PASCO -- An old hymn declares, "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear."
I don't know how many times I have sung that hymn over the years, but it took another song, I am a friend of God by the trio Phillips, Craig and Dean, for me to really appreciate it.
Both of these songs, I believe, are based on the Scripture found in John 15:15, where Jesus tells his disciples in that final time with them, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I call you my friends, for everything I have learned from my father I have made known to you."
Immediately preceding this passage, in verse 15:13, Jesus declares, "Greater love has no one that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And that is exactly what he did. He laid down his life for us whom he declared to be his friends.
This all got me thinking about friends.
One of my daughters told me I only have "one" friend. My other daughter states that I only have a small "clique," with whom I relate on an ongoing basis. There may be some truth in what they say, but it is not the whole truth.
With regard to the first, I have many whom I list as friends: There is Ken who invited me to sail with him as his crew when we first arrived in Kennewick. He taught me a great deal about how to sail and win; and now, as I have my own boat I am able to use some of those skills and abilities to, at times, finish ahead of him. There is also Chuck, a fellow pastor, who I say was my "designated worrier."
Jesus tells us, "don't worry." So in response to that, I would endeavor not to, but some things are very troubling and overwhelming and need to be addressed for an extended period of time.
When these came up in my life I would call Chuck, make an appointment for lunch, and then share my concerns with him. There also are Wes, Tim, Sylvanna, Cathy, Nila and the other friends, colleagues and chaplains of the Tri-Cities Chaplaincy.
There are those among the "great cloud of witnesses" -- of whom you may be one -- who lifted me into the presence of God as I went through the surgeries and treatments during the past eight years.
These include other clergy friends whose actions and support over the years have kept me focused and encouraged: Larry, who greets with a smile and proclaims, "I am so glad to see you." And he really means it.
Daniel and Jim who will play golf with me and evaluate my every shot as "Great." Edsel, who came to be with me and pray with me and my family prior to my first brain tumor surgery. Ed, whose witness and life directed me to a school that taught me how to use the Bible in preaching.
There are many others besides these few I have listed here, but most importantly there is Joy, my wife -- my friend -- who has forgiven more than I care to admit, who declares frequently, "I love you most!" and she is probably right. She is the "joy" of my life, and I look forward to many more decades together.
Friends choose one another. Jesus says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit ... This is my command: Love each other."
* Douglas Huston is a United Methodist minister on incapacity leave. He attends the Riverview UMC in Pasco. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.