Growing Change in an Urban Garden

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BY LYDIAN BERNHARDT AVERITT |

When a professor at a Greensboro college set out in 2013 to help a struggling northeast Greensboro community improve its food choices, he planned to build an urban farm – the city’s first – as part of the project.

In doing so, he built a bridge.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

The neighborhood had lost its only full-service grocery store in the 1990s, in addition to other areas of decline, and was drifting into being a food desert. Neighbors formed a group, Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro, and approached the professor, who works in the Department of Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agriscience Education at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. He agreed to share his expertise.

“Communities are naturally suspicious of university professors, because they know that we’re going to come in, do our project, collect our data and get our results, then write our papers and leave,” he said. “They are right; projects do end. They have to take it over. So, when I do this development work, I have to make them recognize that they are responsible for their own development.”

But the professor managed to not only help feed a hungry community, but coach its residents to adopt lifestyle changes and take responsibility for their own development. And, while the project itself is in no way religious, it does call to mind Biblical injunctions for feeding the poor and caring for others, and is a powerful reminder about each person’s call to use their skills to help another.

“Do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased,” says Hebrews 13:16.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ,” reminds Galatians 6:2.

His ambitious project included surveying neighborhood residents about their eating habits, training them in healthy shopping practices, working with community groups on the urban farm, identifying liaisons in the community to encourage members’ participation, and interacting with the members themselves.

The project seeks to address not just the problem of fresh food availability, but to understand the eating habits that drive people’s food choices and affect their overall health. These habits are based on values so ingrained that they are often not even recognized by the people who hold them.

“Values influence behavior, but it’s all implicit based on their experience,” he said. “We had to make it explicit so they could see clearly how their decisions were based, point out the disadvantages of acting that way, and attach fresh values to the new behavior.  Then, it’s easier to train people to make a different food choice.”

Photo by Lou Liebau on Unsplash

Through his efforts, the project has sunk deep roots into the neighborhood. A co-op grocery is selling the farm’s produce. The White Street area has fresh produce at an affordable price, through the community farm, and the community members have acquired the knowledge to make healthier dietary choices. They have also learned the skills to make healthy meals.

“Give, and it will be given to you,” says Luke 6:38. In supporting a needy community, the givers received a psychological reward themselves.

“It’s easy to put structures up,” the professor says, “It’s harder to marshal the human element. Reinforcement has to be continuous. When members of the community ask if I’m going to stay involved in it, I tell them yes. As long as I am here, I’ll be involved in it.”


Photo via Lydian Averitt

Lydian Bernhardt Averitt is a freelance writer and editor, an amateur musician and a lifelong Moravian who attends First Moravian Church in Greensboro, NC. Contact her at Lydian@triad.rr.com.


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Loving God, etc.

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

What do you believe?  When do you feel most faithful?

We church folks tend to focus on believing and acting in faith that God is working with us according to God’s will. It’s a good practice, to pay attention to what you believe as a Christian, to trust yourself and God in living your life by those beliefs.  Faithfulness over time creates a life well-lived, satisfying for you and those you serve in your way. Beliefs and faith in God are so incredibly important, aren’t they?

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And yet, we are called, first and foremost, to love.

Marcus Borg, theologian and author of Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, reminded me of the two most important commandments with which God has entrusted each one of us who call ourselves Christians.  They are as familiar to you as they are to me, and I’d like to share them with you again here as Jesus shared them with his disciples:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Borg’s last chapter of Convictions focused so beautifully on what it means to love God, how we can do this every day. And, by natural extension, our expression of love for God becomes love in action for other people, and for ourselves.  

So, how do you love God?

First, ask yourself how you feel about God.  

A little obvious, I know, but love is a feeling, a tangible human feeling that makes you want to spend time with the object of your affection.  When you love someone, you may feel a little excited at the thought of unexpectedly seeing him, or you may catch yourself smiling as the thought of her crosses your mind.

So, how do you feel about God?  Do you feel happy, delighted knowing God’s presence in your life?  Do you light up inside at the thought of catching a glimpse of God in a place you don’t expect? Consider that for a few moments.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash   

Next, ask yourself what you like to do with God when you spend time together.  

