Our X-Stream group for older children, with Judi Marsh, led our Sunday morning service on 3rd October. Becky Hartwell, our Pastoral Assistant, preached on the theme of Friendship and Trust. Leading into the sermon Becky played a wonderful YouTube video clip showing not only the trust two guitar players had for each other but the joy of their friendship too!
Friendship is a huge part of our world, whether it is on television shows about finding your best friend forever or in soaps where friendships can be trouble, fun, involve all sorts of betrayals. Friendship can be a significant part of our work and social situations, affecting the decisions we make in our lives. We can also have the friends we have kept for life, friends we may not see often but have great conversations with when we get together. There are the friendships in the bible, between Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Moses and Aaron, and more.
Friendships can sustain us, they can keep us going in the bad times and mean we have someone to share the fun times with.
There are some amazing friendships at Highbury. From Ceitidh Macleod and Eleanor Archer, they’re 4 years old and they love running around together. There is the White family and Schonbeck family - parents and children who are great friends. Then we have Lorraine Gasside and Janet Brown, and we also have John Lewis and Lillian Watkins, not running around together as much as Ceitidh and Eleanor but I’m sure there is still similar joys. Friendship knows no boundaries.
We can see from our current friendships and those of people around us that friendships are significant things in our lives, whether they are part of a marriage or the bond we share with a neighbour.
This is something important that the X-stream children recognised and wanted to share with you today, which is why they chose this topic. I’m just going to share some words this morning which have come from various areas including the children. Thoughts on this passage, on friendship, on trust and how we can build it in our friendships with others and our friendship with God.
We have the dramatised reading the children shared with us earlier. Jesus and Peter walking on water. We can see a lot of the things we have in our friendships with others are reflected in the friendship between Jesus and Peter.
The friendship between Peter and Jesus took time. It had ups and downs. We may have this in our own friendships with people and in our friendship with God. We see in the two readings just two glimpses in the friendship between Jesus and Peter and we can see things did not always go smoothly. Peter wanted to trust Jesus but it wasn’t always there. Peter did not want to disappoint Jesus but it still happened. Jesus knew Peter cared about him and Jesus cared about Peter, but sometimes things went wrong.
Our friendships with Jesus can have that as well. Sometimes we get angry or upset with God, wondering why things have happened. Sometimes we can feel distant from God, struggling to fit everything in our lives and sometimes we can feel we have disappointed him, wondering how things went so wrong, why we did what we did or not sure what has happened.
In the story of Peter we can see that even in those things Jesus still loved Peter, Jesus was still there for Peter, Jesus still trusted him. Trusted him to go into the world when Jesus was back in heaven and share the good news. Trusted him with an important message, to lead people and to help them in their struggles.
Jesus is still that person for us. No matter what happens Jesus still loves us, he is still there for us, he still trusts us. It’s an amazing thing. When Peter started to fall in the water Jesus could have asked him to leave the disciples, telling him he’d had enough but he didn’t. Jesus picked him up and continued to teach him, not giving up on him.
But then sometimes it is hard to trust God. Maybe we can think of a time where we struggled to do the things we felt God was asking us to do, struggled in how he wanted us to serve him or struggled with a passage of the bible and what it meant for our lives.
Peter let his fear affect his trust of Jesus and this affected his actions, he started sinking into the water, he couldn’t believe that Jesus would sustain him in doing the miraculous.
What Peter was struggling with was trust. But when I talked with the children they had some great ways that we could build trust. We know that trusting someone isn’t always easy, we see this in the struggles that Peter had in his moments with Jesus but the children suggested some helpful ways in learning to trust other people.
You can get to know the person better.
This might involve talking with friends, finding out what they love, hate, something about their past, learning all about them. This can also be part of our relationship with God. We can learn about him through reading the bible, talking with others and through prayer. We can share our hopes and fears with God in our prayers and also take time to meditate on his words and being in the silence with him.
One of the things Tabby and Grace do that builds up their friendship is that they play together.
I don’t think Peter and Jesus went on a trampoline together but I think there was some socialising time between them, they ate together, they walked together. But how can we play with God? God is always with us, whether we are watching a film or going on a walk. It is hard to think of this as playing with God but it is spending time with him. We can pray through an activity, telling God about the fun we are having on a crossword or when listening to a particular song, thinking about how it relates to our lives with God.
We talked about testing people to find out if we could trust them. We saw in the bunny story earlier that friends may test each other and in doing so it can lead to great trust or no trust at all. So how do we test God? And should we test God? Well, we can ask questions. Richard reminded us a couple of weeks ago week how important it is to ask questions. Not to test God in going sky diving without a parachute and expecting him to save us but to question who God is, to speak to others, to learn what God is about and what that means to us in our lives.
The children mentioned one other thing when it comes to trusting. Trusting someone isn’t always about them it is about you as well. Trusting someone takes something out of yourself. We have to decide, are we going to trust someone or not? Are we going to trust what God wants for us, that he loves us, that he is with us, that we can have a close friendship with him or not? It takes a leap of faith. We have to make that decision for ourselves.
We also talked about how it is good to have more than one friendship. Jesus is always there for us and he is not a jealous friend, he encourages us to talk to others, to be with other people and one of the many places we can do that is church. I shared some of the church friendships earlier, but these aren’t the only friendships here and there are many more still to grow, with all the ages. But Jesus is our BFF, our best friend forever. Whoever comes in and goes out of our lives Jesus is there no matter what, he doesn’t move to a different area, he doesn’t fall out with us and stop speaking to us, he doesn’t find someone he likes even better than us, he doesn’t get too busy to have us in his life. Jesus is there for us even after we have rejected him.
Jesus saw Peter sinking and “immediately he reached out his hand and caught him.” He didn’t try and decide if the friendship was worth it, was he getting enough out of it, was Peter really good enough to be his friend. Instead he reached out his hand immediately.
When Peter was aware he had rejected Jesus, Jesus didn’t respond by going into a sulk, letting him get some of “his own medicine”, say cruel things or ignore him. Instead, knowing that Peter was still suffering over his actions, he reminded Peter that he still had worth, that he could still serve him, that their friendship was still there – that he knew Peter loved him.
Jesus’ love and forgiveness is never ending and neither is his friendship.
The differences between having a sort of acquaintance friendship to a close bond friendship where you trust the other person are numerous. But one of the differences is that we can have more fun. You may remember from the video earlier that there wasn’t just laughter from the audience but there was laughter from the musicians as well. They weren’t just trying to get through it, hoping they wouldn’t make mistakes, worrying what the other person was doing, they were enjoying themselves. I think the same can be said in our relationship with God.
The times when you see something that makes you smile and you want to share it with God, or when you lead or help at a group that you were nervous about and something great happens and you want to share your joys with God. That is part of a deeper friendship. A deeper friendship with God means lots of things, knowledge, comfort, companionship, hope and joy.
As we go home I’d encourage us all to build our friendships, with other people, with those we haven’t spoken to in a while and with God. To look at the friendships we have and that those around us have and see what we can learn from them.
I hope that our friendship with God this week enables us to helped where our need is deepest, whether it is in needing comfort, needing to be loved, needing to know we’re not alone or needing to see joy in something.
Real friendships aren’t easy, they take time, effort, they take work and they take trust. But we can have a true, deep and everlasting friendship with Jesus.