Musing on friendship….
Friendship and the forming of relationships with others lies at the very heart of life. Right through life we encounter others through work, study, sport, community organisations or churches and friendships are established. As people move, as circumstances change, friendships can come to an end or be neglected. We change and so many of our friendships change too. Adults often speak of how they realise who their friends really are when trouble or illness or loss come into their lives. Real friends are still there giving support, a listening ear, a helping hand.
Perhaps the most helpful friends of all are the ones who tell us when we are wrong. None of us like to hear this message. It somehow calls into question our judgement, our strengths and our abilities. Hearing such messages from others can sometimes mean the ending of a friendship. It's a risky strategy! Such messages however are important, however painful, because they are expressed by someone who has our best interests at heart. They care for us.
The Bible is filled with people called prophets. In the weeks leading to Christmas, Advent, one of these people stands out. He is John the Baptist. He is a messenger from God. God sends him to be a true friend to God's own people. The message however is not an easy one to hear. 'Repent and be baptised' he says.
Palestine had been occupied by a foreign power, the Roman Empire. The emperor controlled every aspect of life. The Caesars had the head on the coins used in daily life. Religion was tolerated as long as everyone did as they were told. Taxes had to be paid to a conqueror.
Many blamed all of their suffering on the outsider but John comes with a different message. 'Repent, say you are sorry, express it through baptism and commit yourself to a better life before God and with one another'. John spoke truth to power as well. Expressing the truth in friendship can end a friendship. Speaking the truth to a nation can end your life! John died as he had lived speaking God's truth and was executed for it.
We celebrate John and all who were prepared to speak the truth. We are being called in our own day to speak the truth within our friendships but also within our national life. As we reflect on the tragedies of homelessness, deprivation and inequality are we ready to speak out, to show the truth, to make a stand? Examples there are plenty, our response is what's required.
Rev. Scott Peoples
Church of Ireland Rector Lucan / Leixlip