When you love someone, you want to spend time with them, being together and doing what you enjoy.  Borg mentions devotional time, meditation, prayer, singing, reading scripture and retreats as ways we can spend time with God.  You may have participated in some or all of these activities with God over the years of your life.

But you may not have thought of them as expressions of your desire to share time with God because you love God and love being with God.  You may also have a few great ideas of your own to share about ways you and God spend time together.  When you spend time, consciously, with God, you get to know God better and better, which makes love grow.  

Last, Borg reminded me that loving God means loving what God loves.  

What do you believe God loves?  The second commandment tells us: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  God loves your neighbor and God loves you. In Jesus’ teaching, preaching, healing and mentoring of his disciples, God revealed what loving our neighbors, each other, looks like: compassion, freedom and courage, gratitude.  All of these are expressions of what God loves.

How do you feel about your neighbors?  Do you spend time with them, getting to know them better? Neighbors by another name are simply people with whom you share the planet.  People you live next door to, across town, the state, the country, the world from, are all people you have opportunity to love and spend time getting to know better.  Learning about other people’s lives is an expression of the love God has for you and me, and for all our neighbors. It is also easier to feel compassion for those with whom you do not agree, but have come to understand.

How do you feel about yourself?  How do you express love for yourself? Do you spend time with you?  Spending time with yourself is time well-spent, a spiritual practice of honoring the unique creation of God’s love that is your life. When you choose to be with yourself, do what you enjoy doing, you are loving yourself with a freedom and courage built into you by God’s ever-present, creative, powerful love for you.  

And, whenever you love your neighbor, whenever you love yourself, you are saying, thank you, God, for loving me.   

The brilliant artist, Georgia O’Keefe, known best for the flowers she pained, once said of her success, “In a way, nobody sees a flower, really.  It is so small, we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Loving God takes time too.  You may believe you don’t have time, and that God knows your love is real.  But neglected love changes things, and before you know it, you have changed too.  You’ve lost track of what meant so much to you. Your life is emptied of what mattered to you most.  And, you may have forgotten who you are too.

So, how do you feel about God?


Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


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Healing Divisions

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BY REV. JOHN JACKMAN |

Every year, Moravians around the world pause to observe the August 13th. This was the date in 1727 when our forebears experienced a powerful renewal, an event that has sometimes been called “the Moravian Pentecost.” We celebrate Holy Communion on the Sunday closest to August 13, sing hymns about renewal and reconciliation – and then what? Do we go about our business the same as before? What impact does this have on our lives today?

Most Moravians know a bit about the event on August 13, 1727, but know little of the details. It didn’t just “happen.” The previous year had been one of growing and terrible divisions among the Herrnhuters. Some newcomers to the little community had brought apocalyptic preaching and talk of the end times. Zinzendorf was the antichrist, Pastor Rothe (the Lutheran pastor called to the Berthelsdorf parish church) was the “beast from the pit.” Families were divided – just about the way some families are now!

Herrnhut, Germany - looking at the church | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

Herrnhut, Germany – looking at the church | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

Zinzendorf recognized that his little village of refugees was on the path to destruction, and resigned his position in the court in Dresden to return home and act as pastor to the community, visiting and calling the people together for prayerful study of the scriptures. During this period, the residents became convicted that their behavior toward one another had been inexcusable – that the Savior called His followers to exhibit love toward one another, to be “one” in his name. Out of this grew the remarkable document known in German as the Bruderlisch Vertrag, the Brotherly Agreement, now known as the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living. Rather than a doctrinal statement, the Moravians signed a code of Christian behavior. This was signed on May 12, 1727 by all the residents of Herrnhut. They entered a period of obedience to what they had found in scripture, spending increased time in prayer. The following three months brought about massive changes in the behavior of the community. Dr. Kenneth Curtis, founder of the Christian History Institute, wrote:

“On August 5, Zinzendorf and fourteen of the Brethren spent the entire night in conversation and prayer. On August 10th, Pastor Rothe was so overcome by God’s nearness during an afternoon service at Herrnhut, that he threw himself on the ground during prayer and called to God with words of repentance as he had never done before. The congregation was moved to tears and continued until midnight, praising God and singing.¹”

The Berthelsdorf Parish Church in Germany | Photo by Mike Riess

The next morning, Pastor Rothe invited everyone in the Herrnhut community to a joint communion service at the Bethelsdorf Church. It was held on Wednesday evening, August 13. Count Zinzendorf visited every house in Herrnhut to pray with the family in preparation for this service of communion. During this period of obedience to the Brotherly Agreement, of continued study of scriptures, and intense prayer, all had become convinced of their own sinfulness and need for forgiveness – from Christ and from one another. The service was one of confession; the words of forgiveness in the liturgy, and then the sharing of Holy Communion, had for each a profound meaning. Count Zinzendorf looked upon that August 13th as “a day of the outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon the congregation; it was its Pentecost.” It would later be said “This was the day that they learned to love one another.”

This reestablished the ancient call of the Unity – to live out the Great Commandment and the Beatitudes in community in a way that bore witness to the world of the love of God. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35, NIV. This is a call that the Unity has sought to live out for over 561 years, since our founding in 1457.

But what does August 13 mean for us today? For even if we are not arguing about who is the antichrist or when the End will be, we are a divided people. We are divided by the hot-button issues, by the ranting of politicians, by racial divisions. Shall we go through the motions of singing the hymns and receiving the Lord’s Supper this Sunday – and then go back to being divided and regarding one another out of the corner of our eyes?

Just like our forebears, we need a period of obedience to the Brotherly Agreement, a period of intense Bible study, and even more, a time of earnest prayer. We need to learn to love one another. Without the hard work of preparation, no magical renewal come with the waving of a wand.


Sources

1 Dr. A. Kenneth Curtis, “A Golden Summer.” Republished online at the Zinzendorf Jubilee site, http://zinzendorf.com/pages/index.php?id=a-golden-summer


About the Author

image of John Jackman

Photo courtesy of John Jackman

The Rev. John Jackman is pastor of Trinity Moravian Church in Winston-Salem.

 


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Seeking the Moravian Way (part one)

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BY REV. CHAZ SNIDER |

Embracing Mystery and the Fight Against Certainty


Editor’s note: this is part one in a series of blog posts by the Rev. Chaz SniderSubsequent parts to this series, “Seeking the Moravian Way,” will be published over the next few weeks on the Spotlight Blog and on Chaz’s blog. These additional parts will publish on Mondays, outside of the normal rotation. The normal rotation publishes Saturday and typically does not feature the same writer two weeks in a row.

If you want the rest of this series (and other future posts from Chaz’s blog) emailed to you directly, you can sign up for that here.


If you identify as a Moravian, I am sure you are familiar with the inquisitive look that you often get when you tell people that. It is more than likely going to be followed by the question, “What is a Moravian?” If they happen to be familiar with the denomination, then usually the response you get is “Oh you are the cookie people!” I cannot deny the fact that Moravians hold claim to some delicious treats.

The question “what is a Moravian?” tends to have deeper resonance when you ask it in the context of the spiritual landscape of today’s world. Church participation continues to drop and more people call themselves “spiritual but not religious” than ever before. This shift in American religion can cause us in the church to ask some healthy questions. Perhaps the best question we can ask ourselves is the same one that is most often asked of us: “What is a Moravian?”

There is not one theological issue that separates us Moravians from other Christians. What I come back with is a unique approach to faith and spirituality.

When I turn back to our history in an attempt to answer that question, I don’t come back with a doctrinal answer. There is not one theological issue that separates us Moravians from other Christians. What I come back with is a unique approach to faith and spirituality. When I look at our uniqueness it is not the “what” of faith that is different for us, but rather the “how” of our faith. Or to put it another way, how we live our faith is just as important to us as the content of our faith.

One of the key aspects of this Moravian way is an embrace of mystery and being ok with uncertainty. The writings of many early Moravians speak of the mystery of faith. They are not bound to the certainty of dogmatic and religious formulations but are ok with the mystery of God. These early Moravians speak of the Trinity as a family, Father God, Brother Christ, and Mother Spirit. Instead of debating the metaphysics of the incarnation they spoke of entering the wounds of Christ as a way of God inhabiting all of the human experience.

An image of the stained glass Moravian seal in Fairview Moravian Church's sanctuary | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

The stained-glass Moravian seal in Fairview Moravian Church’s sanctuary | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

We Moravians, like many Christians, have not always embraced these mystical elements of our heritage and for many years we have downplayed that aspect of our tradition. For much of the 20th century, faith was equated with believing something with a high degree of certainty. In defining faith this way, it became an intellectual exercise as opposed to something that required our being in meaningful community with others. Instead of focusing on how we lived in the world, faith became only believing a certain checklist of things.

