New Church of Montgomery, July 22, 2018, Maggie Panyko presenting.
Intro Song: “Gift of a Friend”, from the movie Tinkerbell, sung by Demi Lovato
Proverbs 13:20: Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
- We light the first candle to honor the good and truth to be found in all spiritual traditions, including our own.
- We light the second candle to honor the earth, and all of life, as the creation of the Divine the one Lord and God of us all.
- We light the third candle to honor and support the variety of our individual paths, which together make our one spiritual community.
- And we light the fourth candle to honor and provide an open and safe place for all who seek greater understanding and a life of deepening spirituality.
Swedenborg, from Heaven and Hell: Kindred souls gravitate toward each other spontaneously, as it were, for with each other they feel as though they are with their own family, at home, while with others they feel like foreigners, as though they were abroad. When they are with kindred souls, they enjoy the fullest freedom and find life totally delightful.
Opening prayer: From Sonia Choquette ‘s Uplifting Prayers to Light Your Way:
Holy Mother-Father God, Divine Loving Light and Heart of the Universe,
I deeply thank you for your most generous blessing of all: loving people who make my life so wonderful and leaving me feeling so supported. I am deeply grateful for the ways in which they encourage me, love me and keep me close when I feel afraid and alone. Thank you for enriching my life with their gifts, their contributions, their perspectives, their comfort, and their companionship. I am so grateful for their generous blessings, and I thank you with my whole heart and soul for their presence in my life. Amen and with infinite gratitude.
Thank you for coming today to celebrate friends.
Friends may be our spouses, as Friedrich Nietzsche once said,
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages”
or family members, as writer Christina Rossetti writes in “Goblin Market”:
“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands”
but often we think of friends as the dear faces of those with whom we share a most special bond; people outside our families who have walked with us through the hardest times, laughed with us until we cried and shared meals, stories and understanding looks. Without friends we can feel lonely in this big world. We know a good friend when we see them after a long time and feel that no time has passed at all. Today we remember our friends, we bless their names, and feel them deep in our hearts and here with us.
Let us say aloud, in memory and appreciation, the name of some of our dearest friends.
1st Reading: Job 2:11-13 -“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.”
2nd Reading: John 15:15 New International Version (NIV)
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
3rd Reading: Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell 494
After our life in the world, our friends and people we had known in the world…recognize us. Spirits perceive who we are not only from our faces and voices but also from the aura of our life when they come near. In the other life, whenever we think about someone, we call to us that individual’s face in our thought along with any details about her or his life; and when we do this, the other is called to us. Things like this happen in the spiritual world because thoughts are shared there and because space is not what it is in the natural world. This is why as soon as we arrive in the other life, we are all recognized by our friends and relatives and by people we have known in one way or another. Further, we talk with each other and continue to see each other in keeping with our friendship in the world. I have heard many people who had just come from the world overjoyed to see their friends again, and their friends overjoyed that they had arrived.
Message: We go through our lives surrounded by people. Sometimes you are drawn to people, sometimes you are repelled by them. Sometimes you form a connection with someone you never would have expected. Sometimes connections are broken with someone you truly loved. Jesus asks us to love thy neighbor as thyself. Our fellow human beings are our neighbors; our friends. When we have that special connection to someone else, we feel blessed. We feel like angels are walking among us, as if God has lined up a special helper to just be there for when times get hard, and when things are going great. I not only feel this strength in friendships, but I also see those who suffer alone: the people who cannot make connections with others, those who describe themselves as loners, introverts or “not a people person.” While Introversion can be a valuable attribute, introverts too, value friendship. And the people who seem strongest, and often alone, are many times hurting. It is good to remember that God put us to here to be angels for others also.
Interlude: “The Friendship Song” from the movie, Beaches
Discussion: Let us share some of the times in our lives where we have been good friends to others, or others have been good friends to us.
The Lord’s Prayer
Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for inviting us to appreciate the gifts you give us through the people of the earth. Let us retain our connection to those who help us grow spiritually and let us be examples of spiritual inspiration to others: friends, spouses, brothers; all our neighbors.
Closing Song: “You’ve got a friend in me“, by Randy Newman