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Faith Lens

January 14-21, 2009 – Paris Hilton “New Best Friend Forever”

Warm-up Question: What is the best compliment anyone has ever paid you?

It has been six weeks now since fashion designer, actor, singer, and producer Paris Hilton found a new BFF (Best Friend Forever) in the person of Brittany Flickinger. Over a span of 10 weeks this fall, MTV gave Paris Hilton and 16 women and 2 men the chance to get to know each other in the hopes of creating a true and lasting bond of friendship. With travel and challenges galore, these 18 diligent and ambitious fame-seekers woo, claw, and worked their way into Paris’ heart.

In the end, Brittany proved her honest motives and her good intentions, and was rewarded with the offer of friendship from arguably one of the most famous people on the planet. One of the first things Brittany got to do was join Paris and her other best friends, sister, and aunt at a “slumber party.”

Will this best friendship last? Will Brittany still be around in a year? Or, will Paris Hilton call MTV again with the plea to stage another search for her next Best Friend Forever?

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think Paris Hilton will really find her “new best friend”?
  • What characteristics do you think are essential to be a friend of yours?
  • What is the difference between a friend, a good friend, and a best friend?
  • Based on the above criteria, how many friends, good friends, and best friends do you have?
  • What do you do to strengthen the ties of your friendships?
  • When have you ever lost a good or best friend? What caused the break up?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, January 18, 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.

Gospel Reflection

The Calling of Philip and Nathanael (Bartholomew)

Jesus is on the march to find his new best friends (John 15:15). In the Gospel of John, he starts out with Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist. Andrew goes and gets his brother Simon Peter. The next day, Jesus heads to Galilee and finds Philip who goes with Jesus after he simply says, “follow me.” Philip finds Nathanael, and in his excitement, tells Nathanael that they have found the one that Moses and the Prophets of the Old Testament wrote about — Jesus. Nathanael doubts that Jesus is really the promised one, and lets his cynicism be known by his stinging, smearing reply, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Ouch! Philip can only answer Nathanael with, “come and see.” (The same answer Jesus gives the other disciples in the earlier story in John’s gospel.)

Upon seeing Nathanael, Jesus looks right into his very being and identifies him as “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” (Guile means deceit or treachery.) Jesus can tell by just looking at him that Nathanael is honest and true. Nathanael is stunned that Jesus can tell all that just by looking at him. Jesus says he saw him sitting under a fig tree before Philip called him, as if that makes it any easier to know what type of person Nathanael is. Nathanael returns the favor and identifies Jesus for who he really is, the King of Israel and the Son of God. Jesus promises Nathanael that he will see even greater things than just Jesus knowing the character of a person by looking at him.

There are lots compliments between these new-found friends in this scene, but none of them seem to be superficial flattery. Nathanael and Jesus see each other for who they really are: an honest man with doubts and a good Israelite, and the Son of God and King of Israel. It’s a good beginning to their relationship as rabbi and disciple.

The two of them, Jesus and Nathanael, set a good example for us in the way they honestly share the positive things that they see in each other. Nathanael was suspicious and reluctant to trust at first because of where Jesus grew up, but he was willing to overcome his prejudice against people from Nazareth when he met Jesus face-to-face.

This story sets us up, as readers, for the chapters that follow in which John, the Gospel writer, describes to us the many signs of Jesus’ power. These signs are only one part of who Jesus is. Yes, he can heal the sick, change water into wine, and tell people their life stories, but it’s only small stuff compared to what Jesus is really about. Jesus is God — in the flesh. Jesus has come to call the entire world to himself. Jesus’ greatest desire is that we all know him as our best friend. He is the kind of friend that has the greatest kind of love for us; the kind of love in which he sacrifices his own life for us. This is a reality show worth being a part of!

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think is necessary for people to get to know Jesus as a friend?
  • How do you talk about your friend Jesus to your other friends?
  • Looking at your criteria above for your friends, good friends, and best friends, what is it about Jesus that shows him to be a friend? Or, would he not make your list?
  • How do you spend quality time with your friend Jesus?
  • How do you strengthen your friendship with Jesus?

Activity Suggestions

  • Check out an episode of the series Paris Hilton’s My New BFF and invite critique and discussion from the participants.
  • Write a card to your best friend describing three things you like and value about him or her.
  • Write a card to various staff members or volunteers of your church (pastor, organist, janitor, Sunday school teacher, office manager, usher, committee member, etc.) with what you like or appreciate about what they do in service to the congregation and community.
  • Sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship, #742.

Closing Prayer

Gracious and ever-loving God, you have loved us from the beginning of time before the creation of world. You have also seen our need to connect to you in ways that are very human. Thank you for answering that need by sending your Son, Jesus, to be our friend. Strengthen our walk of friendship with him and with all your creation. Grant us the courage to give all of ourselves to all your friends in need. We ask this through that same Jesus Christ, our Lord and friend. Amen.

Contributed by Pastor Scott A. Moore
Eisleben, Germany