Anchoring the Ship: Friendship 2 Samuel 1: 1, 17-27

Some people feel they are allergic to friendship.  They are like the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby who was “among all of the lonely people”.  Some of us are fortunate to have deep friendships, we can affirm the words James Taylor sings: “Winter, spring, summer or fall/ all you’ve got to do is call, and I’ll be there—Yes, I will/ ‘cause you’ve got a friend.”  Real friends like that are few and far between.  In fact, we may have only one true friend in a lifetime.

My experiences with friendship are a mixed.  Most of the time, I am an extrovert; receiving my energy from being with people; making people think I have many friends.  I do like to be alone, which may be surprising since I get up and do this kind of thing.  Friendship has nothing to do with being an introvert or an extrovert; both extroverts and introverts make good friends.

Friends that anchor our lives are soul-mates.  The Roman poet Cicero said, “Whoever is in possession of a true friend sees the exact counter part of their own soul.”  Real friends can scarcely be considered to be separate individuals because wherever the one appears the other is virtually present.  Though a person may have their own thoughts and lives; no one knows those or them better than a friend.  The test of a friendship’s depth is when one is wounded, in those times if a friend is hurt the other is hurt too.

The grieving scene from this morning’s text tells us about the depth of a friendship between Jonathan and David.  A messenger comes to David with the news: King Saul and his son Jonathan died in battle together.  He thinks he is bringing David good news because the threat to David’s life is past, and the way is open for him to become King.  David tears his clothes and weeps for there is no joy in his coronation.  What we read is the shepherd poet’s lament of grief for Saul and for his best friend Jonathan.  With is heart breaking he cries: “My brother, Jonathan, how I loved you, my friend.  Your love to me was more wonderful than a love of a woman.”  David’s expresses his raw pain so intensely it makes us hurt.  But his grief gives an instructive picture of a dear friendship that anchored David’s life.

David and Jonathan were fast friends; enjoyed much life together.  The record of their first encounter follows the story of David and Goliath.  Saul went out to meet David after the battle and Jonathan was there; and from that moment it says “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”  Knitting implies friendship requires action.  This is a key to the anchor of friendship holding.

Friends attend to the necessities of being a friend.  People who pay as much attention to being a friend as they do to having friends are anchored in friendship.  Friends can get caught up in a herd mentality; causing people to get lost in acquaintances so to be known by many people.  This can cause people to prove their friendship by adapting to the behavior of the herd.  Sometimes they will go to great lengths; making another person an enemy.  The virtue of friendship is not anchored by having a multitude of friends, but by making worthy choices in being a friend.

The model for the anchor of friendship is God’s friendship with the world.  The essence of the biblical story is God’s desire to become friends with creation.  Jesus speaks of God’s heart in his last words, “I know longer call you servants, but my friends.”  Jesus giving his life for the sake of being a friend with all humanity shows us how to anchor our lives to a friend.  We are to pattern our friendships in the way Christ sought to be our friend.  Let me say two things anchoring our friendships in Christ-like ways

We must be willing to be truly known to anchor our lives to a friend.  We are often reluctant to be known because we fear a person may take advantage of what they know about our life.  This 21st century tendency has caused a growing number of people to substitute philandering for friendship.  Instead of meeting their need for authentic friendships by simply being a friend; they turn to short-term promiscuous relationships that always under-deliver.  The willingness to be known allows soul sharing that anchors our lives and beats the shallow shoals of most relationships, where no anchor can hold.

We must be willing to freely offer ourselves to anchor our lives to a friend.  Jonathan begins his friendship with David by giving him his robe, armor, sword, bow and belt.  In doing so, he gave him his future; he was in line to be king, the first-born son of Saul.  Jonathan gives up his right to throne for the sake his friendship with David.  Lovers look at each other; friends look in the same direction, bound to offering what is needed for the sake of a friend.  David and Jonathan would give all they had gained for the sake of what is good for the other.  A virtuous life yields virtuous friendships.

Damon and Pythias were childhood friends.  Pythias spoke in the forum; hailing the king was a tyrant; ruling without the people’s consent.  When Dionysius, ruler of the city-state of Syracuse, heard Pythias’ message, he insists he recants.  Pythias refuses and is sentenced to death for treason.  Pythias requested to return home and put the affairs of his household in order.  Dionysius laughed, but Damon his friend steps up as his pledge.

Damon was thrown into prison; knowing if Pythias did not return he would be put to death.  Time neared and Pythias hadn’t returned.  Dionysius taunts Damon for relying on his friends promise.  Damon believed his friend; knowing he was delayed for a reason.  Damon responds to Dionysius, “I am as confident of his virtue as I am of my own existence.

The fateful day arrived, Pythias still had not returned.  Dionysius led Damon to his execution.  Damon’s stayed true; trusting he would return.  Moments before the execution, Pythias rushes in, pale and bruised; apologizing for his delay because his ship was wrecked.  He is ready to receive his sentence of death.  Dionysius was so stunned, he pardoned him on one condition; Pythias teach him how to be worthy of such friendship.

Being a friend means we find pleasure in being together-this is not all-we can tire of a friends ways.  Being a friend means having the advantage two persons possess-yet if this is all friendship requires, we are prone to be fickle when another friend provides greater benefits.  Being a friend that anchors both persons is sincerely committed through the passing of time.

Vic is my friend that anchors my life.  We started our friendship twenty years ago as pastor, layperson, and neighbor.  When I was assigned to Frisco, Vic said I known friends who moved north of LBJ that I never saw again.  As soon as he spoke those words, we made a solemn vow we wouldn’t let that happen.  We enjoyed each other’s company yesterday, and we are always there when the other needs a hand.  But, our lives are firmly anchored by our friendship because we have not let the anchor of our friendship slip as time passed by for these last twenty years.

We may say I want a friend and I want it now.  Friendships take time to build.  Someone once said, “You can’t be good friends until you have eaten enough food together.”  Friendship occurs after we walked enough roads together and stood shoulder to shoulder through the passing of time.

Sooner or later, all of us experience the loss of friendship by death.  Our friend’s death may end their suffering, and be a gateway to eternal life; but it still robs us of a precious friend.  After a good friend dies it can feel like a thief entered our lives.  This story shows God can handle how we feel about the loss of friend.  This is the hard place where faith journeys.

This is also the place where the mother ship of FUMC acts as a community of faithful friends; anchored firmly to the virtue of being friends as God is friend to us; willing to be known and willing to offer ourselves freely.  The anchor of friendship in our lives allows us to hold on while God works on us from the inside out.  The necessary recreating work of God that takes place in our lives when we are wounded and hurt is aided greatly by the anchor of friendship.  Our mother ship can offer to others a place to anchor their friendships; knowing this is a place where God can reshape us and them into the children of God needs for tomorrow, even not knowing what tomorrow will bring.  This is the work of being a friend.  There is no greater privilege than being a friend who cooperates with God in being a friend.

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