How to even begin this Sunday’s service? My mind races with so many descriptions from the overly dry and hot summer, to the mystical evolution of a downpour on the very day we have church outside, to the smell of golden water flowing in tyrants from the skies to the giggles of the children splashing about gleefully in rain and splash park, drenching themselves and their parents cars. No one description in all of this feels adequate to fit the bill. I suppose that if I were to really capture the essence of the morning, beyond the overflow of congregants, Mother Nature’s lashing out, and the wonderful food devoured while the children provided the music of the soul (laughter), I’d have to give it up to Pastor Montero’s song, provided by the HFCC…
Wow! What a powerful and inspirational song.
I know, this is Plymouth Congregational Church, so what happened to Pastor Bill? Well, on occasion Bill likes to give up his spotlight to others as an expansion of Faith, trust, and harmony as God would want his disciples to provide. Human nature says keep it all on me. God says share it among friends. It is a great lesson we can all take home at the end of the day.
Share it as friends!
“Together as Friends,” Pastor Montero begins. “It is now around one year old that Pastor Bill and the Plymouth Congregational Church welcomed a small group of friends, the HFCC, who was in search for a place of worship. It was the first Sunday of September, 2011, where you welcomed a simple seed to grow together with you. To this, we are so thankful to God for your hospitality as we worship and serve the Lord Jesus together as friends.”
John 15: 12 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Pastor Montero, “Sometime before the Passover Feast, Jesus and his crew were together in which Jesus said a lot of comforting words to them. It was said to prepare them for a task lies ahead. Jesus was telling them about loving each other, friendship, being set apart to help build God’s kingdom.”
John 15: 13 – Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Pastor Montero, “Like many people today, the disciples heard what Jesus said. But not quite sure at that moment, the disciples got what Jesus meant to say. They got the message after Jesus died and rose from the grave. Jesus wanted them to understand the importance of their friendship with God which is being defined by God’s love. It is being defined by the way God cares for them in such a way that Jesus laid his life for them. It is being defined by the way God himself was choosing them to help build God’s kingdom.”
John 15: 14 – You are my friends if you do what I command.
Pastor Montero, “Nowadays, there are many kinds of friendship among people defined in many different terms. My friendship with my wife is special in such a way that we both must love and care for our children while they grow up. My friendship with HFCC is special in such a way that we pledge to serve God and grow in faith. Your friendship with someone is special because it is defined with your terms. But here is Jesus in John’s gospel, reminding us all that as friends of God, we are being loved by God, and shall love each other and we, regardless of who you are, are being set apart to help build God’s kingdom.”
John 15: 15 – I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Pastor Montero, “Friends, this is the good news for us all. God’s love in Christ Jesus is given freely in this world for us to emulate. It is our joyful privilege to keep our friendship with God, remain alive. It is our joyful privilege to serve in our respective church ministries because you and me are being set apart as carriers of God’s blessings. God has been blessing us with gifts uniquely enough for us to handle… we shall put this in for God’s use to make these blessings keep flowing on us.”
John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
Pastor Montero, “At times, human friendship fails, one day two people become best of friends, a week after become best enemies. I was reminded of a High School freshmen orientation where the principal told the parents to remind their kids to choose classes even with no friends they know for they will find one. The principal continues, “It is funny in High School, today they are friends, tomorrow they are enemies.”
John 15:17 – This is my command: Love each other.
Pastor Montero, “In Christ, we are together as friends. For what we have is the gift to love, feel compassion, and forgiveness for we were once forgiven, and loved by God.”
It always amazes me how so many people can talk about having friends, being a friend, friendships on a general level, yet so many people miss the concept of the true meaning. Pastor Montero brought it all home today through John 15: 12 – 17, even deeper. His profound gratitude, respect, and appreciation for Pastor Bill, John Riley, Bob Dzurko, and all who worship at PCC for opening the doors and hearts of the church to the HFCC poured onto the pavement around our feet in deeper puddles than the rain shedding from the clouds above.
Is Pastor Montero’s gratitude friendship?
No. It is appreciation for a kindness that was given.
So, how can I compare the two?
Simply stated, it was the meaning that reverberates through Pastor Montero’s words. These words are built upon God’s mighty directions of love and affirmation for human bonding.
See it is like this… If you are not a person of truth, of faith, than the words encouraged by God’s life manual (aka the Bible) would be hard to offer up, to consider, to live by. Thus a friendship would be of shallow meaning; and when the need for appreciation of another was necessary it would be cluttered in dirty laundry and smell socks.
What Pastor Montero was saying of Pastor Bill, and the true natured friendship that was born a year ago, is about the sincere meaning, deep and rich, offered of respect and consideration; the willingness to open one’s home to a stranger, give the homeless man a sack of food, give the stranded driver a lift to the local gas station, are all symbols of the love and friendship God wants to invoke in each of us.
It is the meaning behind the action.
The generosity without debt, the giving without needing to receive, that extends the truest hand of friendship.
No guilt when asked a favor, no reprimand when the favor cannot be returned, is the bud of light shining upon the seed of friendship.
And here, in Pastor Montero’s carefully chosen words, he took a tiny seed, watered it daily, and watched it emerge as a golden flower. All this in the span of a year, from one door opening, one question asked, and all with the direction of God.
A friendship was born!
A friendship that abounds through the halls of God’s joy.
A friendship with more truth than the whole of a nation together.
An alliance to spread the deeper meaning of God,
not by words alone but more importantly,
One never can tell where a friendship will bud, where a flower will rise from a ravaged field, a tree will green after a fire, but to follow God’s will one must always keep that door open and trust in His ability to lead us on our path. Though the road will be filled with smoke, the rains will try to wash away the seed, the evilness of some people will dampen our spirits, question our resolve, it is here we must remind ourselves that by allowing the door to remain open we can and will make a difference in God’s universe.
Trust those who God brings into your life,
even if for a brief moment.
Even when you don’t think you can ever again.
By always being the friend you desire to have in
Recently, I felt alone, scared, distraught because I was unable to provide to a family member, albeit a little 2 year old kitten. My door remained open despite years of pain, hurt, and violations of trust, to spill my truth onto the examination table in desperate prayer and mercy of others to help her and our family. God’s hand on my heart allowed the gates to open despite my inherent desire to show strength instead of humiliation, but I knew that my friendship to Beatrix Potter was more important than my self composition. Turns out that I have a friend at Oswego Animal Hospital who understood my plight, and a complete stranger through Adopt a River Cat, that stepped up to help. The hands of God, through an offering of support by strangers, are a friendship of love not a friendship of convenience.
How is this example of friendship?
A friendship does not mean you talk to a person daily.
A friendship does not mean that you know everything about the person,
or they about you.
A friendship is one that meets in the middle of the road and allows you to
pass positively forward.
A friendship provides the necessary markers in your life toward fulfillment,
accomplishment, and heavenly rewards based on your actions, and how
your door sits when another comes near you.
Pastor Montero shared a story I have heard shared by Pastor Bill. This story is one that should be on every person’s bathroom mirror…
Two friends were waling through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: Today My Best Friend Slapped Me in the Face.
They kept walking until they found an oasis, where the decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.
After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: Today My Best Friend Saved My Life.
The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now you write on a stone, why?”
Pastor Montero, “They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.”