I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Last night my daughter responded to an idea I floated about a get-together for friends with “Do we have that many friends?” I was stunned. For most of my life I have had many, many friends. For most of my life I sent out 200+ Christmas cards. And these were not superficial relationships, each one was a person I had shared in some deep and meaningful conversations, and we knew we could count on each other. Each one was a person I had reached out to at critical moments of their lives. Each one had regular contact with me and I could tell you exactly what was going on in her or his life. I was connected to many persons I would call friends.
But then I had one of those mid-life moments where everything I did was held up to my own scrutiny. I examined everything I did and wondered whether I should keep it, change it or leave it behind. I decided that maintaining 200+ friendships was a lot of work and that I needed to fill my life with more work that was mission-orientated. I became a parent around this time so that too made time more limited. But the major cause for the shift was one of priorities, I wanted to make it my focus to be about mission work.
This mission-work is neither strictly personal nor cause related. I know people who focus their mission-work on personal acts of kindness, working at a foodbank, a clothing centre, helping children at risk in their community, etc… And I know people who are involved in the struggle around climate change, justice for indigenous peoples, justice for Palestinians, etc… My own mission-work is more existential, that is I ground it in the personal but it is about experiencing the personal as the political or spiritual. I look for the “other”, the “Christ”, the transformational experience, in relationships that fall outside the norm, and seek in those relationships to find moments of Divine presence and order. I feel at one in these moments.
So bringing marginalized peoples into community with those living in the suburbs, creating space and community for those not connected to any community, talking to anyone and everyone on the bus or at shelters about what they find important and where they find meaning, these experiences are my North Star. This is my mission-work and where I feel called to be and do.
So now my deeper connections are with my spouse and daughter, my father, the people who share my passion to connect others into deeper community, and a handful of others who are funny, caring and stimulating. Thus my daughter’s question, whether we have many friends. In John’s Gospel we are told Jesus calls his disciples his friends, and in other scripture we are told Jesus calls his family those who share his mission-work. My friends are those who sit at the table with me and find connections where our culture see us as only strangers. And so it goes…