Some of you may know that I am a Mac/Apple Computer fan. I own two: a laptop and an old 2004 edition of the eMac. The problem is I work on a PC at the church office. There are some differences but far fewer than there once was. Right now, among the many books I am reading, I’ve been enjoying the recently released biography of Steve Jobs. It is a fascinating study of a man who was both a genius and a visionary while also exhibiting the strangest personality quirks. Maybe the genius/visionary stuff can only work when one does have a quirky, oddly unsettling and sometimes downright rude personality. I don’t know. Jobs was a man who should have offended anyone he came in contact with, and he often did, but for whatever reason, he was also a man who drew people in, influential people, people with money, ideas, and visions of what a world of personal computing might look like.
Back in the mid-1980’s, I had my first lesson in computers. I was certain I wouldn’t like working on a computer. I was wrong but I didn’t always find computers to be the friendliest of tools. They could be temperamental and as, in most things in life, I didn’t always have the patience or the stomach for dealing with a computer, which wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. That’s pretty much where I am today but now I’m trying to figure out much more techy kinds of products – smart phones, interactive web pages, back up drives, those kinds of things.
About 20 years ago, a friend came to stay with me for an extended visit. She brought along her own computer, printer, paper, cords, and phone, and set up shop in the back bedroom of the parsonage in which I was then living. Between the two of us we had two fairly self-sufficient offices until the day my printer refused to do what I wanted it to do. I had a sermon deadline and funeral to prepare and they were both there on the screen but I couldn’t get the printer to work. So, being the calm, collected pastor that I was, I panicked.
Fortunately, Betty didn’t panicked. She sat down at her computer and with my computer set up right next to hers typed out the whole sermon and then the funeral meditation from my computer screen onto her computer, then printed both with her working printer. I was good to go. If we had given it some thought, we might have done something a bit easier and simply loaded her printer software to my computer and I would have had a printer that worked…maybe. But, as I said, my panic and our mutual ignorance regarding computers in general didn’t make for a more reasonable solution.
One of the first things Betty did when she went on her computer was to look up the word “friend” on her newly purchased computer Bible program. I was scheduled to do a morning worship devotion at a retreat I was attending in Maine the following week and the scripture I chose was the one we heard read this morning from John 15. The definition Betty found was so appropriate not only for the upcoming devotion but also, for the way in which my friend had come to my aid in a time of need. The definition said: Friend or Friendship is “a close trusting relationship between two people.” Betty had certainly proved her friendship…she was a good friend.
Christ talks about being a friend…calling us, his disciples “friends. But what does the word, friend, mean? Not surprisingly, most languages had some form of the word but in all cases, there were two meanings associated with the term. One meaning denotes an associate or companion. The other speaks of the object of one’s affection or devotion. So, it appears that Jesus’ use of the word, friend, in John 15 comes from the first derivation meaning “associate or companion”. Jesus sees his disciples as friends, as companions on the journey he and they will take together.
It is a wonderful gift to be thought of as a “friend” and amazingly, Christ gives this gift to those who follow him. He says this, “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.” One rather interesting connotation for the word, “friend” is its Latin roots. When we look at Companion that word comes from two shorter words, also familiar to us: com meaning “with” and panis meaning, “bread”. So companion actually stands for with bread. As Christians, we might take some liberties and complete the definition of Companion with the added word “broken”. With broken bread, which is how we think of Christ…our bread, sustenance, nourishment, salvation broken for us. Christ gave himself to us as bread for the journey of faith and life.
When I was younger one of the gifts I remember my grandmother making was her once a week loaves of delicious bread. The dough would be allowed to rise in bowls atop an old couch in the dining room and the scent of yeast and flour would literally fill the house. I’ve tried many times to recreate that experience of making dough and filling my house with the scents of yeast and flour but rarely have I been successful. What I have discovered is how labor intensive the process of making a good loaf of Italian bread is and with my new awareness, I now know what a gift those weekly loaves really were, They were a gift of love.
And that is what it means to have Christ as friend and companion. A gift of love. Christ’s sacrifice for us is bound up in the relationship we hold with him and with each other. It is a gift of trust and love, which is symbolized by the broken bread we share on Communion Sundays at other times in the year. It manifests itself in the ways in which we heal one another through the ups and downs of daily living.
But we are also encouraged to share our faith in Christ with others, to invite others to walk this journey with us, encouraged to break bread with others, and to be friends and companions to and for others. It is a ministry of love and we are talking about love today, aren’t we? Mother’s Day is a day we remember those who loved us and mothered us in some way. Often it is our biological mothers that give us that love and nurture. Sometimes it is another significant mothering figure in our lives – a friend, aunt, grandmother, or sister. We very well might have many such figures in our lives, women who, by their example, teach us how we might be as loving and giving as they are.
Christ told his disciples that he had chosen them; they didn’t choose him. Each was called, as we are, to a ministry of love, each invited to relate to each other in the way Christ related to his God and to our God. Perhaps the clearest message from our reading today comes in these words; “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Words to live by; words by which we might grow closer to God and closer to one another. Words, which remind us that it is in and through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we know God’s love intimately and are given the ability to share that love with others fully. “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” What a blessing! Amen.