Seasonal Friendship Ablaze! Sermons
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Start of Year: Renewing Friendship

This sermon outline and prayer, for use around the start of the school year or the calendar year, can beused as a stand-alone Friendship Sunday worship or as the culmination of a series of worship services leading up to Friendship Sunday. To be effective, every Friendship Sunday worship celebration should involve preparationand followup. See “Welcoming Guests Well” and “Developing an Intentional Follow-up Strategy.”

Target: A celebration that takes advantage of people’s sense of starting something new as the summer winds down and the new school year begins. The emphasis is on connecting with friends we haven’t invited to church with us, new neighbors, under-churched and inactive members.

Text: Luke 19:1-10 (NIV)

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way.5 When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to Him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner’.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Theme Development: The focus of the message should be on how God seeks us out so that we may be His friend. There are many who, like Zacchaeus, are “sons of Abraham” but do not know or live out this truth. Instead, they have been seduced by the world. Our message of hope is that God through Jesus renews our identity as His people and invites us to be His friends.

Have fun with this account by focusing on Zacchaeus and Jesus’ seeking a friendship with him. Note that Jesus seeks the relationship with him even though Zacchaeus is a “sinner.” God makes the first move toward us in friendship even while we are still lost in our sin (Romans5:8).

Note how Jesus, through His offer of friendship, affords Zacchaeus the opportunity to be renewed in his friendship with God and make a new beginning for himself. Emphasize that today God, through Jesus, affords us the opportunity to renew our friendship with Him, His people and His church and make a new beginning in our lives with Him. Remember our audience for this event is new neighbors, under-churched and inactive members. If this is done in the fall of the year, tie into the new beginnings being made as school starts up and vacations come to an end. If you use this theme around the New Year, then tie into the sense of the New Year and all things being made new.

Prayer of the Day:
Gracious, heavenly Father, we give You thanks that while we were still sinners You sought us out and brought us into friendship with You through the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus on the cross. Grant that we may be renewed each day in our friendship through the remembrance of our baptisms and joy of talking to You in prayer. We thank You that You are a God of new beginnings so that no matter what we have done or how far from You we may wander, You in love and grace invite us to be Your friend once again. We ask You to work in the lives of our friends who do not know You or have wandered far from You. Use our friendship to share Your friendship with them. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our friend. Amen.