When many early Moravians described their experience of faith, they did not seem particularly concerned about checking off a list of beliefs. Instead, they seemed much more concerned with how the mysterious Christ shaped the way they lived in the world.

[Zinzendorf] was interested in promoting a particular way of living out faith. A way that embraced mystery, made a meaningful impact on the world, and was centered on the person of Christ.

So why is this important? Christians in our country today are facing a crisis of identity. We are living in a more post-Christian society each day. Churches are shrinking at a rapid pace and people seem less interested in religion. And those things scare a lot of people, especially people in churches.

Here is the really interesting thing: even though people may be abandoning religion, they’re not abandoning spirituality. Pew Research tells us that 44% of the spiritual-but-not-religious pray every day and 92% believe God exists. Perhaps there is still a spiritual need to be filled, but many religious communities aren’t meeting that need.

An image of a bust of Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany | Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

A bust of Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany | Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

The Moravian way of faith might speak to this spiritual hunger. If we look back into our own history we will find that Zinzendorf, one of the most influential Moravian leaders, didn’t have any interest in starting a new denomination or religion. He was interested in promoting a particular way of living out faith. A way that embraced mystery, made a meaningful impact on the world and was centered on the person of Christ. So maybe we should give thought to how this Moravian way might find expression in a nonreligious way.

Zinzendorf and the early Moravians were less concerned with the certainty of faith and much more interested in the mystery of faith. We live in a world today where we divide ourselves by our certainties and absolutes. It can be certainty on politics, certainty on religion, or certainty on how good or bad the new Star Wars movie was. Whatever it may be, we divide and categorize each other because we have failed to cultivate mystery, uncertainty, and unknowing in our lives.

Maybe if we turn back to our Moravian way of faith, we can focus less on preserving our institutions and our certainties, and instead embrace the mysteries of our faith in Christ.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image of the Rev. Chaz Snider

Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

The Rev. Chaz Snider is the pastor at Ardmore Moravian Church (AMC) in Winston-Salem, NC. Chaz was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. He is a lifelong Moravian. Chaz’s focus is helping people who crave a relationship with God but aren’t sure where to start. He has a passion for spreading the love of Jesus to everyone and is looking forward to seeing how AMC can impact our city. Chaz’s wife Michaleh is a Physical Education teacher and director of children, youth, and family ministry. They have three kids: Chris, Abby, and Sara.

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Jesus Loves the Children… All the Children of the World

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BY BETH HAYES |

Children participate in an activity at one of the Children's Festivals

Children participate in activities at one of the annual Children’s Festivals | Photo by Suzy Tucker

A few weeks ago, many of us witnessed history being made at Trinity Moravian with the consecration of Carol Foltz as the first female bishop in the Southern Province. In her charge, we heard that she pledged herself to the work of children’s ministry in the Moravian Church as one of the important goals in her role as a bishop. The wonderful Logos Choir of children opened the service and warmed many of our hearts with a rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.” It was truly a day to remember.

It is important that each congregation in the Moravian Church share Carol’s commitment to children. The recent Southern Province Synod passed a resolution (Resolution #5) to adapt Loving Hearts United: A Moravian Guide to Family Living into a weekly email for families and educators. Work by this Synod working group and the Board of Cooperative Ministries has already begun to make this a reality by end of August when many children’s summer will end, bringing with it the beginning of a new school year. Parents, grandparents, and guardians, it is up to you to sign up to get these weekly emails and use the suggestions as part of your weekly family time together. What an impact this could make at the beginning of a new school year, and throughout the rest of the year for your families. (More info on where to sign up for these emails will be available at a later date.)

The Board of Cooperative Ministries continues to work for the children in our Province too. The fifth annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast is almost here. There is a lot of interactive learning of Moravian history planned for families at Hope Moravian.

Moravian Ministry Voyage logo

The Moravian Ministry Voyage will happen at Advent Moravian in September. where Moravians of all ages, including children, will gather to learn about Moravian ministry locally and internationally, and see the first ever Southern Province performance of Irene: the Adventure Begins. Irene is a musical about Leonard Dober, David Nitschmann, and their mission work.

