3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. 6If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering.7Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. (2 Corinthians 1.3-7)This is the first line in our funeral liturgy. I think it has some bearing also on what we've talked about tonight. To be a faith community, whether as a family or as a church, is to SHARE our hopes and our sorrows with one another. Any church that says its members are sinners yet will not bear that burden of sin and joy together is not fulfilling the mandate of Christ to "love one another as I have loved you."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about this in his book Ethics:
"Only in their being-with-one-another [miteinander], for-one-another [füreinander], and over-against-one-another [gegeneinander] do the divine mandates of church, marriage and family, culture, and government communicate the commandment of God as it is revealed in Jesus Christ."The church, and the family, and all of creation, is meant to be in open communication with, for, and even sometimes against one another. Without sharing where we are, how can our sisters and brothers be with us, or for us, or against us? How can we love well without knowing what it is that we love?
In 1536, Martin Luther was charged by his prince to gather with a group of theologians and compose articles of confession for a church gathering that had been called for the next year by Pope Paul III. The result of that gathering was the Smalcald Articles, and today they are included among the Lutheran Confessions by which our teaching and preaching is guided and shaped. In those articles, Luther wrote:
We now want to return to the gospel, which gives guidance and help against sin in more than one way, because God is extravagantly rich [überschwenglich] in [his] grace: first, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world (which is the proper function of the gospel0; second, through baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys [confession] and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters. Matthew 18:20 - "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them..."I love that word überschwenglich: first off, it's fun to say, and second, it means overflowing, gushing, supremely abundant. In the church, God gives confession and the presence of one another as an overflowing, abundant sign of the gospel, of the love of Christ for family, friend, and neighbor. We share our highs and lows because we matter to one another. God has called us here together, with one another for one another. Thanks be to God!