This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another. - John 15:12-17
Our Ministry & Counsel Committee has been discussing and praying about our church’s identity and vision for the future. We, and others in the church, are sensing a need for renewal and growth. Sacramento Friends Community Church began, officially, in 1945. It grew out of the ministry of a Methodist woman lay minister (Harriet Cowan) who started a Sunday school outreach to the people of Gardenland (adjacent to North Sacramento) in the 1930’s. She was not a Quaker. But in the providence of God, she came to be acquainted with members of the Citrus Heights Friends Church, particularly their youth group and pastor, Eugene Coffin. These Quakers helped her in various ways as she ministered to the people of Gardenland. So when, in 1945, the Sunday school mission had grown enough to become a church, they decided to become Friends!
In 1967 we moved to our present location. Over the years we have maintained our identity as a small Friends church of the pastoral and programmed worship tradition. So then, what does it mean that we are a Friends church? The words of Jesus quoted above give us the answer: we are called to be friends of Jesus Christ. And so, what does it mean to be a friend of Jesus? Jesus tells us:
1) It means that we do what He tells us to do. That is not the usual definition of a friend. We usually do not require our friends to do what we tell them in order to be our friends. But Jesus is not the usual friend! He is “King of kings and Lord of lords”! He was sent by the Father to redeem us from our sins and restore us to fellowship with God. You are not acting as a friend of the King if you reject His rule. Mind you, Jesus is the “friend of sinners”, (Matthew 9:10-13; 11:19) that is, He is the friend even of those who do not keep His commandments, even of those who hate Him! But we are His friends if we follow Him and do as He tells us. And notice the command He especially wants us to remember and do: that we love one another.
2) It means that He tells us what He has learned from His Father. We are not mere servants. We are on intimate terms with Him and we listen to Him because He speaks to us. Friends are well known as believing that Christ continues to speak to us, teaching us and encouraging us along our life’s journey.
3) It means that Christ has called us to bear fruit that remains. He has called us to make a permanent difference in the world and in the lives of our fellow humans. In Matthew 28:18-20, we find Christ’s “Great Commission” to His Church: that we make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded us. This is the fruit that remains; for in following Jesus we are not only prepared for life here but also for life in the world to come.
4) It means that we are a people of effective prayer for the Father knows we are Jesus’ friends and are asking in order that His desires may be fulfilled in the world.
5) And finally, it means we do, truly, “love one another”, for Jesus said, “By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Notice that Jesus’ friends are a community, for love cannot be practiced by oneself. It has to be practiced in a community. And that is what a Friends church or meeting should be – a community where love flows among its members and overflows to embrace everyone they meet.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? So let’s be Friends!