From the Psalter:
The Lord is a friend to those who fear him
and will show them his covenant.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Psalm 24:13 (BCP Version) – March 3, 2014.)
“Each friend,” wrote Anais Nin, “represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” If a new world is born of merely human friendships, it is certainly true of a friendship with God! When St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” he was describing the friendship of God, that friendship which births a new world in us. (2 Cor. 5:17)
In the Episcopal Church, one of the options for the beginning of a funeral is the anthem set out at pages 491-92 of The Book of Common Prayer, which includes these lines adapted from the Book of Job:
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.
The promise of today’s psalm is that God’s friendship is for the present, not something for which we must wait until “the last,” until God raises us up in the general resurrection.
The literature of friendship is vast and I’m not going to add much to it in a few lines of morning meditation. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the most important aspect of a true friendship is intimacy. I recall reading somewhere about the difference between “shoulder-to-shoulder” friendships (which make up the majority of friendships enjoyed by adult men) and “face-to-face” friendships (which are the sort most people say they want more of). The difference is found in responding to the ubiquitous question, “How are you?”
Shoulder-to-shoulder friends don’t expect — and cannot really handle — any answer other than “Fine!” Face-to-face friends expect an honest answer. God is a face-to-face friend. When God asks “How are you?” (which, by the way, God asks every morning) God expects a real response, an honest answer, the truth. When the psalmist wrote that God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” he was describing the friendship of God, and when (in the same psalm) he quoted God, “Be still, then, and know that I am God,” he was describing that intimacy which is the heart of face-to-face friendship. (Ps. 46:1 and 11)
Out of that intimacy, out of that friendship with God new worlds are born, everything becomes new. Today.
Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.