The Moravian BCM continues to help our congregations in the ongoing ministry with children by providing quality Sunday school curriculum options, Vacation Bible School options, and a whole host of books and resources for families to use in doing faith formation at home.

Carol Foltz at her service of consecration

The Rt. Rev. Carol Foltz shortly after being consecrated as a bishop of the Moravian Church | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

Let’s not forget Carol’s pledge to serve children and our responsibility that we accepted at children’s baptisms. At these baptisms, we pledge to guide them in faith formation in our congregations and we pledge to provide help and support to their parents.

The BCM will continue to provide opportunities like the Children’s Festival and the Ministry Voyage. There is a Children and Family Task Force that works under the Board of Cooperative Ministries. It is being redesigned at this time and we are looking for new members. For those who might be interested, it meets quarterly. If you or someone you know has a heart for children and family ministry, please let me know and we would love to have you on our team. The goal of this task force says it all: to celebrate and encourage children and families in the life of our church and support faith communities as we fulfill the promise of baptism for our Moravian families.

In closing, remember this quote from The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember 

“Each generation, in its turn, is a link between all that has gone before and all that comes after. That is true genetically and it is equally true in the transmission of identity. Our parents gave us what they were able to give, and we took what we could of it and made it part of ourselves. If we knew our grandparents, and even great-grandparents, we will have taken from them what they could offer us too. All that helped to make us who we are. We in our turn will offer what we can of ourselves to our children and their offspring” (Rogers 65).

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, Sunday school teacher, or a member of a congregation, let’s band together and offer the best we can for our children.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries. She has been working in this role for 33 years. Before coming to the Moravian Church, she served as the director of Christian Education in several Presbyterian Churches. She holds a Master’s Degree in Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. She is a member of Clemmons Moravian Church and regularly attends Come and Worship.


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Nurturing Families in the Church (part one)

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BY CAROL CROOKS |

Since the family is the most important means of growing and sustaining a church community, it is important to place an emphasis on creating a healthy Christian environment that allows parents and children to grow morally and spiritually. Churches need to offer programs that will support and involve parents in the Christian education of their children. One way is to make the connection between studying the Bible as a family affair. In many churches, the children are given lessons created by the church or by an outside organization. These lessons, which are specific to the liturgical calendar, are started in church and then sent home to be completed by the family. During Sunday school or church service, the lesson is completed and the children will have something tangible to take home as a reminder of what was studied.

Photos highlight the 2017 Children's Festival and Lovefeast

Photos highlight the 2017 Children’s Festival and Lovefeast at Friedberg Moravian Church | Photos by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

Children need to be equipped with positive self-esteem and Christian values so that they can become productive Christian citizens that contribute to their community. To help build confidence and encourage positive Christian values, the youth should be an integral part of mission activities, as well as a regular part of the church service and other additional activities being promoted by the church. If an organization or a Sunday school class is having a yard sale, bazaar or making chicken pies, then arrangements should be done to include the youth (especially middle and high school) in some way.

Families with a strong spiritual base are the foundation of a growing and striving church. Groups such as men’s and women’s bible studies, single and divorced parents should be supported. Working parents must be taken into account when activities are being scheduled. As we are aware of current family situations in society, it is imperative that the church seeks to mend some of the weak links in the family. In the past young families had much more support from older and more experienced family members. Currently, there are more single and divorced parents and isolated senior citizens who desperately need a helping hand. Bringing in knowledgeable Christian professionals to help create programs geared to specific needs in the church and its community would be a good place to start. One example is a program that teaches parents about the various stages of physical and mental growth of children and positive Christian-centered methods to discipline them with. Another aspect is the ability of churches to be more open about mental and spiritual issues in communities.

Photo of mother with children

Photo by Marco Ceshi via Unsplash.com

Providing intergenerational programs will allow the younger generations to learn and respect the wisdom of their elders. These fellowship programs would involve group discussions, exchange of emails and/or telephone numbers with the intention of forming relationships. Ideas for the aforementioned programs could be solicited from the congregation. Some ideas that seem out-of-the-box should be at least given some consideration and not be marginalized, because sometimes that is how creative and effective programs are born. Knowledgeable staff and trained volunteers should be available to guide the various programs and projects. A safe and secure environment is paramount in these activities. To prevent abuses or misunderstandings about what is appropriate behavior, training and screening of all adults who work with children should be mandatory.

