I guess that all of us need some kind of help and friendship and encouragement as we negotiate the inevitable ups and downs of life are particularly some of the transitions that come our way.
In my previous Ministry I had the privilege of working in a Church of England primary school for nearly 11 years.Every Thursday morning the whole school would come into church and we would have an act of worship together. I was extraordinarily shaped by this regular pattern of encounter with children and my heart opened by their courage and insight and wisdom.Too often we talk about what we should do for children – too little do we consider what they do for us.
It was leavers service that left particular memories – that mingling of anticipation of holiday and the sadness of leaving something relatively small and familiar for the unknown.
I was glad therefore this year to be able to address the leavers of St George’s School Windsor – it was a moving service and I share my few words with you with a tremendous sense of the hope and expectation that surround this particular group of young people.
St George’s School Leavers Service 6th July 2012 Friendship
Here is a little story – listen carefully – imagine the scene as I try to describe it.
Two friends worked on a farm collecting grain. Each night they would take their sacks of grain and put them in their stores. One friend was single and lived on his own. The other had a large family. One night the friend with the large family thought, ‘This is not fair. My friend lives all on his own and does not enjoy the life of a family. I will help him. I will secretly take one bag of grain and put it in his store at night.’ So that night he got one bag out of his store and crept over to his friend’s house in the dead of night. He placed the bag in his friend’s store and tiptoed home.
The same night the single friend thought to himself, ‘This is not fair. Here am I with only one mouth to feed. My friend, on the other hand, has many children. I think I will take one bag of my grain and secretly put it in his store.’ So he took one bag from his store, tiptoed over to his friend’s house and placed it in his friend’s store.
Every night for weeks the friends would take a bag of grain to each other’s stores. But they both became very puzzled, because even though they were giving away their grain the amount they had never seemed to diminish.
One night they were both out carrying sacks of grain to each other’s houses. Suddenly they bumped into each other. They looked at each other, saw the bags of grain on their shoulders and suddenly realized what had been happening. They laughed out loud and gave each other a big hug.
The actions of those two friends remind us that at the heart of friendship is an amazing pattern of giving and receiving. It’s a living example of the teaching of Jesus :The more we give, the more we receive.
We have much to be thankful for this morning as the School term ends. To the leavers I ask this – as you pack your bags and move on – what are you most grateful to St Georges for? What gift has our School given you? Perhaps you can dance or add up numbers or understand how the weather works (I wish I understood the weather!)Or sing or read Latin or play tennis ? I hope too that you will take away the precious gift of having made some good friends. Good friends last forever. Friendship is vital for our living. In order to live together as a community we need to nurture relationships of trust, to be friends.
There are three aspects of friendship that I want to touch upon – respect; dependability and challenge.
First: Respect. Friendship is the mingling of respect with affection. Friendship isn’t about getting our own way. One does not have to do as you are told with a friend, one neither looks up nor down to a friend but simply in the face. In friendship one can experience oneself just as you are, accepted and respected as unique and special and in your own way talented.
Second: Dependability. Friendship also combines affection with faithfulness. You can depend upon a friend as a friend you become someone upon whom others can depend. A friend remains even in the difficult times of our lives. The only rule for friendship is the promise to walk with each other and to be there for one another: this is dependability and faithfulness, a keeping an eye out for each other. We express our friendship in small everyday acts of support, encouragement and kindness.
Third: Challenge. Friends of course can also confront us as they walk beside us will stop they can challenge is to see the ways in which we can be negative and destructive to ourselves or others. A friend urges me, helps me to resist what is destructive. They tell us to get real ! A good friendship can draw us out of ourselves and help us to honour so much of what is around us, waking us up to celebrate what we see and so easily take for granted.
Friendship in the bag that you take away from our school – friendship that reflects respect, dependability and some challenge to grow!