Saturday, January 20, 2018
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Friends Are Forever

Old Mystic, November 15, 2009
1 Samuel 17:55-18:5; 20:41-42


When God is at the heart of human relationships, such as David and Jonathan’s friendship, we can all be brought together for the fulfillment of God’s purpose

  of building God’s kingdom, a kingdom of love, peace, and justice.


I once heard a friend say that friendship is like a beautiful rose garden that has to be fenced, cultivated, watered, nurtured, and loved. It takes time, work, and effort to do so but the enjoyment of its beauty is the best thing we have in life. This amounts to saying that people are the most important thing in life! Because it pleased God to make us relational beings; we were created to be with people, to enjoy people, to care for people, and to love people. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is broken because relationships are broken; so very often friends are not friends and God is kept out the picture. When friends are real friends God is between them and building friendships has then the potential to change the world.

In today’s narrative we have one of the most well known friendship stories ever heard. David and Jonathan discovered they had a very special connection since their very first encounter. They developed such a relationship that later on they were able to say, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, for ever.” It reminds me of some of the solemn commitments we made when we were children and we developed friendships pledging to be “friends for ever.” In our childhood innocence we may not be aware of many things yet we can discern that friendships are forever. God wants to build his kingdom of peace, love, and justice through honest, loyal, loving, and long lasting friendships.

David was a hero and he was received as one by King Saul, his army, the members of his court, and his own son Jonathan. He had just completed the incredible feat of defeating Goliath, the giant, and had led Israel to overpower the strong army of the Philistines. He was just a lad, an improbable hero, too young to even wear armor. And with no spear or shield, just with the aid of a slingshot and stones, he was able to knock down the champion of the Philistines that was terrorizing the forces of Israel. In a matter of minutes, David became a national hero and won the admiration and approval of all the people including King Saul. The passage tells us that Saul wouldn’t let him return to his father house in Bethlehem and even more, he set him over his army. David was on his way to becoming the king of Israel, something that would not happen without pain and King Saul’s fierce opposition and death threats.

Among all the great things that happened to David on the day of the epic victory over Goliath was the connection he made with Jonathan. The scripture tells us that “When David* had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” It is hard to explain why and how it happened; we can only say that there was a human connection that bound them for life. David and Jonathan’s friendship was for ever and lasted until Jonathan’s death and it was the kind of relationship of love and faithfulness that helped David to survive in the most difficult circumstances.

Sometimes I wander how much are we open to making connections, to having encounters with people. To what extent we fear being bound to someone else and how much we dread the risk of the intimacy of face-to-face relationships? These two young men were spellbound by God’s love. A love that was greater that the love of their own souls. In an age when saying “I love you” is sometimes so difficult, how much we need to be open to new encounters with the prospect of making connections that will bound us with someone in friendship for life—until we are all bound to one another!

To seal their friendship, David and Jonathan made a covenant. It is very interesting since a covenant was and is something very formal. It was like an oath whereby they made a commitment of loving, supporting, and protecting one another for ever—an oath that they made out of the profound love that God gave them. Their covenant was not a contract that was drawn with legal language about the rights and duties of their mutual friendship. It was not a set of rules they agreed upon that regulated their relationship. In fact, we have no account of such a covenant in the scriptures. Yet, the strength of their friendship was based on their mutual commitment as Jonathan put it: “Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, for ever.”

We are the church, God’s people, because God has brought us together. God is in our midst, and between you and me. And the more we let God be between ourselves and our neighbors the more our friendships will grow. Let us covenant to make the same claim David and Jonathan made: may God be between you and me, my friend, and between each other until we are all bound by the same love which is none other that God’s love.

It is not a surprise that when these two men became friends a special exchange took place. It was a warriors’ exchange. Jonathan wanted to honor David for his accomplishment and at the same time he wanted to offer him his friendship. The scripture says that Jonathan “stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” We have no report of what David gave Jonathan, yet the gifts received by David were a sign of a friendship that was born at that very moment. The story of their friendship found David on the run most of the time, trying to escape the rage of Saul while being protected by his friend even at the risk of his own life. Jonathan knew that friendship is about giving—not about taking, and that it is a commitment for ever.

To give up, to sacrifice, to grant, to surrender—these are actions related to friendship. Only those who are willing to give are the ones who will receive. Giving for Jonathan meant not just the symbolic surrender of his robe and sword; it meant giving up his crown, the crown of his kingdom. He exchanged many privileges for the joy of friendship! There is so much joy in friendship—a joy that nothing or nobody can take away because God honor friendships; God is between friends.

Most of us are here because of friendships. Someone brought us by the hand; in many cases, perhaps, many years ago. I pray we all grow in awareness about the beauty of being friends with one another and with God. That is how God’s eternal project is being built—fostering relationships one by one; building a community where everyone is loved, everyone is welcomed, and everyone is embraced; a community of friends where everyone gives and therefore everyone receives. Let us a build community where God is at the center through Jesus Christ, God’s own incarnate Son, who in his human form provides us with the most perfect example of love; Jesus, our friend, who will make us all friends.

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