In pm's words
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September 18, 2017, 7:46 AM

the one about noticing this new life...


Sermon from September 17, 2017

Text - Matthew 18: 21-35

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, forgiveness. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. And, nothing is more frustrating than when someone else talks as if it is something incredibly easy. Jesus gets to be that individual today.

He’s asked by Peter about how much are we required to forgive someone. Peter even offers up a pretty reasonable number. Far greater than many would expect. More than enough times. Seven is a good number.

Yet, Jesus turns it around and gives him an answer that is so crazy that I can only imagine how much Peter stammered in amazement at hearing Jesus speak. Seventy-seven times. Or maybe seven times seven. Or perhaps seventy times seven times (not all translations are in agreement in the number Jesus gives). Truth be told, the exact amount is not important – it’s something else entirely that I think Jesus drives home in the parable, but we get lost in the details searching for it.

Let’s get the details out of the way.

Jesus’ parable tells the story of a king speaking to a person under his reign and command. This individual has a lot of debt. Specifically, a lot of debt to the king. In order to pay it off the king declares to sell not only everything this person owns, but everything that makes up this person’s life and being. His wife, his children, his possessions. It all must be sold.

The indebted person naturally and sincerely asks for forgiveness. And it is granted. This is a big deal. Ever consider how much debt this guy had? A talent in my research was the equivalent to 130 lbs. of silver that would take roughly 15 years to ‘work off.’ This guy owed the equivalent to 10,000 talents! 1.3 million pounds of silver. It would take 150,000 years to work off that debt.

It wouldn’t. It couldn’t be done.

The king forgives that debt. Wipes the slate clean. Sends this freed man off to a new life.

Then the newly freed man meets someone in the streets who owes debt to him – 100 denarii.

Now, many times we look at that number and think that it is such a piddly amount why couldn’t this guy forgive it. But, it’s not an insignificant amount. A denarius was roughly a day’s wage. Let’s compare that to today. $7.25 is the minimum wage in South Carolina. People roughly work about 8 hours/day (though, at this point in history they would probably work about 12-15 hours a day). Before taxes, that’s around $58, multiply that by 100; that’s $5,800.

I don’t know about y’all but, if someone owed me almost six grand I’d probably be a little upset with them. Maybe even unwilling to let that go. For me, as I assume for the man, $5,800 is a lot of money.

I think it is at this point that we get bogged down in the details. This man was forgiven an unfathomable amount of debt. Yet, when presented with a similar issue, he couldn’t be like the king.

Many times, we hear a sermon on this parable we receive a message about needing to be like the king in the story and not the unforgiving servant. But, I’m not so sure that that is even possible.

Peter and the newly freed from debt man do not do anything that any of us wouldn’t do. Peter gives a more than acceptable answer to how often one should forgive. When we know a little bit more about what is going on, we can begin to see why the servant is unwilling to forgive the debt someone has with him. Yet, still Jesus takes the story in a way that further emphasizes not only the goodness, but the new life that we have been given.

In this story, it isn’t so much that the unforgiving man is unwilling to release another from his debt. It’s that his life wasn’t changed by his own release from bondage.

This man received a once-in-a-life gift. His life is literally changed when his debt is forgiven. Not only does he no longer have to worry about that debt hanging over his head, he doesn’t have to live with the fear and worry of where his wife and children are. Not only has he been freed, but his family has been given this gift as well. Y’all, what the king did for this man and his family is huge. A literal new beginning.

So, it isn’t so much that this man is unwilling to forgive the debt from another. It isn’t so much that comparatively it is a much smaller (though not insignificant debt). It isn’t even that he can’t be like the king.

No, my sisters and brothers, the crux of this parable is that even after been given the greatest gift of his life that after he walks out those doors, his life hasn’t changed. It is as if he hasn’t even noticed.

We have been given – freely through the grace of God – that wonderful gift. We have been given that new life, that new clean slate. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have been set free. In our baptisms, our old life has died, and we have risen to this new, free, and gifted life from God.

A gift like that? It’s supposed to change us.

I know I talk about it a lot, but I really mean it when I say this. We don’t live a life of have to, we live a life of get to. We get to live this life because of what has already been given to us. This new life freed from the debt of sin and death.

This new life where because we have been given so much we get to go out and serve others. We get to help. We get to forgive. We get to worship. We get to pray. We get to live. All because of what God has already done for us.

That changes you. I think it should change you.

We live this live because we have been forgiven. So, does that mean we should forgive others? I think so. However, as we know, and I’ve already mentioned forgiveness isn’t easy. We live a life striving to love others in that way.

We don’t always succeed. We probably fail more often than we care to admit. Yet, still because of what God – what the king – has already done, we get to live a life that is freed from that worry of ‘what if?’ or ‘is this enough?’ or ‘have I done it right?’ The slate has been wiped clean. That burden has been removed.

We walk through those waters of baptism new people. We remember that a life of forgiveness is indeed possible because we have already been forgiven. We are loved. We are cared for. God has done it already.

In that free gift, we get to live a life of love, mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance. It isn’t always easy, we will continue to struggle, and we will not always succeed. But, we remember in that struggle what God has already done. Reminding us again and again that that the very possibility of forgiveness – again, whether God’s or ours – creates possibility: things do not always have to be the way they are. And I find that not only comforting, but uplifting and empowering.

The man in Jesus’ parable has been given a great gift, and he doesn’t even seem to notice. Know, see, and live into the gift you – we – have been given.

So, yes. The parable we read and hear today is about forgiveness. However, it just might be about more than that. Perhaps it is about getting to live a life that is profoundly changed and shaped because of the new life that we have already received from our God through Jesus Christ. Live this life as one where you notice that gift. When we live this life noticing that gift? Then we get to live this life of forgiveness with and for others. Amen.

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