6 Easter Sunday
6 May 2018 at St. Peter the Apostle and St. William Churches in Naples, FL
Acts of the Apostles 10, 25-26, 34-35, 44-48 + Psalm 98 + 1 John 4, 7-10 + John 15, 9-17
Two weeks ago, the Gospel proclaimed through the words of Jesus that we were being invited into the same relationship Jesus shared with the Father. Last week, with the image of the vine and branches, the Gospel described the relationship we have with one another and with Christ Jesus reminded that alone we can do nothing. Today the Gospel gives both of those relationships a name: “Friend.”
The change from “servant” to “friend” that Jesus announces for us today gives every reason to gather around this altar in joyful thanksgiving. This is a change initiated by God through the words of Jesus Christ: “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.” Finally, in human terms we can all understand. We know what our relationship with the Father is all about. We know what was in the mind of God at the moment of creation. The description we have of the relationship between God and those first humans makes sense. They were friends! They walked and talked together in the garden. They knew the sound of each other’s voices. There was loyalty and patience, faithfulness, and a shared joy that comes from love. It isn’t as though God needed friends, and it wasn’t as though God’s friends needed God to give them something. They had it all because they had God. God was God because there was love, and there still is.
As the story we know so well goes, God’s friends decided to go it alone on their own. There was betrayal and blame, hiding and shame; behavior that usually destroys a friendship. However, friendship for God and friendship with God is not broken by those things as God reveals something about friendship we sometimes forget: forgiveness. From our own human experience, we know how friendship works. There are no secrets. There is complete acceptance. In fact, one becomes totally blind when it comes to the flaws and imperfections of the friend. There is time spent together, sometimes exclusively, intimately, words are spoken and thoughts are shared. Friends know what the other is about. Nothing can get in the way when a friend is in need. Jesus, put it simply: we are willing to lay down our lives for our friends figuratively and often literally.
While friends may act as servants to one another because of their love, slaves or servants do not eat with their masters. Yet, here we are, gathered around a table with the one who calls us “friends.” So, it is not just a matter of words spoken with this Gospel, it is also a matter of things done. Coming to this altar affirms our friendship with each other in communion and confirms our friendship with God. The forgiveness we share, the life we enjoy, the way we listen, the patience we give, the loyalty we express by our commitment, and the way we serve each other is all about this friendship.
It has always seemed to me that greatest compliment we can ever offer to another, and the most obvious sign of someone’s grace and holiness is call them a “Friend of God”. May it be so for us all as we near the feast of Pentecost.