Sunday, September 13, 2020

Proper 19

Matthew 18:21-35
Our goal – forgiveness
Why scorekeeping does not work.

Not reconciliation but retaliation is the operating principle in the world these days. Jesus flatly contradicts the world’s procedure and lays down a better principle. By means of the parable found in this morning’s Gospel He says to us; “Make forgiveness your aim.”
I.                    Our forgiveness is empowered by the Father’s forgiveness.

A.      The debt the King forgave was great. “There was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents.” - Matthew 18:24

We might get lost in the translation so Jesus wastes little time making His point. A “talent” was considered about twenty year’s wages. While a denarius; was considered a day’s pay.
So how much debt are we comparing? About three month’s worth of expenses; (for those of you who listen to Dave Ramsey – your emergency fund) and 200,000 years worth of pay for the other.
Each had debts which neither could pay. And it was the king who loaned out his money in the first place. This is a story of your Father’s amazing grace!
This king is both rich and reckless. He is rich in mercy.  He is dripping in love. He offers plenteous redemption. He is reckless in His compassion. He bestows kindness to those who are certainly undeserving.
Your debt of sin includes not only trespasses and transgressions – sins of commission – which can be seen and noticed by all. There are also sins of omission. That, which we should have done, but failed to do. Not doing what is right or failing to do as instructed are serious wrongs for our omission is simply willful disobedience.
Not noticing the lonely person, not speaking an encouraging word, not helping a neighbor in need are just as serious and dangerous as James has taught, “to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
And as St. John writes, “whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
This debt -you cannot pay. "The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.' -v 26
This fellow could have worked every minute of every hour of every day for the rest of his life and still he could not work off his debt. 200,000 years he owed the King. This is exactly the point the Savior is making. Good intentions will not suffice. Your best efforts won’t remove your guilt. The load’s too heavy. It weighs too much.
B.      Yet, this King moved with compassion forgave at a great cost.
Our debt to God had to be paid. Jesus paid it all, down to the past penny.  He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” - 1 Peter 2:24
The Father forgives for Jesus’ sake.  So says the prophet Micah - “Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.” - 7:18 It is only when you experience God’s forgiveness that forgiveness can now be your aim.
His greatest act of love was something no parable could properly express, only the clear words of the Gospel.  Jesus gave His life for yours, taking all your sins away as His own on the cross.  His empty tomb heals you in full through the forgiveness of sins.
II.                  Our forgiveness now is an imitating of God’s forgiveness.
      You forgive from the heart. - "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." - Matthew 18:35
This does not mean that you can always forget the offense. The memory of it may still disturb you at times. It does mean that you do not allow the evil, which was done to separate you from that other person.
How can this happen? With God all things are possible. That is why Christ comes to you through the Gospel. When you learn to know and understand the message of forgiveness; which only Jesus can afford – He helps you to forgive as Stephen did when he prayed, “Lord do not hold this sin against them!” Acts 7:60
This servant set a limit. - "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' -v28
Peter wanted to set a limit also.  - “Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" – v 21
Peter was being gracious. The Rabbis taught that if your neighbor sins against you in one day you are to forgive three times. Peter offers seven. Twice the legal limit plus one more for good measure. Yet Jesus replies, “Not seven but seventy times!” v.22 Christ’s forgiveness is beyond measure.
He’s your Good Shepherd. Content to leave behind ninety-nine of His herd in safety. Who will risk all. To save just one, that is lost.
We too stand accused of setting a limit. On our time. On our commitments. And yes, at times, on our forgiveness. Yet if we are to imitate the Father’s forgiveness – this Merciful Master – this uncontrolled King the spirit of vengeance cannot be permitted to rise.
B.      You reflect the love of this reckless King. The unforgiving servant reflected hate, not love. -  "He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.” – Vv.28-30
The tragedy of this unforgiving servant is that he had to keep score. He believed he had it within himself to settle his debts if only he were given enough time to work it off. He considered the King to be cruel and impatient. 
And being relieved of his debt immediately he goes after another; demanding that he settle up. That’s the problem when you attempt to keep score.  Scorekeeping inhibits your ability to empathize. It threatens to foster resentment in your relationships. Because scorekeeping is biased. You cannot win. Those numbers you’re watching. That score you’re keeping. Are always stacked against you.
You child are difference. You reflect the Father’s love to the meanest and the worst. The worst that can be done to you is still only a pinprick compared to what we have done to Christ. By forgiving you beget love rather than breeding retaliation.
And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” - Colossians 3:12-13

People of God - make forgiveness your aim.
Passive Sentences – 6%
Readability – 76.6%
Reading Level – 5.4

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