Sermons 2006
"Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Easter 6B 2006 John 15:9-17

“You are my friends,” Jesus said to his disciples. “You did not choose me but I chose you.” Friends and friendship. What in the world do you suppose Jesus meant? It seems important and yet we find it hard to define it for ourselves. The Greek New Testament terms are filios,,, filh,, filias. In the Greek speaking world of antiquity, real friendship was considered possible only with a few. Hence a wide circle of friends really means a few good friends and a wide circle of acquaintances.

Furthermore, for the Greeks, friendship extended to an unhesitating willingness to sacrifice one’s life for a true friend. Jesus himself, in our Gospel lection for today, put it this way: “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this. To lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This, of course, was referring to his own imminent death on the Cross for all of us, his friends. (1)

Like many important aspects of life and culture we find friend and friendship hard to define, but we know it when we see it. A junior high school English class was once asked to define a friend in one sentence.
One student said, "A friend is a pair of open arms in a society of armless people."
Another said, "A friend is warm bedroll on a cold and frosty night."
Others said: "A friend is a lively polka in the midst of a dreary musical concert." "
A friend is a mug of hot coffee on a damp, cloudy day."
"A friend is a beautiful orchard in the middle of the desert."
"A friend is a glass of milk and honey when you can't go to sleep."
"A friend is a good book on a rainy day."
"A friend is a stiff drink when you've just had a terrible shock."
"A friend is a hot bath after you have walked 20 miles on a dusty road." (2)
Not too far from the way the ancients understood it, really, when you think about it.

When Jesus called his disciples friends, the Greek words also denote brotherly love, with overtones of community love – agaph. And in all of our readings from the Gospel and letters of John, the love that has been the central theme is that agape love – the love of God and neighbor.

One of the poems I had to memorize in grammar school was one by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) which describes a man by the name of Abou Ben Adhem who had a dream in the night. He woke up, and there in his room was an angel of the Lord writing in a golden book.
He said to the angel: "What writest thou?"
The angel answered:
"...The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Ben Adhem. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Ben Adhem spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote and vanished. The next night
the angel appeared again but this time with a great wakening light, And showed the names of those who love God;
And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!

When Ben Adhem saw his name at the top of the list of those who love the Lord, he asked the angel what had happened.

The angel said, "If we love not our brothers and sisters whom we have seen, how can we say we love God whom we have not seen?" (3)

In this country we have churned much, legislated much, spent much on improving race relations. It hasn’t really worked in terms of brotherly love although civil rights efforts have been successful. We go about it the wrong way. Jesus told us how to do it: one friend at a time. Two famous instances:

The African-American athlete Jesse Owens seemed sure to win the long jump at the 1936 Berlin Olympic games. The year before he had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches -- a record that would stand for 25 years. As he walked to the long-jump pit, however, Owens saw a tall, blue eyed, blond German taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range. Owens felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis' desire to prove "Aryan superiority," especially over blacks. At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long. "You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!" he said to Owens, referring to his two jumps. For the next few moments the black son of a sharecropper and the white model of Nazi manhood chatted. Then Long made a suggestion. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, why not make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there, just to play it safe? Owens did and qualified easily.

In the finals Owens set an Olympic record and earned the second of four golds. The first person to congratulate him was Luz Long -- in full view of Adolf Hitler. Owens never again saw Long, who was killed in World War II. "You could melt down all the medals and cups I have," Owens later wrote, "and they wouldn't be a platting on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long." (4)

Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play Major League baseball. In his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson faced venom nearly everywhere he traveled. Pitchers threw fastballs at his head. Runners spiked him on the bases, brutal epithets were written on cards and spoken from the opposing dugouts. Even the home crowds in Brooklyn saw him as an object of reproach. During one game in Boston, the taunts and racial slurs seemed to reach a peak. To make matters worse Robinson committed an error and stood at second base humiliated while the fans hurled insults at him. Another Dodger, a Southern white man by the name Pee Wee Reese, called timeout. He walked from his position at shortstop toward Robinson at second base, and with the crowds looking on, he put his arm around Robinson's shoulder. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career. (5)

And finally my cousin Will Willimon, Methodist Bishop of Northern Alabama, tells this story:
“On my way out of the church late one afternoon, I was chagrined to see, coming towards the church down the walkway, a rather forlorn looking man with a small bag, obviously a wanderer, a vagabond, a drifter, obviously coming toward the church seeking a handout.

‘This is what you get for having a church situated near a busy highway. These drifters drift through about twice a week, seeking a tank of gas for their trip, a meal, a gift -- preferably in cash -- for their journey to who knows where. They always have some sad story of woe to tell but the end is always the same -- can you spare about $25.00 in cash.

‘I sighed as I watched the man approach. It had been a long day. I had a meeting to return for that night and I was anxious to get home. I would meet him at the door, head him off, give him the only cash I had -- a mere $15.00 as I recall -- and then send him, and me, on our way.

"What can I do for you?" I asked with some annoyance in my voice.
"I wondered if you might be able to help a fella' on the way South," he said. "I was headed down to...."

"Yes, yes," I said. "Well, I'm in a bit of a rush. So here is all I have. A five and a ten. That's all I've got."

“The man took the money as I offered it. Looked at it. And without a word, he turned, and headed out toward the street.

“Then he stopped, and turned toward me as I locked the church door. "I guess you think I'm supposed to thank you, to be grateful," he said with a surprising tone of defiance.

"Well," I said, "now that you mention it, a little gratitude wouldn't hurt."

"Well, I'm not.” "Why?" I asked.
"Because you are a Christian. You don't help me because you want to. I’m not going to thank you. You want to know why?" he sneered. “You have to help me because he [now thrusting his finger up into the air] told you to help me!" And then he left.

“I stood there, stunned, angry. The nerve of these people! On my drive home it finally hit me. The man was right, absolutely right. “

Love God with all you have and are and love your neighbor.


1. Kittel, TDNT, electronic edition, G5384
2. As quoted in John Killinger, “A Celebration of Love,” SermonMall for Easter 6B.
3. Adapted from eSermons Illustrations for Easter 6* 2006.
4. David Wallechinsky, "The Complete Book of the Olympics" as adapted from eSermons Illustrations for Easter 6B 2006.
5. Adapted from Brett Blair,
6. Professor William Willimon (Duke University), "Commanded to Love ", as quoted in and adapted from eSermons Illustrations for Easter 6B 2006.

Wicomico Parish Church
PO Box 70
Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579