A Word from Our Pastor 2010 October Friendship


For the month of October, we will be exploring the theme of friendship. Friendship is so important to our lives — the quality of friendship is something we look for in all of our relationships: with spouses, family and others — we believe the qualities of trust, common interests and unity are critical to our well-being.

In conjunction with this theme, we are encouraging people to read the novel, “The Secret Garden,” a story about how friendship transforms the lives of two lonely and unhappy children. Friendship and a springtime garden brings their spirits back to life. On October 17, we will be discussing this book during the worship service (please let me know if you would like to be part of a panel. . .), so we encourage you to read it. We have copies at the church office; the book is a classic, and should be available in any public library. Another option is David Halberstam’s Halberstam’s “The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship,” which is a short but sweet account of the lives and friendship of four ballplayers from the legendary Boston Red Sox teams of the 1940s: Ted Williams, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr. We will also discuss this book in October.

It is often said, “to have a friend, you must be a friend.” In that spirit, I want to share with you the ideas from the book, “The Four Things That Matter Most” by Ira Byock, M.D. He writes that “a deep, natural drive to connect with others lies at the heart of what it means to be human. The Four Things can help you discover opportunities to enliven all your important relationships. . .You need not wait until you or someone you love is seriously ill. By taking the time and caring enough to express forgiveness, gratitude and affection, you can renew and revitalize your most precious connections” (p. 5). These four things that will renew and revitalize our relationships are: “Please forgive me;” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.”

Many of us may be hesitant to say these kinds of things to our family and friends, we may think that they are so obvious that we should not have to say them. And yet, think about when you have been on the receiving end, and these have been said to you. Perhaps it was a bit embarrassing, but didn’t these words touch you deeply, and bring healing into your life?

This book, “The Four Things That Matter Most,” has been quite popular. But, of course, the ideas are not new — they are at the very foundation of Christian life. Jesus emphasized so much the need for forgiveness between people — we are urged to forgive “seventy times seven!” Jesus also represents for us the embodiment of God’s grace. We are taught that the very reason for Jesus’ existence was to establish forgiveness between each of us, all of humanity, and God. In our tradition, there is no more important gift than forgiveness; there is nothing with more power to heal individuals and the world. And yet, we too often find it easier to hold grudges and remember faults. Some of us are unwilling to forgive ourselves for our failures or mis-steps. “I forgive you;” and “Please forgive me” may be difficult to say, but whenever they are spoken, the power of God’s love is at work, and will bring about transformation.

Saying “thank you,” or expressing our gratitude is basic to Christian faith, and to Japanese culture. As we notice the beauty of the cycles of nature, of art or music, I am remembered of the old hymn, “How Can I Keep From Singing?” The response of an open heart to the gifts of creation and human life is gratitude and praise. We thank God as in Psalm 30: “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my funeral clothes and dressed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (verses 11-12).

Similarly, we should thank those around us for all that they do for us — whether it is making our meals, filling up the gas tank, phoning or visiting, sending a note or email — every day we are blessed with kindness. We should not let it go unnoticed: how long does a “thank you” take?

Finally, “I love you.” I remember the first time a friend said that at the end of a phone call. Usually, “I love you” was reserved for “special occasions” — perhaps when someone was going through a difficult time and needed extra support and care, you might end a phone call with those words. But this time, it was just a reminder that our friendship was very important, and that each conversation is treasured. Of course, if we use the words “I love you” too often, too casually, they lose their impact. But most of us say “I love you” too infrequently.

Jesus spoke these words, as well; at that time, they were not associated with Hollywood romance, but rather with the emotion that inspires us to sacrifice for one another. At the Last Supper, Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . .” (John 15:12-13). And a few moments later, Jesus prays: “May those who believe in me all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. . .so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. . .” (John 17:21, 23).

These “Four Things That Matter Most” can transform ourselves and others. I hope that in the next month, you keep them in mind, every day. At the end of each day, ask yourself, “Have I been a good friend, have I give and received forgiveness, expressed my gratitude and told someone that I loved them”? You will receive and give incredible blessings by practicing these four things.

–Rev. Naomi