Paul is writing to the Corinthians. Again. There are some new questions to answer from the people in Corinth and some old questions he has already answered that need some clarification.
Paul starts his letter with the usual “Grace to you and peace, from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He does that with most of his letters. What is unusual about his second letter to Corinth is that he adds a blessing as well. “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, “
Wait. What? This is new. It’s the only letter he adds this blessing. What’s that all about? who 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. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.
Oh, well why didn’t you say so, Paul. Now it all makes perfect sense.
Like the skit said, everyone has their own pain and struggles. It can sometimes be hard to tell what is going on.
Last week I realized I’d been sitting around the office all day so I decided to get out and go for a walk. On the way back I noticed a Doritos bag on the ground so I picked it up to throw away when I got to the office. So now I look like a guy who is taking his bag of doritos out for a walk.
Shortly after that I meet a guy going the other directions who has his ear buds in and holding his phone up. Looked to me like he’s watching a video whilst out for a walk. I don’t know what was up. There have been a few shows I’ve liked well enough to binge watch on occasion but when you’re out for a walk? Who watches a video when you’re out walking around on a sunny day?
But it also reminded me of a time I was out camping and I’d run the battery out on my Kindle eReader. So I plugged it in and grabbed my phone to continue reading. I don’t really like reading on my phone but it was a really good book. You know how it is. So I’m sitting out front of the camper reading on my phone and a guy I know drives by and yells out his window for me to ‘Read a book!’. I WAS reading a book. I just happened to be reading it on my phone.
Sometimes it is hard to tell where someone is at in their life. Sometimes it is hard to tell what someone is doing and harder still to tell why they’re doing it. Not everything is obvious to someone on the outside of a situation. There are some absolutes in life for sure. No texting while driving is one that comes to mind. But before we pass judgment on a situation we’re wise to consider there may be pieces of the story we are missing out on.
That’s part of what Paul is telling us today. What Paul is saying is that basically, we’re all in the same boat; but the boat we’re in is not the Titanic. We all have our struggles and challenges. Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is downright difficult. But in the midst of our struggles and challenges we’re not facing them alone. We’re not facing them alone because first and foremost God is with us. When we realize that God is always present we then realize that the boat we’re in isn’t the Titanic. We’re not going to sink under the waves.
This blessing that Paul uses in today’s reading gets at a central theme in the Old Testament — that God saves and liberates us from whatever is oppressing us so that we can be of service to others; in the words of the Hebrew Bible scholar, Jon Levenson, “the chosen are called to serve.
Over the years many have suggested we should pray for the presence of God. That’s all well and good but I’m pretty sure that God is already fully, truly, really present. What we need instead is an awareness of God. That awareness comes from other people.
Speaking about other people, when it gets right down to it we’re all in the same boat most of the time. God is with us but we also have each other. We are the church, we are the body of Christ. Each of us. Church isn’t the building, church isn’t the institution though over the years we’ve kind of made it seem that way. From the very beginning, church has been and is the gathering of the followers of Christ. We worship together. We pray together. We serve together.
It is as the body of Christ that we experience the presence of God and in the presence of God is our consolation from the challenges of life that trouble us. As a follower of Christ we know from long experience that the challenges in our life don’t magically disappear because we follow Christ but there is the consolation and comfort that comes to us in being together because we follow Christ. Being together as followers of the one who went before us. Followers of the Christ who took on our sin. Followers of the Christ who defeated death. Followers of the Christ who is our hope and consolation.
We’re all in the same boat but it’s not the Titanic.