Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
July 19, 2015
“The Value of a Friend”
“Hear now these ancient words as written in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 4, verses 9-10.”
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.
“Allow these ancient words, spoken so long ago, to open your heart and your mind to God’s Wisdom.”
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I arrived early and was waiting to get my regular haircut. I sat down and then I began to use my cell phone. After a few minutes the owner of the barber shop looked over toward me and asked me if I was writing my sermon. He had caught me typing into my cell phone where I do have access to my office word processor; something called Office 365. It is really cool I can access my sermons in process from five different computers! Thank you Linda! Anyways, the barber caught me red handed! So I confessed I was working on my sermon and told him I was focusing on friendship. He immediately said this to me: “If you have one true friend in a life time, you will be lucky.” He then said: “you can also say: ‘what a friend we have in Jesus.’” And here I had been ignoring most of his remarks, to me over the years, while I have been going to his barber shop! Sometimes, people can surprise you with the most precious words of simple wisdom when you are least expecting it!
The truth is I was not expecting any valid input while I was sneaking a moment to jot down a couple thoughts that are now a part of this sermon. I was expecting to get a haircut. Now, I need to tell you that the virtually hairless owner of that particular barber shop only cut my hair one time over the years. Typically, the younger women with long flowing hair and a friendly smile styles and fusses over my hair each month. Now, I must also clarify, Lisa does not fit the full definition of a personal friend, yet she comes really close in that I share a lot about myself when she is working on me: cutting, combing and brushing my hair; especially when she is using a straight edged razor when trimming around my ears and neck. Yup, when I sit in the chair, for a few minutes at least, I am trusting her and being really, really friendly!
Any good definition of friendship will speak of the need for trust. In the case of my barber, I trust her to cut my hair without cutting and nicking me. But, it goes further than that. I expect my friendly barber to cut my hair the way I want it, and hold her personally responsible for the finished product. That means sometimes she disagrees with what I ask her to do. “Now Tim,” she will say to me after I have told her to take more here and leave less there. “Now Tim, if I do that you will have trouble with your cowlick, I think if rather we cut it this way it will look better.” When she speaks to me like that, I take her advice. This level of trust is what is needed in true friendships.
Friendship is a treasure. Howard Hughes was once quoting that he would give his then current worth of four Billion dollars for one “true” friend!
If you have a friend your life will be greatly enhanced. If you have the privilege to be a friend of another, you have the opportunity to experience one of the great rewards of life! If you do not know of what I speak – pay attention! If you have been blessed by having the willingness to work at becoming a friend you shall come to know the joys and the sorrows of having a friend. You see, if you have a friend, you will share in the sorrows and their failings as-well-as their joys and successes! Friendship, is a relationship and like any true relationship you need to stick together in thick and in thin!
Friendship is lifting each other up. The simple message of our scripture that I have ‘lifted up for us this morning” is pushing this basic point! In the movie Forest Gump: “Forrest demonstrates true friendship by going back into the jungle to save a friend’s life.” In the movie Forrest was retreating away from enemy fire back in the jungles of Viet Nam, when he realizes his friend Bubba was no longer with him. He runs back into the thick of the ongoing battle, lifts up his friend, actually putting him on his shoulders and transports him to safe ground. This is a graphic description of the deep, deep meaning of friendship. A willingness to “lift” someone up, even at the risk of harm to oneself. Surely, a story about a hero’s actions in the course of a life and death battle is the ultimate example of selflessness and heroism. Most of us are never asked to put our friendships to such tests. Yet, we all have opportunities to lift up another in the name of friendship. In fact, lifting up another is an act of unselfish love. Gee, isn’t that kind of like what we are talking about in our discussions about Christian love? Could it be that the value of a friendship, thus the value of a friend and Christian love kind of come together in this discussion?
In the life of a church a lot of real life activities happen. Folks gather together under the same desires to know God, thereby sharing common beliefs and practices. We come together as Christians, believing in the saving grace of God through the Son of God, Jesus the Christ. From there we strive to find solace and comfort in our times of Sunday worship; always striving to refine our traditions of praising God through music while making space for ‘all’ – in times of prayer and meditation. In the doing, a place of worship is sought after and once accomplished the toils of maintaining a building, now sacred, becomes crucial to the gathering of the growing faith fellowship. Friendships and relationships develop and begin to form their own realities. As responsibilities and challenges begin to take form friendships and relationships become more and more important. And yes, the harshness of life and the fickleness of human nature take root and flourish within the church community. Some call it dysfunctionality. As this natural byproduct of human fellowship takes root, it becomes more and more critical to critique your own behavior and to examine your motives, as the first signs of conflict between yourself and others surfaces. It is at this stage of church life that a good clear understanding of friendship, relationships needs to be spoken of and prayerfully, heard by all.
Take a moment to think about our scripture passage today. “Two are better than one.” Healthy church work almost always involves two or more individuals working in concert. The old adage: “two heads are better than one.” Two sets of hands are also better than one set. You can take this obvious analogy to its natural end. The simple point is that church fellowship needs to evolve into relationships that enjoy ‘working’ and ‘fellowshipping’ together and thus do many good and necessary tasks and events together. And in the doing it is crucial to remember to “lift each other up” especially when the dynamics of human nature confuse the issue at hand or conflict shows its ugly head!
Let us take a moment to fully grasp the centrality of friendships and relationships, with the concept of ‘lifting’ one another up! It is central to Christian teaching and critical for the continuation of a harmonious healthy faith community. Before we can lift up the age old saying and tradition of “What a friend we have in Jesus” we need to reaffirm our friendship with one another! If we do not, the wholeness of this loving growing community will begin to falter; and we cannot allow this to occur – we all have, both you and I, we have all worked too hard to turn and point this our church toward growth and wellbeing! Friendships and relationships take work, commitment, and sacrifice, as-well-as tolerance. Friendships are authentic, that means we are open and honest without reservations to those we call friends! Bear in mind, friendships are not build on holding back your opinion or holding back from stating your beliefs when you think something is out of place or needs correcting. A friendship, like any level of relationship, depends on and hinges on a system of give and take. Remember to listen to your friends, just as you expect them to listen to you.
There are beautiful pieces written about friendship. Listen now to the words of this writer. In the book ‘The Prophet’ the town gather’s together to ask questions of their prophetic leader as he announces that he shall be leaving them. And a youth said, “Speak to us of Friendship.” The Prophet answers saying: “Your friend is your needs answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and your fireside. For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace. When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.” And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; for without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unclaimed. When you part from your friend, you grieve not; for that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught. And let your best ‘be’ for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. /The Prophet by Khalil Gibran /
You and I, we all want Jesus to be our friend. And that friendship is awaiting us. We all can be part of that friendship. And the ancient writing we lifted up this morning gives us some clues as to how to approach that friendship. “Two are better than one.” That simply means we need to develop healthy relationships that will support each other. You cannot do this alone! You must strive to develop structure and organize and divide up the responsibilities of church life. Some committees need to be formed. Within them healthy relationships need to be formed. Prayerfully, growth will occur, trust will build and yes friendships will have the opportunity to take root. If – we really want Jesus to be our friend – we will need to work together to build this church in relationship – together!
What value do you place on your friendship with Jesus? How important is it to lift up the values, which Jesus taught, and lifted up for us as examples of how to be good Christians, and ultimately a good friend to one another and those that walk with us? If we value our relationship with our God, then we must value our relationships with each other!