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A note from Pastor Unke
If you've ever felt rejected and alone...
“You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 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. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you..”    John 15: 14-16a
It looks like it was an awesome party.  Greta clicked through the pictures on her friend’s Facebook page.  Her heart was heavy and she felt crushed.  Greta thought they were friends, but heard nothing of the party.  So many people were there looking like they were having the time of their lives.  But Greta was not invited.  “Why am I always the one who is rejected?!” Greta whispered as she broke down in tears.
Can you relate?  Have you ever felt rejected like this…or worse?  Relationships are difficult and can easily break down because of misunderstandings, or resentment, or inconsideration, or just plain old meanness.  Victims feel betrayed and rejected—and don’t know where to turn for comfort.  Some fight back with harsh words and hard feelings.  Others just move forwards, feeling lonely and empty.
Sin cuts deep.  It often leaves a path of destruction that can run right through lifelong friendships and once happy marriages.  The destruction can explode to destroy years of loving actions and joyful memories.  We’ve all experienced the pain to some degree—some of us ache silently from the pain.  Selfish rejection does that.
Read the words of Jesus in John 15:14 (above) again.  Jesus does not reject broken sinners.  Jesus does not simply pity the rejected.  Jesus rushes to us, lifts us up with his grace, and joyfully—proudly—calls us his friends.  
IT IS TRUE that the definition of “friend” has changed dramatically in the age of social media.  (Some of us have online “friends” that we’ve never met—or haven’t seen for 30 years.)  But when Jesus calls you and me his “friends”—that’s a surprising, even shocking, statement of God’s grace.
Think of it!  On our own, we are deserving of God’s dreadful wrath—including eternal punishment for our rejection OF HIM and our rebellion AGAINST HIM.  But God’s faithful and undeserved love changed all that.  Instead of dreading a life of rejection and lonely disappointment that ends in unspeakable and unending torment, we joyfully call ourselves children of God and friends of the Creator and the King of Kings.   God did this.  God reached out to us guilty and condemned rejects through the message of his Son’s victory over death on the cross.  He washed us at our baptism.  He chose us as his children and friends.  (Read that last sentence again.  And again.  And again.  No matter how many times you read it, it remains nearly incomprehensible that God could love us with such an undeserved and faithful love!  The ONE TRUE God chose you to be his own!)
And the part about us “bearing fruit”?  How could we not respond with thankfulness?  Living in the certainty and security of our Savior’s friendship and loyal love, we can be completely at peace.  Loved by Him, we are better equipped to love our friends with sincere forgiveness and selflessness.  No more harsh words or hard feelings.  No more loving only the lovable (we use Christ’s definition of “friend.”)  Leaving no one out and never rejecting anyone, we share the love that Jesus has showered upon us.  And, commissioned by our Friend, we make new friends for Jesus every day by telling them about His Love.
Friends, let us love one another in sincerity and truth, because love comes from God!
    Your FRIEND in Jesus,
    Pastor Unke 

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