Children should be an integral part of church activities and therefore, when planning any new endeavor we must always be cognizant of how it might also impact the younger generation. Children activities should have as much parent involvement as possible and input from parents should be welcomed. We must remember that the future of the church is in the hands of the upcoming generations, so let’s faithfully prepare them to carry on the Lord’s work. We should be a beacon of support and nurturing behavior in our society and be more engaging to those needing a spiritual home.

Photo of a family picnic

Photo by John-Mark Smith via Unsplash.com

 


 

Carol Crooks, of New Philadelphia Moravian, served as a member of the Family Nurture Working Group. The working group was a part of the Community Committee at the Southern Province’s 2018 Synod. This blog is a part of a series of BCM Spotlight Blog posts written by members of the Family Nurture Working Group, focusing on their conclusions and findings, as outlined in Resolution #5: Sharing Moravian Best Practices with Southern Province Families.

 


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Friendship Through the Wilderness

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

Photo of a palm cross

Photo by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

We are coming toward the end of our wilderness journey, this Lenten season filled with opportunity to explore our faith, to learn new ways to be present as Jesus taught us in the example of his own life. 

Forty days feels like a long time to do this incredible work of honoring God’s wisdom in us, to be humbled by its transformative strength and power, often in ways we can barely begin to unravel in this Great Mystery that God truly is.

And then suddenly, there is Palm Sunday. We sing our Hosannas, echoing those surrounding Jesus as he returned to Jerusalem. 

And, we know what comes next. 

By Biblical accounts, so did Jesus. His time in the wilderness appears to have given him affirmation, personal resolve, and the renewed foundation of faith to walk back out of the wilderness and into the fire. And, as he faced this stretch of his life, he also had his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. 

It is a Biblical concept, this sense of connection to each other that can be described as deep affection, respect, admiration and love. In describing Jesus, each gospel writer allows a great teacher, prophet and savior to emerge. But John’s one sentence speaks of Jesus the friend: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (John 11:5).” Jesus spent time with them in their home, including the Passover, a true family celebration. One can only surmise that in the remembrance of the Passover ritual and tradition, there were also stories told of past gatherings, and some laughter. 

From Jesus and his friends we can learn some wonderful lessons about friendship.

Image of friends hanging out on a mountain

Photo by Arthur Poulin, via Unsplash.com

Friends become a safe haven when hospitality is shared, hearts are opened, and love is freely given. The sisters clearly were hurt and angry, confused and deeply saddened when Jesus took so long getting back to them as Lazarus was dying. They were equally elated and grateful at the results when Jesus finally did show up.  Raising Lazarus from the dead must have been a recurring story around their table whenever Jesus came to visit. How could it not be?

Friends make us better. Augustine believed it was important to surround ourselves with people who are better than us because they make us better. A friend and I laughed over the fact that we had both chosen each other for this reason. While Jesus was known to many as teacher, healer, prophet and miracle worker, he was also known to this family as friend. Spending time with other people’s families gives us insight into ourselves in unique ways. These siblings gave Jesus something he would not have had if he hadn’t chosen to spend time with them.

Friends remind us who we are, even when we forget. When we falter, face huge obstacles, back away from what we don’t want to deal with, and when we are smack in the middle of something we don’t know our way out of, our friends are with us to say out loud, or in our hearts, “Yes, you can. I know you, and I know you can.” In our slim book of Holy Week readings, there is a small notation indicating that we don’t know what Jesus did on Wednesday night, the night before his arrest and imprisonment, but it is assumed he spent the night in Bethany in seclusion with friends. A last night of peace among those he loved and who loved him. 

Image of friends hanging out together

Photo by Sammie Vasquez, via Unsplash.com

So as we come to the conclusion of our wilderness journey, as we enter Jerusalem with Jesus, spend some time in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, I invite you also to look around your own life, take note of those you have welcomed as friends over the years and who are a part of your life today.   

And from author, Will Cather, I offer one final lesson in friendship with which I think Jesus would agree: “Ain’t it wonderful how much people can mean to each other?”


Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


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