Last week I talked about the circles of friends:
Contact Friends are those we are friendly with when we see.
Ex. The lady you always chat with at coffee hour.
Common Friends are those we share something in common with.
Ex. The lady you do church activities with; you go out for lunch after church and talk church.
Community Friends are those we share not just common interests, but other parts of our lives.
Ex. The person you met at church, but who you also go to the movies with and talk non-church things
Committed Friends are those we share most of our lives with and are there through ups and downs.
Ex. The person who visits us in the hospital, treats us to ice cream when we achieve a goal,
wipes our tears after a breakup.
Perhaps you wondered about friends you were once very close to, but no longer see or talk to that often.
They are people who you might only talk to once or twice a year,
But when you do, there is a strong bond and connection.
“They knew you when.”
These are called “confirmed friends”.
Each Circle is important and valuable.
If you are like most Americans, you noticed that there was some lack in some of your circles.
The fact is our lives are always changing:
Kids come and grow, jobs change or we move, we get married, a loved one dies, illness strikes
And if our lives aren’t changing, then others’ are:
A friend has kids, a friend loses a job and can no longer get pedicures every month,
the couple you go on a double date with gets divorced.
With all this change it’s no wonder half of our friends change every 7 years. (12)
With all this change we are often in a place to make new friends.
As the Girl Scout song goes, “make new friends but keep the old”
When I got married, I sought out married friends.
When you retire, you may seek out other friends who are retired and free during the day.
It’s not that the old are no good, it’s just that other friends are needed too.
Needing new friends is not a shameful thing, but a regular part of life.
Thus, this Lent we are focusing on friendship.
In our scripture today, the Pharisees and Jerusalem reject a friendship with Jesus.
Finding closed hands, hearts, and minds, Jesus leaves – at least for the time being.
Scripture Reading: Luke 13:31-35
Why did the Pharisees reject Jesus?
The Pharisees had an idea of what the Messiah would look like –
The person to save them from injustice and suffering was going to look and act the way they thought
And Jesus, this guy who riled up their overseer Herod without organizing and army, was certainly not it.
So they pushed Jesus out and were not willing to hear his message.
We might have an idea of what a good friend looks like,
Yet, the people who become our closest friends may not be the ones we think.
After a big break up, before I met my husband CJ, I sat to make a list of what I wanted in a partner.
A good cook who loves to prepare delicious meals, every night.
okay, I’ll settle for most nights.
CJ did check some of those boxes, the important ones,
but there were a lot of boxes he didn’t.
The home chef being one.
But I love him anyway.
If I got hung up on the boxes he did not check, things would not have gone very far.
Truth be told, by the time we met, I had let go of wanting a partner to fill my exact list.
I was open to what could be, learning anew with each date what was really important.
Any relationship, including and especially friendships, starts with openness.
Jesus can send us friends, potential friends,
But if we are closed off,
They will only ever stay acquaintances.
Friendship starts with openness.
Open to the amazing things God might have in store for us.
Open to a relationship beyond our imaginations.
A common unspoken friendship barrier is age.
People mistakenly think that every friend needs to share their exact experience,
When in fact listening and learning from each other is far more important to building a meaningful relationship.
A young person might think an older person is stuck in their ways, can’t possibly understand their current struggles or simply move too slow. Ouch.
An older person might think a young person is foolish, doesn’t know anything and doesn’t respect authority. Ouch.
When I was 16 I was visited my bff, Aine.
She said her friend Fran was coming over for dinner too.
Fran was in his 70s. He shared great stories, but he also asked us about our lives.
We shared back and forth.
Age was not ignored, but enhanced the evening of mutual sharing and respect.
In reality, age differences mean different experiences, and there is merit in both.
An older person might have a historical understanding of an issue, in part because they lived through it.
A younger person might see things in a new and innovative way, unscarred by past failures.
Learning can go both ways, if we are open to listening seeing the possibilities.
Sometimes the learning happens in unexpected ways.
Aileen Casey, our communications specialist, certainly knows more about technology than I do,
Even though I am younger than her and grew up with the internet.
Really funny moment when she was teaching me how to use instagram and discovered many of my friends on it!
On the flip side, I’ve been teaching her about church history, structure and theology:
“we say x instead of y, because of c”
Mutual respect has fostered a delightful relationship of growth and learning.
Sometimes we are surprised to learn that someone we thought was a certain way, is quite different.
People often prematurely judge me if they learn I’m a minister –
They assume I believe certain things or act a certain way.
Sadly, they assume I will judge them and look down upon them.
So I tend to wait awhile before I “come out” about my ministry.
In fact, a dancing “friend” warned CJ not to ask me out because I was a minister!
I’m glad he didn’t listen!
When we assume we know what a person is like – because of their age or job or any other characteristic, we can miss out on some potentially amazing friendships.
This does not mean every time we reach and try to get to know someone, we will hit the jackpot of friendship.
Rachel Bertsche spent a year searching for a new bff by going on 59 friend dates.
She wrote a book about it “MWF Seeking BFF”. (Nelson 83, 68-70)
She said yes to every invite.
Walk after work? Yes. Lunch Sunday? Yes. Movie Friday? Yes. Roller Skating Saturday? Yes.
She tried asking her current friends to recommend potential new friends.
Know anyone I might get along with? I’m looking to meet new people!
She started a hobby and joined a class – an improv class, to be exact.
She became a “regular”:
same coffee shop every morning,
Spinning class every Thursday,
church every Sunday
Well, she was Jewish, so she went to a young Jewish professionals’ group.
She tried to volunteer
She joined a couple online networking sites that set-up groups – a sort of speed dating for friends.
Of the 59 friend dates, 40% she never saw again and a total of 22 become friends of some degree…
Resulting in a total of 37% chance of a single friend date growing into an actual friendship. (Nelson 83, 68-70)
Better not to put all your eggs in one basket.
Try and try again.
Be open and initiate often.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again…or even if you do succeed, try again anyway because life constantly changes.
Friendships change, they come and go;
We change and our friendship needs change.
So, may we be open to the changes and open to the new friendships emerging around us. Amen.
While personal stories are from Pastor Kelly Jane Caesar, the quotes and content of this sermon is based on chapters 5 & 6 of “Friendships don’t just happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends!” by Shasta Nelson. Turner Publishing Company. 2013.
Also referenced is “MWF seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend” by Rachel Bertsche. Ballantine Books. 2011.