September 27, 2020: 17th Sunday of Pentecost

Let us pray: Lord, cause all of us to count the cost of true discipleship by using forgiveness, and our practice of it, as the yardstick.  And once we begin to do so, inspire us to look at what forgiveness means by looking at You.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 18: 21-35

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

          What is your most prized, most valued,  possession?  Ask that to a crowd to people and you’ll get various responses.  “My house.”  Certainly it is probably the most valuable in monetary terms—especially if it has no mortgage.  But you can’t take it with you.  “My retirement accounts.”  Again, if gauged by money, it might be true.  But remember: The IRS has a big claim on it when you cash in.  The more cautious will say: “My health.”  Yes, you “own” your health, but for how long?  The spiritually minded will say: “My faith.”  However, do you “own” your faith?  God’s Word says: “Faith is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”  It’s hard to take credit for a gift, isn’t it?  Gifts are humbling.  And what has given birth, created, your Christian faith?  Isn’t it forgiveness for sins?  Forgiveness earned by Christ on the cross?  So, for the believer, it all comes down to forgiveness which has spawned saving faith.  Today, I ask you: “How do you use  this most precious of gifts?


          Last week we learned from Christ how to handle a fellow believer who sins against you.  You speak to them about their sin and when repentance is attained, you forgive them and forget the past.  Today’s lesson follows on the heels of that text.  Impetuous Peter wants to put a limit on such forgiveness.  Kind of like: “Three strikes and you’re out.”  So, he asks Jesus: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?  Jesus answers: “I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  In other words, more times than you can remember!!!

          Then Jesus goes on to tell the disciples of a king who wanted to settle up all his accounts.  One man came in with a million dollar debt.  He couldn’t pay it.  So, the king ordered the whole family be sold into slavery instead.  The servant fell down before his king and begged, “Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything.”  Fat chance of that!  But the king is kindly and decided to cancel the debt instead.  Now instead of being grateful, this servant goes out and finds another man who owes him a few dollars.  This fellow demands payment and begins to choke this poor man.  “Pay me what you owe me!”  Between coughing fits, this man basically says the same thing the other fellow said to the king.  “Have pity on me and I will repay you.”  But the response was not merciful.  Instead he has him thrown in prison until he comes up with the money.  (Fat chance of that while in prison.) 

          Some servants of the king witnessed all this and tell their Lord what happened.  So, the King summons him in and blasts him!  “You wicked servant.  I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?  So, in anger his master turned him over to the jailers until he should pay back all he owed.”  Then Jesus adds these final words: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”


          You and I have been forgiven of our entire debt of sin by God, from His gracious heart.  The debt we owe Him is insurmountable. Nothing can cancel it out except the blood of Christ and the rightness with God that He won for us by His perfect life lived in our place and His innocent death offered to the Father in our stead.  This is why forgiveness, Christ’s forgiveness, is our most valued possession.  And it is made ours through the gift of faith. 

          So, are your thankful for it?  Yes.  Do you practice such forgiveness on a daily basis in dealing with all others?  Be honest.  The answer is: sadly, No. 

          Think of all those times family members said or did something to slight you or hurt you.  Maybe they meant it, and maybe they didn’t.  Maybe it was on purpose, and maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe you “forgave them” but also vowed to remember it and use it against them.  Humans are notorious keepers of grudges, aren’t they?  In our parable, who ended up with the short end of the stick?  Wasn’t it the fellow who didn’t practice forgiveness?  It boom-arranged on him.  So it is with grudge keepers—both in this life and the one to come.

          Forgiveness from the heart wipes the slate clean for everyone.  It restores all relationships.  Christ proved that.  Forgiveness is what reconciled God to us.  And forgiveness also reconciles us to each other.  It is what makes life work. 

          With that in mind, all of us have some work to do.  We need to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us and then go and put it into daily practice.  Maybe you cannot search everyone out from the past and verbalize your forgiveness, but you can ask forgiveness from God and then go forward by acting upon it.  You’ll sleep better.  You’ll have a newfound spring in your step.  And you’ll feel refreshed and cleansed.  Your debts of doubt and shame will be erased.  In fact, right now they are erased because today here at church, God obliterated them in His absolution!  Thanks be to God!  You’re solvent once more.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

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