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What a friend we have in Jesus

BY PASTOR DOUG GIVAN

I reflect often on growing up in the little cul-de-sac on the eastside of Indianapolis. Among the many highlights of sports, games and bike riding were my friends who lived on either side of my home. Denny and Danny were my best friends and the three of us were often together. As we grew older my family moved so I didn’t go to high school with them, and we lost contact. This often happens with friends as life, college or even marriage and children take over the time.

There are many verses about friendship in the Bible and, rightly so, given how important it is to have friends. Those of us who are in the ministry have this constantly before us. It is suggested we not become too friendly with members of our church so we are not criticized for playing favorites. At the same time, clergy are urged to have friends outside of the church and in other areas of our lives. The issue of relationships and friends in everyday life is emphasized and that’s not just for clergy but everyone.

Sunday afternoon I had a chance to gather with friends to have a euchre tournament and prepare for the Super Bowl. It was a blast, meeting new people as we rotated around changing tables after each game. In the card game of euchre, you need your partner to be your friend as you try to work together to win.

We know what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear, and what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer (from the hymn of the same name).

Is there any greater friend? Think about the qualities you like in a good friend: a listener, supporter, encourager and one who does not judge you. Jesus brings that and so much more as our ultimate friend.

What about one who gives His life for us? What a friend we have in Jesus. We are listened too, deeply, always if we will only speak. We are supported by the Lord and encouraged to rise up and meet the challenges of life. I know the visit of a friend can boost spirits and really help those who are hospitalized. And this friend Jesus carries us when we are weak, when life overwhelms, when grief hits and we struggle. The “Footprints” prayer reminds us of this friend who carries us in difficult times.

And, ultimately, Jesus gives me something Denny and Danny couldn’t do, He died for us all. Not only died, but defeated death and rose again on Easter, and not just for me, but for you and the whole world.

But, friends, before we can get to Easter we must walk through the darkness of Lent (the 40 days prior to Easter). This Wednesday, the 14th, will be Ash Wednesday in the church, the beginning of the Lenten season. A time to be marked with an ashen shaped cross on our foreheads reminding us we are sinners, cross shaped to remind us of Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection.

Often people will give up something for Lent like a certain food item or chocolate or soft drinks. This year why not try for the verse in Proverbs 17:7 “A friend loves at all time..” Could we spend time daily being friendlier to others? Couldn’t we do outreach and help those who cannot help themselves? Could we be a friend to a child going through a difficult time or to a family member or neighbor? Of course we can, everyone needs a Denny and a Danny in their lives. Love one another friends and let’s change the world..

God bless us everyone.

Doug Givan is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and lives in Crawfordsville.