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Hallwood Ecumenical Parish

Bethesda, Palace Fields & St. Mark’s, Beechwood

Church of England – Methodist – United Reformed Church

9 May 2021

I do not call you servants; I call you friends (John 15: v 15)

We’re big on friendship in this house. Not surprisingly, really as Michael’s a member of the Religious Society of Friends (known as Quakers, of course). When I asked him why this original title was used by the Society, he said it was a reference to their “friendship” with Truth. Members do not swear oaths to convince others that they are speaking truthfully, which led to their being amongst the first people to be able to affirm rather than swear when giving evidence in court. Their friendship with truth was evident for all to see.

In today’s Gospel reading we continue to read John’s account of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. In these verses Jesus commands his disciples to love one another as he loves them; their friendship with him is made evident by the way in which they carry out his wishes: “You are my friends if you do what I command you (v14). Our friendship with Jesus should be clear for all to see; by the way we show our love for one another.

Where are your friends to be found? Facebook friends? School friends/work friends? Next-door-neighbour friends? Friends of the Earth? I’ll assume church friends! What makes you “friends” with those people? Shared interests, perhaps. Shared experiences in some cases. You have interests, experiences, concerns in common. You may be working towards a common cause, or just enjoying one another’s company in a group of crafters or singers; that’s what being friends is about.

 It’s not about obeying someone’s commands. It’s not about being prepared to lay down your life for anyone (v13). Well, not in Britain in 2021. So friendship with Jesus is, perhaps, different from ordinary everyday friendships; even exceptional everyday friendships. Our friendship with Jesus is evidenced by our love for each other; every “each other” we meet, or know of, or hear about. Unconditional, possibly life love that might lead us into places we’d really rather not be in; doing things that we’d really rather not be doing; accepting ideas or opinions that we’d really rather not be confronted with.

I do not call you servants, I call you friends – friends of Jesus. Are we up for it? Are we ready to extend God’s unconditional love to everyone, in every situation? Friends of Jesus’; it’s an awesome responsibility!

Penny Hennessey

9 May 2021