Contributed by Rod G. Boriack
Warm-up Activity:Give each person a piece of paper and something to write with. In one minute, write down the names of as many of your friends as you can. Follow-up questions:
- How many friends are on your list?
- How did you decide on who to list as a friend when under the pressure of time?
When we use the word friend or friendship these days, it may not be so easy to describe what we mean. There are friends, and then there are FRIENDS. Social networking Web sites like FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others have stirred up our understanding of what it means to be a friend or to be part of a community. FaceBook alone claims the following statistics:
- More than 200 million active users
- More than 100 million users log on to FaceBook at least once each day
- Average user has 120 friends on the site
- More than 3.5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide)
- More than 25 million active user groups exist on the site
- About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States
Just for youth and young adults? Think again… it’s estimated that FaceBook has seen a 276% increase in 35-54 year-old users in the past 6 months.
Never in history has it been possible to have so many friends and to keep in touch with so many people worldwide!
- How many of you have a FaceBook page or some other on-line social networking page?
- How many friends do you have on your page?
- What’s the best thing about being part of an on-line community? What are the limitations (if any)?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 17, 2009.
(Text links are to oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
In this chapter of John, Jesus spends some time trying to help his disciples understand what it means to be a friend, a follower, chosen by God — a disciple. It seems that he’s always trying to straighten them out. Love and friendship… what could be easier to understand?
It’s maybe not as simple as it seems though. In the Old Testament there’s a passage in Isaiah where God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.” In this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus has something different in mind when he speaks of friends and love. He is thinking of a relationship that is deeper, more intense, and more committed than the disciples are accustomed to. Jesus is speaking of a friendship and love that is willing to sacrifice everything — including one’s life — for another person. It’s the kind of friendship and love that Jesus has for us.
Even today we struggle to really understand and accept the kind of friendship Jesus describes. We’re still unsure about what it means to follow Jesus’ example and what he is asking us to do. Maybe we even dig our feet in sometimes and say “there’s no way I’m gonna do that!” “Love my enemies or sacrifice my life for a friend — no way.”
But it is the way, and Jesus is asking us to make it our way.
Last fall, fast-food chain Burger King created the “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign, a FaceBook app that gave people a coupon for a free hamburger if they deleted 10 people from their friends list. The value worked out to trading each friend for about 37 cents worth of fast food. By the end of the promotion, people had deleted 233,906 friends from their FaceBook pages.
The marketing campaign is over, and the Whopper Sacrifice Web site now simply says: “In the end, your love for the Whopper Sandwich proved to be stronger than 233,906 friendships.” “Were you sacrificed by somebody? Send them an Angry-Gram…”
We can shrug it off as just advertising; it’s no big deal. On the other hand, what does it say about who we are and how we love each other?
- How would you describe the differences between how Jesus describes a friend and how we might describe a friend? How are our descriptions similar? What about our descriptions of love?
- What stands in the way of our considering every human being as a friend? As a neighbor? In today’s world — 2009 –what helps us connect with each other in ways that are respectful, caring, understanding, and even loving?
- How does God move us closer to each other through the sacrifice and example of Jesus?
- Get in touch with a friend who you haven’t talked to or connected with in awhile. Tell them of your care and concern for them, and that you haven’t forgotten them.
- Use your social networking or on-line community page to mention the kind of love that God has for us. Encourage your friends to take the risk of living and loving like Jesus… post each other’s ideas of what it involves. Offer each other encouragement that also reflects forgiveness and patience.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son. Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in love; and, through our struggle and confusion, work to accomplish your purposes on earth; so that, in your good time, every people and nation may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
(Prayer for the human family, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 79.)