The 6th Sunday after Pentecost

I am hearing quite a bit about missing things at the moment. Whether the trigger is a social media reminder of what we were doing years ago or thinking about our plans at the beginning of the year for July, this isn’t a usual July. We are missing the holidays; the graduation from kindy, primary school, college, or university; the wedding; the Prom; Wimbledon; that special anniversary or birthday; the visit from Grandma and the visits to grandchildren; and so much more have been affected by an airborne virus. The relief and pleasure at returning to the hairdressers might say it all.

I hear Christians saying that they miss being together in worship, in fellowship, sharing a meal but mostly I hear mention of Holy Communion and singing. Of course, God hasn’t abandoned us and he comes and blesses us through his Word but we miss the regular pattern of being together. We adapt – think of all the online worship services, Bible Studies, fellowship, and church meetings happening – but not everyone is online. Perhaps the older we are, the more things we have to miss (because we have more Julys to remember!) and perhaps the younger we are, the more we feel we are missing out on a future life that is being irrevocably changed.

Recently I read an article from a Western Australian university which looked at what gave 12 year olds meaning to their lives. Working on the assumption that people who have clarity about what gives them meaning in their lives tend to be healthier, happier, and more satisfied with life and resilient to adversity, the young people were asked to use photographs to show what was important to them. The research found, unsurprisingly in my view, that relationships were what gave the young people meaning in life. Friends in school were the single biggest factor for providing meaning and outside of school it was a combination of sport (more for the friendships than the sport), family, and pets that provided meaning.

It makes sense to me that a good friendship is so important because we can be ourselves, have support, and yet a good friend will also challenge us. There is acceptance but not blind servitude and a mutual shaping of each other, friend to friend. No wonder young people have found ‘not being with friends’ so hard in these months.

And then it occurred to me that while I know that Jesus is my friend, it is not a concept I tend to bring to my mind when I think, talk, pray, consider, imagine Jesus. Now that I started thinking about this as I am writing I can see that in my descriptions ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ are his love and grace – which I don’t question – his care and patience for me – which I remain stunned by – and he is still inscrutable at times – and I don’t understand him, at times, and what happens and why but I have learnt that he does bring good out of all things and so his words hold me – but I don’t tend to think of him as ‘friend’.

And perhaps that means I am missing out on something – an extra facet of the diamond of faith that God loves me because he is who he is and because he has chosen to extend a friendship to me. Yes, those 12 year olds are onto something to be sure about friendships. So when it is Jesus who is your friend, then meaning in this world has a foundation that can never be shaken or destroyed. Not long before his arrest and execution, Jesus said to his disciples “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

Friendship with God directs me to what I have rather than what I might be missing! Wow! GS