Youíve Got a Friend
November 1, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our title and our topic for today is ďYouíve Got a Friend.Ē My dear friends, I was all set today to preach the second installment in our series about prayer, the amazing power of prayer. But then, along came All Saints Day. And All Saints Day came along in a very big way for me, as most all of you know. On Friday night as I was driving along I got a call from my nephew Jim, telling me that my sister Helen had passed away. Itís a real shock. It was very sudden. I miss her very much.
Helen was 15 years my senior. She was 73. And she was preceded into the Kingdom by my other sister, Angie, who was 17 years my senior. Angie died, unfortunately, when she was 32 years old. Itís a difficult time, but I am deeply and profoundly grateful for all your blessings and for your love and your good words and your prayers. I cannot tell you how much they mean to me. Also, November 1st happens to be Angieís birthday. So thereís a big reunion in Heaven.
I want to talk to you this morning about the communion of saints, about going to Heaven, about that whole topic. Every Sunday we get together and say, ďI believe in the communion of saints,Ē but letís pause for a while on All Saints Day and ask what that means.
Let me begin by saying that I believe in a very literal Heaven. I believe that when we leave this earthly place, God continues to take care of us, and that there is consciousness; there is individuality; and there is Jesus. The most wonderful thing about Heaven that I read in the gospel is in the gospel according to St. John, where Jesus says these words: ďI go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you also may be.Ē And thatís the rock solid truth. It is upon that rock that I place my faith in the afterlife.
Jesus didnít give a lot of details about what the afterlife would be like, except that we know that it is a very good place. Itís the place where problems are resolved and where tears are wiped away, where conflicts are no longer an issue, and where the trials and contradictions and difficulties of this world are resolved in the brightness of God. I believe thatís what Heaven is like. I also believe firmly that we see those and are reunited with those whom weíve known and loved in this world.
But the most stunning promise, the most beautiful thing the Bible says about Heaven is that Jesus is there. Jesus says, ďYouíre my friend. Iím going to prepare the place for you, that where I am you also may be.Ē Itís sort of like getting to Heavenís gates and being asked what weíre doing there and pointing to Jesus and saying, ďIím with Him.Ē
ďWell, come on in.Ē
I believe in a literal Heaven. I believe in the communion of saints. What does that mean? Communion means connection. Communion means togetherness. In this Holy Sacrament that weíre going to be celebrating in just a little while, the most sacred ceremony in the Christian church, we are celebrating our connection with God and with each other and with the entire community of Christians that have ever lived. Itís a wonderful thing. The communion is the connection.
I believe that there is a connection Ė a connection between us here, a connection with Christians everywhere, and a connection with Christians who have gone on to be with the Lord. I believe they are watching over us and blessing us and loving us from the other side. And I believe it is good to send our love to them, from this side to the other side.
I had a sudden experience of that when I was celebrating communion many years ago. During the service of consecration, when the words are said over the elements, I had a sudden insight: ďAnthony, you are not alone. There are more spirits here in this room than you can see with your eyes. And we bless you.Ē It took my breath away. It was a remarkable moment.
I believe they bless us from the other side, and I believe we can love them, too. There is a connection, and it is called the communion of saints. What is it that links us? What keeps us together? I believe that there is something very special that links us together. We have a mutual friend, and His name is Jesus Christ. You have a friend in Jesus.
Can I tell you about a beautiful picture Iíve seen recently? Itís an icon, an ancient picture drawn in a very primitive style, and itís called ďThe Icon of FriendshipĒ. There are two figures in this ancient picture from the sixth century in Egypt. One is clearly the figure of Christ, holding a Bible in one hand. His face is wide-eyed. It looks like a childrenís drawing, almost. But His hand is reaching out and touching the shoulder of a friend. The friend is of equal size and equal height. The nimbus or halo around the friendís head is equal in size to the one around Jesusís head. There is a wonderful affection in the touch of Jesusís hand on His friendís shoulder. Itís a wonderful picture. I invite you to picture it in your own mind. You have a friend in Jesus Christ. The connection is clear. The friendship is mutual. He is your friend and mine and the friend of those who have gone on to be in the Heavenly Kingdom.
There is one more thing. There is no doubt about it. The light of Godís friendship shines through you. I never noticed more powerfully than when I am on the receiving end of your blessings and prayers and good words and emails. The light of Godís nearness and touch and friendship shines through you. You are a friend of Jesus. I donít have to give you advice or tell you how to do things, because you already know. Your friendship tells you so. I do want to do this, though Ė I want to lift it up. I want to let you know how powerfully your touch and your prayers and your caring and your loving words mean. I thank you. The light and the friendship of God shine through you.
In closing, Carole King wrote a song years ago, and James Taylorís recording made it famous. The words go something like this:
When youíre down and troubled
And you need a helping hand
And nothing, no nothing is going rightÖ
Keep your head together and call my name out loud
And soon I will be knocking upon your door.
You just call out my name,
And you know wherever I am
Iíll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall,
All you got to do is call
And Iíll be there.
Youíve got a friend.
And you do. His name is Jesus, and He loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski