A few times every year, we bring in an outside preacher to fill FAPC’s pulpit. This Sunday, we will welcome the Reverend Thomas Are, Jr. from Village Presbyterian Church in Kanas City. Tom is an exceptionally fine preacher. He is also my friend.
It is a privilege to introduce outstanding pastors and speakers to you. It is also a blessing for me to get to spend precious time with a friend like Tom.
This Sunday, Tom will conclude our fall sermon series—a series focused on The Book of Acts. Way back on Homecoming Sunday, we started this journey. On that September morning, we observed that The Book of Acts is addressed to Theophilus—to “A Friend of God.”
This small detail has become more and more important for us. The New Testament talks a lot about friends. Jesus called his disciples “friends.” Acts does the exact same thing to you and me. It challenges every successive generation of Christ’s followers to be, first and foremost, friends—friends of God, friends to each other, and friends to a world a world in need.
We have kept that challenge before us. For the past eleven weeks, we have tried to picture what it means—what it looks like—for this church to be a community of friends.
Along the way, we have had to contend with those who say that friendship is a weak card to play in a world that either hardens people’s hearts or leaves them in tatters.
At those moments, I am reminded of a conversation that I had about two years with Tom Are. In the midst of a bunch of clergy who were having a heated discussion about the direction of national church, Tom asked, “Which of the ordination vows do you think are most important?”
The ordination vows are the constitutional questions that deacons and elders and clergy answer when they are ordained. They are lofty questions about “the purity of the church” and “the promotion of social righteousness.” There are a lot of questions in the list.
“Ok, I’ll bite,” I said. “Which is most important?”
“It is buried in the middle of the list,” Tom responded. “It’s not controversial. It slips by, spoken with ease, but without it we are lost. The most important ordination question is: Will you be a friend in ministry?”
His response has made me think, and think, and think some more. I wonder… Is there a conflict in this world that would not be eased, if not downright solved, by friendship—by serious-risky-candid-forgiving-loving friendship between the parties involved?
Impossible to imagine? Maybe. Although, not evidently for Acts, or for my dear friend, Tom.
See you in worship,