Jesus knows you inside out.  He knows exactly what is happening to you at any given moment and is ready to help you with the right word of advice or encouragement and the right amount of support. 

He knows what we need but there is one problem - we aren’t always tuned into what he is saying to us. 

We have a friend who wants to help us and support us and guide us to make good choices but for reasons of our choosing we decide to ignore this friend and go our own way.  You can bet that we will end up in lots of trouble as we decide to travel along without the best friend we can ever have.  You can bet that we will make some very bad choices when we aren’t listening to the loving advice that Jesus and the Holy Spirit want to share with us.  You can ask anyone here today and they will tell you of times when he or she has willingly and sometimes unknowingly ignored their best friend, Jesus and the people he has sent to speak to them on his behalf.

The good thing is that when we come to our senses, when we repent (to use a church word that means to ‘turn back’) he will always be there to renew that friendship again.  In the meantime, he is waiting patiently for us to turn away from our silly ways and to come back to being friends with him again.

More than anything I, and all the people in this church today, want to see your friendship with Jesus keep on growing.  You have learnt a lot about Jesus but there is still a lot more that he has to show you about what a special friend he considers you to be.  This special friendship between Jesus and you will become clearer and stronger as you are faced with what the future will hold for you. It will become stronger as your faith in Jesus is tested by the circumstances of life.

Sometimes you never get to appreciate what a true friend is until you have to call on that friend to help you in a time of need.  We all want you to know Jesus is that kind of friend who loves you dearly and who wants you to stay close to him and get to know him as
someone you can rely on,
someone you talk to in prayer,
someone who will guide you when you have choices to make,
someone who will forgive you for the stupid things you do,
someone who will always look out for your interests even if that means taking you from this life into heaven.

Jesus is not only your best friend but he is also your Lord.  In other words, he is your best friend with power.  There is nothing that is beyond the ability of your best friend to give you help.  He is a friend who has the kind of love that never gives us and keeps on inviting you to trust him, believe in him, follow him, hold on to him whatever may come your way.

Family members of these confirmees and members of St Paul’s, this group of young people are a remarkable group and have been influenced by some wonderful people along the way to be disciples of Jesus including parents and teachers.  I want to encourage all of you to be good friends to them and encourage them to continue to be best friends with Jesus and friends with the people of God in this church and whatever church they may find themselves in the future.  Help them in whatever way you can to take care of their relationship with the one who loves them and cares for them in such a special way, their best friend, Jesus.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
7th October 2012

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