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November 10, 2020, 2:45 PM

Dear Friends,

Considering our recent Election season and the near 50 – 50 split of the country over our next President, I am drawn back to my opening greeting for this and every newsletter article I have written since 1985. I address this to you and those of the past as friends, in political season and out, in church struggle and calm, because I see us connected. Not just as pastor and congregation, nor employer or employee, nor as shepherd and sheep, but rather as work colleagues in our mission to serve Christ Jesus. Sometimes we are residential missionaries attempting to show our community a different way of living; particularly, as we demonstrate our faith by living it out continuously in the public eye. That is especially true in this time, where the church is frequently pushed off the agenda for multiple other activities. 

Sometimes our witness is not so good, like when we discover interior church struggles to be the topic of conversation around town. If those struggles can be managed, resolved, and healed, then we are seen by the community as truly serving as friends, or church family, who gracefully resolve our differences. When they are not, it is hard to maintain friendship, much less family, and the example that we set in the community as “church” is not so good.

As you have learned from some of my ministerial story in these last couple of years, you know I have seen both in action. I still use “Dear Friends” because I am hopeful for our best success, now as in the past. I use “Friends” also following Jesus’ recognition of the disciples in the upper room in John’s Gospel. Jesus tells them in 15: 15 - 16, “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. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” He also finished that by again saying, “This is my command, that you love each other.” So “friends” bears a distinction in my mind, that regardless of whatever may divide us in the world – we are connected in Jesus, both in the church and outside of it. As friends, we have been given insight into Jesus’ business (God’s business) and are challenged to live by it and live together in it and with it. 

So in a time, especially in the U.S. right now, as we have seen (by the election numbers) a political split down the middle; as we have seen the present push for challenging “white privilege” and the push back against it; as we have recognized the powerful service Ruth Bader Ginsberg gave to our country as she pushed for equal rights and indicated we still have a ways to go to make that happen… what more appropriate time to emphasize, recognize and live out our invitation to “friendship”. Friends help and support one another. Friends listen to one another as they share their “truth” and are more eager to understand each other than to correct the other. Friends stand beside each other in times of loss, & cheer and congratulate each other in times of victory and success. Friends will hold each other’s stories and trust one another with their well-being.

I hope by addressing each congregation that I have served, and now YOU, that I do not flippantly use the title “Friend” lightly! I believe now is an important time for the church --and our nation-- to lay claim to and take seriously what Jesus offered us – to be His friend – and friends with one another.

In the risen Christ’s service together, wherever He leads.