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“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this – that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:13-14)
Letter from the Vicarage.
I am writing this as I reflect on a recent holiday. We were blessed recently to go on holiday with a group of friends who we have known for 40 years. We had a wonderful time together and it was very interesting (and it was much fun). Why interesting? Well, for one thing, although we have been close friends for a good length of time, we haven’t seen each other every day. We are all different and by now each of us would have our own expectations, our own way of ‘doing’ holidays. We don’t really go on holidays with others and how would we please one another. Who would make decisions as to what we would do, where we would eat etc.
Actually, it all worked out rather well! One was a natural leader and got the holiday practicalities sorted, another had hospitality as a special string to her bow and ensured whichever restaurant we ate in there was a table for six, under the shade, in the right spot, another ensured we took time to relax. One an ‘action man’ taught another to snorkel – and so it goes on.’
It made me wonder, how did Jesus and his new group of friends get on together on their travels – in just three years of knowing each other? A rag tag bunch of followers, they trusted Jesus to be the leader of their friendship group. There were at times frustration, they shared and learned, they ate together, slept under the same roof, travelled together and prayed together. There were arguments between them and one betrayed them. But they stuck together. Jesus on more than one occasion told them that they were to love one another. By this love others would know that they were his disciples.
Today, Jesus still calls us to fulfil his command to love others. Others whom we might not even call friends. As we move through October, the nights will begin to cut in and by the end of the month when the clocks change nights will be long and dark. I recall once a lady who I visited at teatime one autumn/winter evening was seeing me out of the door. It was about 5.30 pm and already almost dark. Her parting words to me were “well this is me for the night now”. Meaning she would be alone in the dark through the following night until the next morning. It may well be that she wouldn’t even get to see anyone the next day or even longer.
There will be lots of people in our community who will be alone in the darkness of the long dark nights that are ahead of us. There will be neighbours who might not see someone for days on end. This always seems worse in the autumn and winter.
Friendship is a wonderful thing. I wonder, can you be a friend to a neighbour (with their permission of course) for whom the loneliness of the looming dark nights lie ahead? For Jesus said, by this people will know you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)