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Summary: Sermon for the 6th Sunday of Easter, series B. In calling us "friends" Jesus discloses the how intimately God loves us, and gives us an example to emulate in our being friends to one another.

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6th Sunday of Easter May 21,2006 “Series B”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you sent your Son, Jesus the Christ, to reveal your will and grace for our lives. He is our Lord and Savior, who gave his life to redeem us from our sin, and to restore us to a right and meaningful relationship with you, our Creator. And yet, he calls us his friends. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to live according to Christ’s law of love, so that our discipleship will not be a solemn burden that we bear alone, but a shared experience of growth in faith, as we embrace each other, as he has embraced us. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

Last Sunday, following our worship service, Pastor Blair, in his usual way, greeted me with a comment intended to help me grow as a pastor. Ralph always has a comment for me. As a retired pastor, he has a lot more time than I do to keep abreast of current issues facing the church, and I think he sees it as part of his continued ministry to keep me up to date on these issues.

Ralph has even taken out a subscription for me to the Lutheran Forum magazine and newsletter, to help broaden my horizons. But perhaps the most treasured gift he has given me is a leather bound, four volume, two-year daily devotional, which has really helped in my personal spiritual development.

I have really come to enjoy Ralph’s support of me as a pastor, and his willingness to see me grow as a preacher. On a few occasions, Ralph would make the comment, “That was good Ron, very good.” On a few more occasions, he would suggest another illustration that I might use in the future to help emphasize the main point of the Gospel more vividly.

And then, there have been a few times that Ralph greeted me on the way out of worship with the words, “Ron, are you going to be in the office Tuesday morning?” Of course, not all of his visits on those Tuesdays pertained to my sermon. On some visits we talked about personal issues, theological issues facing the church, etc..

But there were times that Ralph came to offer truly meaningful criticism regarding my sermon – especially about my delivery. Apparently I have this habit of dropping my voice at the end of a major point that I was making, which he sometimes was unable to hear. Twice he mentioned this, and I would guess that he was not alone. So I apologize for that tendency, and promise to strive hard to overcome it.

But Pastor Blair isn’t the only one in our congregation that offers caring support to me as your pastor. Those who have participated in our Bible studies and various classes, who have challenged and reflected upon what I have presented, have offered their support. Those whom I have visited in the hospital, or in other crisis situations, and shared with me their deepest concerns, have offered their support. Those who have offered me their criticism and support in many number of ways, have offered me their support, and have helped me to grow in faith.

Thus, if I might dare to claim it, I look upon Ralph and the members of our congregation as true friends in Christ. And I don’t take friendship lightly. A true friend is one who really cares about you, who is willing to help you grow as a person. A true friend is one who will not only offer you encouragement and praise for a job well done, but also offer criticism in a constructive manner, when it is needed.

Quite often, it takes time and maturity to recognize what true friendship is really about. During our early years, we tend to think of a true friend as a person who agrees with us, and promises to keep silent when we engage in activities that we know are wrong. But that is not what it means to truly care for another person.

To be a friend means that we care enough to do and say what we believe to be in our friend’s best interest. If we are true friends, we will listen to what each other has to say, even when it might hurt. To be a true friend means to do what we can to help the person whom we love come to grow and develop into a stronger, more fulfilled, and more caring person. To be a true friend means to give of our self, for our friend’s welfare.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. 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, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.

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