I got an email a few nights ago from a man in the military who is often away from home for extended periods. He enclosed a picture of himself, his wife, and his little child. He told me the three of them commonly listen to me in bed at night before going to sleep. More than that, he told me he took my sermons with him on his iPod and listened to them in a tent late at night—and that they were a comfort to him.
I doubt if anyone can realize how much an email like that means to me, personally. Unlike some ministry programs, I don’t do mine in a church with a live congregation in front of me. I do these programs in a studio, usually with no one except Gary Gibbons across the glass from me. I know you are out there, though, and I can ride along with you on the way to work, I can sit with you while you have breakfast, I can chat with you over a cup of coffee. And, through all the days, I feel like I am talking with friends.
But when I say that, I have to recognize an important truth. What has made you and I friends is the Bible, Jesus Christ, and his Father, and the Holy Spirit. It is here that we have found common ground. It is here that we find a spirit of brotherhood and friendship. I think the Apostle John must have felt the same way when he wrote his first letter.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
Fellowship is a well-worn religious word, and like all overused words, it has lost some of its significance. The word in the Greek denotes more than sitting around after church, sharing coffee and snacks. The word denotes partnership. If we were partners in business, and the business goes broke, we are both losers. If it makes money, we both can get rich. But if we are partners, we share everything. It is a little frightening to think about this is relationship to our faith. But listen to what Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper…