The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 19A (September 14, 2014)
Lessons:Genesis 50:15-21 Psalm 103: [1-7) 8-13 Romans 14:1-12 St. Matthew 18:21-35
Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm: Exodus 14:19-31 Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21
Prayer of the Day: O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we may delight in doing your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
18.21 Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23 "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.' 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."
St. Matthew 18:21-35, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Radical, Unending Forgiveness
Saint Peter is trying to be generous. Put yourself in his position. Imagine that you have a brother or sister in faith who continually sins against you. One time you can forget about it. Twice, maybe. Perhaps even three times. But when someone hurts me in the same way three or four or five or six times, I’m not inclined to be as gracious as Saint Peter. I’ll give them at best three or four chances, and by then my patience has run out. I’m ready to put grace aside and opt, instead, for a good, solid presentation of the law. “Straighten out, or head out… one or the other!”
You see, Saint Peter is beginning to understand that at the heart of faith, as Jesus sees it, is the gift of forgiveness. He is willing to extend the boundaries of his own generosity. “How about it, Lord: what are you really talking about? Are you expecting us to forgive one another time and time again… even as many as seven times?” He is beginning to understand.
But what he hasn’t yet fully realized is that the life of faith isn’t about measuring forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t come simply to raise the bar a notch (“Now you have to forgive seven times instead of three…”). Jesus comes to invite those who will follow him into a different kind of living. A kind of living that is grounded in the experience of God’s grace. A kind of living that changes people from the inside out. A kind of living that isn’t interested in questions like: “How much?” or “Is that enough?” A kind of living, instead, that is interested in questions like: “Is this a chance for forgiveness to begin?” or “Is this a person who needs a word of grace?”
Jesus invites Peter, and he invites us, into a radical experience of forgiveness. Forgiveness without boundaries; without limits; without measure. That’s the reality which stands at the heart of our faith.
You and I, who have been touched at the very center of who we are by God’s amazing grace, are now challenged by the Lord of Grace to let that forgiveness shape us and mold us into the people God wants us to be. We are commissioned by these words to be as extravagant in forgiving one another as God has been in forgiving us. Let us allow God’s grace to touch us so near the center of who we are that it is able to transform us into new people — resurrected people — people who live in grace and love and forgiveness and joy.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- Why is Peter attempting to learn the limits of forgiveness?
- What does Jesus’ parable about the unforgiving servant teach Peter?
- What does the servant’s inability to forgive say about his heart?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When have I experienced God’s love and forgiveness?
- How has that made a difference for me?
- Who might I forgive?
- How might this be helpful for me, and for my relationship with God?