Over this Lenten season, the Spiritual Formation team at First Presbyterian Church in Bend put a call out to all to submit writings for a Lenten Devotional. I will do my best to post those here daily. You can also go to our website and access all of the devotions on a pdf file.
Here is the next submission:
Scripture: John 15.1-17
“Friends forever — that’s us!” Giggling children make pacts and plans to enjoy their lives in lasting friendship. Years later, some continue in friendship, while others have lost track of each other. Friendships, at least in cyberspace, are forged daily through Facebook and other networks. People seek meaningful relationships, especially friendships which are discovered, chosen, or built, unlike family relationships that are determined at birth.
Jesus loved people and took time to tell them so. As he was journeying toward Jerusalem toward his death on a cross, he prepared his followers with invaluable messages of love and provision to strengthen them after his death (see John 13 – 17). He described his upcoming struggle and death in terms of friendship: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Describing friendship, he said, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know their master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15.13-15). The treasures of friendship are promised to us whose hearts are open to Jesus.
Some people may cringe at the word, “command.” Yet the content of Jesus’ command is what everyone seeks: genuine love. Jesus’ command is to love one another as he has loved us. Love is what Jesus is all about — loving God first with one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving neighbors as ourselves. Jesus doesn’t say, “Go out and love others on your own. Do it right!” No, he invited his followers into the intimacy of abiding in him, realizing that his presence fills us and surrounds us. All we do we do in the strength of the Spirit of Jesus within, the spirit of love.
Jesus promised to share his heart with his followers. Our hearts and minds grow in our understanding and faith in God through discovering more of Jesus’ words and putting them into practice day by day. Eternal friendship with God revealed in Jesus is a lifelong process, developed as is any valuable friendship through spending time together, listening to one another, and seeking to serve one another in love. He said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” True joy flows from growing friendship with him. True joy flows as friendship is shared with others on the journey. Friendship with Jesus is a community experience, not just an individual experience. Jesus created a new community woven together in
the joy of knowing him.
PRAYER: Loving God, you pour your love into our lives in so many ways, telling us over and over of your love. Thank you for friends whose presence in our lives are expressions of your eternal friendship. Help us to cherish our friends and to cherish our friendship with Jesus, and to give our best in these precious relationships. Amen