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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Easter 6, Year B

Commissioning of Elders
South Sydney Uniting Church
May 9, 2021

John 15:9-17

‘The Spirit of friendship’

It is striking that John’s Jesus refers to friendship, to disciples as friends rather than servants/subordinates. Servanthood and friendship thus connote mutual regard, mutual service, egalitarianism, democracy. The Spirit of friendship is holy.

We think about needing a friend, being a friend – sometimes choosing a friend, sometimes being chosen. We remember losing a friend, the pain of it. Friendships betrayed, restored – forgiveness, amnesty.

The beauty of faithfulness over many years, the thrill of a new relationship. The call to befriend, to bear witness, to protect, to maintain healthy boundaries, to encourage and challenge … to accompany, to hold in confidence. The pain and joy … All this …

Dorothy writes: “Twenty-four years ago, there was an Active Women’s Exercise Class. When it closed down, the women concerned decided to share morning tea with each other on the second Saturday of each month.

“Amazingly, this group still exists …

“Over the years, members of the group have been active in caring for each other in all sorts of ways. If people are away, someone has kept an eye on their house, or fed a pet.

“When my partner was dying, they prepared a list of people who took it in turn to sit with her and hold her hand in the hospice where she was in care. They did this so I could rest and be comforted – just being with my partner regularly, but not every or all day. We cared for each other whenever there was some need” (SSH, May 2021).

Jesus speaks of laying down one’s life for one’s friends. A measure of true friendship as opposed to shallow friendliness.

To lay down one’s life entails living deeply for others. Investing oneself in family or community. Or, perhaps, laying down expectations, calculations, weapons (Isaiah 2:1-5).

Richard Kearney writes of friendship as surprising gift – friendship, sometimes imperceptible or mysterious, overcoming estrangement and enmity. Friendship as hospitality, the interplay between host and guest. We are all others to each other and always strangers to ourselves.

Merryn writes: “The first thing and probably the most important thing that you can do [as a concerned friend] is to simply listen. Ask, ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ If they say yes (which they might not), actively listen without any judgement. It might seem to be a small issue to you, but to the other person it might feel huge. Secondly, ask the person what you can do to help. These two things are the best things to do and say when reaching out to someone” (SSH, May 2021).

Laying down one’s life, then, may mean offering one’s own story, as well as receiving the story of somebody else. An exchange of stories that just might change lives. Amen.