Word of the Week

Abiding Friendships

For the next two Sundays, I'll be preaching about the story of Ruth taken from the lectionary readings this month. On Sunday, we'll be examining Ruth 1:1-18. I am completely jazzed about this sermon because of one of the themes I see emerging from the text: abiding friendship.

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

Friendship is a topic dear to me. I thrive on relationships and seek to pastor in a relationship driven way. And, Washington Plaza is full of many who feel this same way, I believe.

But, I think friendship is often a topic we talk so little about in life in general and in the church either. When is the last time you heard of a church doing a study on friendship or a sermon series on friendship? Why not?

This week, I'm seeking to take up the challenge. Ruth%20&%20Naomi%202

While attending a Transitions into Ministry conference last spring in Indianapolis, I was a part of  break out session about friendship and the pastoral life. Much of our conversation centered around the fact that we all struggle with how to be a good friend in the midst of our schedules, life commitments, and interpersonal dynamics that can get a little crazy sometimes.  But, that friendships are the life of what will sustain our vocations long-term.

One of my favorite passages on friendship comes from Natalie Goldberg's book on writing called Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life. In a chapter, she describes her coming to confidence about actually being a writer through a particular friendship saying:

"It is not about them saying yes or no; it is about encouragement and friendship. And it is about something deep and unspoken. When I was with Jim, I quietly vowed to continue, to carry on with this great thing we both loved. I didn't stand there digging the big toe out of my right foot into the dirt and say 'Gosh, Jim, well do you think even dumb old me can write?' It's more like you stand shoulder to shoulder, looking out at the vista, and the old writer points and says, 'See,' and you nod and smile knowing that the vista is good and sweet and you always want it in front of you."

Abiding friendships are about common interests, yes.

There are about mentoring sometimes, yes.

But ultimately, they are about the seeing that special spark in the other that they don't see in themselves.  And, out of love saying that there is nothing more you want to do than stick around to see his or her life through (and visa versa).

"Wherever you go, I will go."

I need to be challenged to be this kind of friend and I'm hoping you'll be up for it too. Looking forward to Sunday!

(And, FYI to the left is a picture of  Ruth and Naomi, bronze sculpture by Naomi Spiers).