No media available

Lectionary 24A  
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
Lakeland, FL
September 16, 2023

Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Well, here we are with a parable of Jesus. As we have other times, we reach for our kaleidoscope to look at what has been called a short story of Jesus. We make a mistake when we view these teachings as allegories where X stands for Y, A stands for B and therefore JKL. The king is not God and we are not the unforgiving steward and we are not going to hell.

It is better instead if we look at the larger picture within this parable. But before we do that, we do need to put a few things into perspective.

First, the king in the parable is not a symbol of God. This is an example of where the allegory falls short.

And then, we miss a lot because of our lack of familiarity with the currency of the time. So, let me tell you a bit about the exchange rates. So the servant, Servant 1, let’s call him Sam, owed the king 10,000 talents. One talent was equivalent to over 15 years’ wages at our current minimum wage. And 10,000 talents – the amount of the debt – was roughly equivalent to the wages of more than 150,000 years. 

And there was another servant, Servant 2, let’s call this one Jack, Jack owed Sam one hundred denarii, equivalent to perhaps three months wages. 150,000 years vs 3 months. – almost 2 million months vs 3 months. Incomprehensible, don’t you think?

So, what is going on here? And what does this have to do with forgiveness? And what does this teach us about forgiveness? And is there any hope for us?

Forgiveness. What is this? What does it look like? Are we the forgiven or the forgive-or? My friends, in the waters of baptism we receive the marvelous incalculable gift of the forgiveness of our sins. As Fr. Robert Capon has put it, “In baptism we are clothed, once and for all, with the forgiveness woven for us by Jesus’ death and resurrection.” Every day and every night and all the hours in between, we walk around with a robe of grace over our shoulders, a robe of forgiveness, a robe sealed with the cross with which we have been marked and sealed, the very cross of Christ – forever.

So, we are Servant 1. We are Sam. And as we live this life into which we have been called we encounter Servant 2, Jack. One after another. And, if you are anything like me, garbed in this robe of grace, I get a little weary of encountering and carrying those 3 months of wages that Jack owes me. Lord, will it never end?

That’s what Peter wanted to know. Just how long are we to forgive our neighbor, our fellow, any who have harmed us. As many as 7 times Lord?? I mean, 7 is really stretching it under Jewish law – must we do this? Are you asking us to do more??

Well, yes, actually; Jesus is asking us to do more. We are being called to do things differently. Let’s look at the king. The king who kept good accounts. The king who knew who owed him what. The king who was a bookkeeper par excellence.

The king who, when Sam, Servant 1, came to him and asked for mercy, threw the books out the window. The king who extended grace far beyond anything that could be imagined. Grace that erased an insurmountable debt. A king who gave up his fastidious accounting. The king who demanded nothing in return. The king extended mercy beyond measure to Sam.

So, what then is Sam’s response to this grace. He, like the king, is a master of accounts and he knows exactly what Jack owes him and he goes after him to the max. Grace by one. Law by another.

These days there is a whole lot of law going on. There is much account-keeping. There is no shortage of “you did it to me, I’ll do it to you.” In fact, this week I heard exactly this from one of our country’s leaders– “I think if they hadn’t done it to me they wouldn’t be doing it to him.” Accounting exactness.

But my friends, because we are robed in the waters of our baptisms, because we are cloaked with perpetual forgiveness, because we are called to a new way of living with each other, because we are called to throw the books of account out the window, we must look at what it is that we are called TO.

First, and most importantly, there is nothing in this text, nothing in Jesus’ teaching that says that one who is in an abusive relationship must keep on in that relationship because forgiveness is required of us. And, if any of you are in relationships like this and would like to talk, after service, just say, “Please Pastor” and we will talk and work to figure it out.

So forgiveness. Forgiveness has a personal and individual aspect and there is also a much wider scope to it as well. What Jesus is talking about here is one more teaching in how it is that the people of God are to live together.

Forgiveness is an international matter. Bishop Desmond Tutu was a leader in the Truth and Reconciliation Councils addressing the matter of apartheid in South Africa and the abuse and oppression that harmed untold numbers of people. He led talks and conversations and engagements to bring this to an end.

And forgiveness is an international matter in the numbers of matters before our international courts. Courts that hear of massive abuse, of genocide, of atrocities we can hardly bear to hear. How on earth can these be forgiven? And what have these to do with me, anyhow?

I don’t know the answer to all of these questions. But I do know this.

Like you, I am washed in the waters of baptism. I am Sam. 

Like you,  Daily, I fail to live into the abundance of God’s grace. Daily I opt in to bookkeeping rather than release and relief. 

So, this is what I know. We are washed and forgiven. Our name is Sam. And we luxuriate in this baptism that clothes us in the robes of grace.

And as we walk the days of our lives with this robe all around us, sometimes it gets a bit heavy. Sometimes it is just too hard. Sometimes, there is that one, that one who stands on our last nerve and we want to cry out.

And in the midst of this, while forgiveness may seem very far away from what we can do, we are covered over with the waters of our baptisms. And in these waters we are strengthened and equipped to do what is seemingly impossible. We are called to forgive Jack. To forgive the one who has hurt us the most.

Forgiveness is not a simple handshake in the sandbox. Not a perfunctory, “I’m sorry.”. Forgiveness is a way of life. A way of being in the community of faith as we gather together. Forgiveness does not keep accounts. Because there is that whole 2 million vs 3 thing after all.

Forgiveness heals.
Forgiveness binds up.
Forgiveness seeks wholeness
Forgiveness is resurrection life.

And the people of God say…..