When I was a young, hot out of the seminary oven preacher boy, I would go to the Four Season’s nursing home every Thursday morning. The fine residents of Four Seasons didn’t know it, but they were my Guinea pigs. They would get a “test run” of Sunday’s message before the congregants at the Bad Axe Church of the Nazarene got the real deal three days later. I had been using Karla as my Guinea pig, but when she didn’t like something she let me know it—the Four Seasons crowd was much more genteel or maybe their hearing aids were turned off. Either way, I didn’t have to dodge shoes and other assorted items when I preached at Four Seasons. (Of course, I’m kidding. It’s true that I used to practice my sermons on Karla, it is not true that she threw things at me when I did).
The service at Four Seasons was very simple: three songs, a prayer, and a sermon by me. The hymnbook that we used consisted of 15 songs in a super-sized font that Bartimaeus could have read-- even before he met Jesus. So we frequently sang the same songs. A half blind, half deaf lady volunteered to play the piano, the residents would choose the songs, and I (never to be confused with Bill Gaither or Steven Curtis Chapman) would lead the music. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir we were not.
One of the regulars at our little church service at Four Season’s was Tessie. Tessie had suffered a stroke when she was young and been in the nursing home for quite some time. She had trouble walking and had never had any type of speech therapy following her stroke, so she had a very difficult time speaking. Most people could not understand a word that Tessie said, but I think that was because they didn’t try. Oh, one more thing about Tessie—she loved Jesus. With all her heart, she loved Jesus.
Like the Detroit Lions losing football games, every week I could count on Tessie to lift her crippled arm and request that one of the three songs that we sing would be “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” Every week-- “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” I think she would have chosen that song if there were a thousand songs in the hymnbook and not just fifteen. She never grew tired of it. Tessie couldn’t even sing the words (not in a language that most people could understand)—but she deeply knew the friendship of Jesus.
I want to be like Tessie—no matter my difficulties and even if no one quite understands it-- I want to sing out: “What a friend I have in Jesus.”
Moreover, I hope this isn’t sacrilegious (I don’t mean it to be), I hope Jesus is singing, “What a friend I have in Rob” too. In all the best friendships I have had—it’s been a “two way street.” When I need a friend, they are with me and when they need a friend, I am there. That’s what true friendship looks like. While I am absolutely convinced that Jesus will never leave me; I want Him to know—through all the times in my life, through all the trials and all the storms, when people let me down, when church folks act like Darwin was right, when life is downright stinky—that I am not leaving Him. He can count on me to keep trusting, keep giving, keep believing, and keep expecting greater things.
Is Jesus singing, “What a friend I have in __________ (Fill in your name)”?