In the LCC lectionary’s gospel for this week, from John 16, we find Jesus saying to the disciples that he does not call them servants, but friends. How many of us have had experience in religious communities where we felt much more like servants than friends? True friends care for and serve one another (and the world) out of love and respect, not out of any compulsion or unhealthy obedience.
In the same passage, Jesus speaks of our sorrow (at his seeming absence) being turned to joy, and our joy becoming full. Perhaps it is precisely through finding ourselves in a community characterized by friendship that we discover the presence of Christ among us, and the joy which that realization brings.
Coming to rejoice in the presence of Christ shining out to us in the eyes of our friends, we know ourselves as (in the words of the epistle, I Peter 1) an integral part of “a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” called to “show forth the praise of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”