That’s what friends are for
Luke 5: 1-15 & 17-26.
Over Lent we are looking at different expressions of love.
Last week we looked at Physical Love.
This week we look at Friendship.
I had an experiment with the children who attend Zones a couple of Fridays back.
I brought out a tin, this one, and I told them that once it had sweets in it. I told them that if you found this sweet tin then anything could be in it.
That my granddad had a shed full of tins like this and it had all kinds of odds and ends in it; spare screws and nails and nuts and bolts.
That my gran had a similar tin under her bed and it had money in it. She didn't trust banks and so she kept all her money under the bed.
Then I asked them, ‘What do you think would make you really happy?’
I got all kinds of answers.
Money, lots of money,
sweets, lots of sweets,
a car, even though none of them could drive,
schools being off...all kinds of answers.
Not one of them said, ’a friend’.
Over 60 children and not one of them said, ‘a friend,’ would be the thing that made them happy.
I would suggest that we have been subtly brain washed; because this is the generation that has always had television, always had adverts.
What is worse for a couple of generations now we have used the television as the go-to babysitter. We have put them in front of the television and thought that those little people were being quiet and all was content. Not realising that we were not putting our children in front of a neutral force.
What we were doing was putting them in front of adverts, hours and hours of adverts. Adverts telling them that they only need this one thing, or that next thing, to make them happy.
Think about this. You get a two year old and he is unhappy. He sees another two year old playing with a toy and that other two year old is really happy.
What does the first two year old do?
He grabs the toy off the other two year old.
That’s what you do when you are two.
You are not smart enough to work out it isn't the toy that is making the other child happy. You are not smart enough to realise that happiness isn't in things.
But we have been telling our children that lie, or rather we have allowed our children to believe the lie that happiness is in things.
And what happens to children who believe that lie?
They become adults that believe that lie.
We are all looking for happiness, we are all looking for contentment, for peace, for hope, for joy, and more often than not we are looking for it in the wrong place.
We have been conned by adverts into believing that happiness is found in a car or a house or a washing up liquid, or a game of bingo, or a boob job.
Today's readings tell us about relationship.
It is that bonding with others that brings hope and contentment and peace and assurance.
In our first reading Jesus is picking those people he is going to be deep friends with for the next three years.
In the second reading we see four friends bring another friend to Jesus.
Each has lessons to teach us.
The first one is about what makes a friend.
And what makes a friend to Jesus is someone that can be trusted.
It is joint experiences.
It is being willing to take a chance with the other.
All three are there in the reading.
Jesus is teaching away and he asks Peter to help him. He needs distance from the crowd so that more people can see him. So he gets in Peter’s boat and asks Peter to move off the shore a bit.
Peter could have told him to get lost. To get on someone else's boat.
But he didn't.
Peter is someone who can be trusted.
Then after all that effort Jesus asks Peter to push the boat out further and cast his nets.
Now Peter knows that is all a waste of time. He was fishing earlier and caught nothing. Now the sun is up and the boat will be casting a shadow that the fish can see and avoid. But he is willing to take the risk.
And an amazing catch is collected.
A joint experience.
And after that Jesus asks him to follow.
You see it’s not only that Jesus has to trust Peter, it is also that Peter has to learn to trust Jesus.
That comes with being together and sharing experiences.
Friendship takes time.
But it begins with sharing experiences.
It begins with starting to trust.
I am sure that my friendship with David the Baptist minister really began when we had a joint youth worker. And it wasn't the joint youth worker that was the reason from the friendship. It was raising money for the joint youth worker that caused it. She needed money and it was our job to raise the money. Then some idiot suggested that we abseil off the Falkirk Wheel.
I hate heights, really hate heights, I can be watching a film of people staring down a mountain and I can feel my legs get wobbly.
And here I was being asked to climb over a fence and drop down a rope down the Falkirk Wheel.
Seems David is just as bad with heights.
That joint experience brought us more together than all the joint acts of worship.
I know of so many wee groups in this church that they meet at the coffee shop or the Johnston Arms and just meet together.
Their joint experience is even scarier, it is growing old.
Growing old is a scary adventure.
How many times you end up in hospital needing a hip replaced or a new knee or a stent put in?
How many times you have to cope with your children getting divorced or your grandchildren getting into debt?
How many times do you cope with loosing a friend or a neighbour or a family member?
And all those joint experiences create huge bonds.
Being helped, being listened to, helping others, listening to others.
If you want to be a friend, then be a friend, be there with someone...share life.
And that brings us to our second reading.
Because friendship is not just about all the benefits that you get from having a friend.
A friend is someone you end up carrying.
There are four people and they end up carrying their friend to Jesus.
Their friend is crippled, he can’t do what he needs to do to make himself better.
And neither can his friends, his friends can’t make him better either.
Do they hope Jesus can fix him?
Do they even believe that Jesus can fix him?
Maybe the cripple has been pleading with them to take him because he believes Jesus can fix him and he has nagged them so much that they feel forced into getting him to Jesus.
Maybe it’s the other way round, they are taking that cripple to Jesus whether he wants to go or not.
That’s the thing with friendships, they often take someone where they don't want to go.
A true friend cares enough that they have the awkward conversation, the honest conversation that the other needs to hear.
A true friend goes where others refuse to go, because the friend asks them to.
A true friend goes through all that, and is still there.
Like these four friends.
Nothing more is said about them, but that’s because nothing more needs to be said about them, we know what happens next.
Think of what happens next...
As the ex-cripple walks out the door and goes about half a mile he is accosted by the owner of the house who wants to know if he is going to fix his roof. The ex-cripple, full of joy, promises to be there the next day to fix the roof, and who is with him...his four friends.
Let’s say that isn’t what happens. Let’s say that instead the ex-cripple goes to the temple to give thanks to God, who is going to be worshiping beside him?
His four friends.
Let’s say that isn't what happens. In fact let’s say that Jesus was a fraud. Let’s say that the four friends lowered the cripple down and Jesus said, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
And that started a huge row with the Pharisees about who could forgive sins and during that argument that cripple was forgotten about and everyone else left and there was the cripple still lying on the floor of the house and everyone else was gone. Who would carry him home?
Who would be round his house the next day to console him?
Who would be there the next day?
His friends would always be there.
We know that.
The gospel writers know that. That‘s why they aren’t mentioned again.
And this is the important thing about our friendships.
A true friend is willing to carry their friends.
A true friend is willing to be carried by their friends.
Because we all know that none of our friends are prefect, at some point we need to bail them out.
But neither are we perfect. And if we pretend that we are, if we refuse to let others carry us, to see our weakness, to trust that they will look after us, then we won’t let others be close enough to be our friend.
I worry for this generation.
They are trying so hard to find happiness in things; maybe because ‘things’ are easy to get. Maybe because they don't know any better.
And they are trying too hard to be perfect.
Seek the perfect body, have the perfect profile.
To show the world that they are totally independent, that they are free spirits, that they don’t need anyone.
And they don't realise how isolated they are making themselves.
We need to teach them differently.
And often we make the mistake of just lecturing them and telling them that they are wrong.
They don't need someone to tell them that they are wrong, I suspect that deep down they already know it, because for all their searching they know they are no happier.
They don't need a lecture, they need a friend.
Someone who can be honest with them, someone who can be vulnerable with them, someone who can be there for them.
And maybe that is what God has called us to be before anything else...a friend.