Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost Year A 2020
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
One of the greatest joys I have as a Pastor is to stand before you (each Sunday) and declare that all our sins have been forgiven. Think about it… What greater joy can there be to hear that all the sins that we have committed this past week have been forgiven.
Unfortunately, not everyone is happy to hear that OUR sins have been forgiven. Satan, for instance, is not happy. For Satan, the forgiveness of sins is a terrifying concept. In Satan’s mind the forgiveness of sins robs him of his control over us. Satan knows that the forgiveness of sins snatches us from the depths of hell and gives us hope at the very moment he wants us to experience despair.
Satan is constantly trying to steal the forgiveness of sins from us. Satan is doing everything he can to inflict as much pain in our lives as possible so that we will doubt that we have received the gift of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of reconciliation.
Satan understands that the greatest gift that God gives to us is His Son, who gave of Himself to counter everything that Satan has ever tried/or will ever try to do to us to separate us from God and from each other.
It should come as no surprise then that the forgiveness of sin is a common theme in scripture, and that includes the Parable that we have in our Gospel text today. This parable helps us understand what forgiveness is and what forgiveness does to us.
The instruction begins when Peter approaches Jesus and asks Him a question about the limits of forgiveness. “Lord,” Peter asked, “If another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Peter thought he was being generous.
Jesus responded, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.” And then Jesus told Peter a parable to highlight that just as there is no limit to God’s forgiveness and grace there is to be no limit to our forgiveness in our interactions with one another.
The parable reminds us that we can forgive because we have been forgiven. Just as the king in the parable forgave the servant of all his debt, God’s redeeming activity forgives us of our all our sins so that there is nothing left in the way to interfere in our relationship with Him and with one another.
Unfortunately, like the servant in the parable, too often we do not share the gift of forgiveness that we have received with the people around us.
Why? Because we enjoy our grudges too much. And even though anger, malice, spite, revenge, and all the other aspects of an unforgiving heart eat us alive from the inside out, we enjoy nursing our bitterness towards one another.
We like to exercise our power over others. We try to convince ourselves that by not forgiving others we can cause them pain, and suffering, and regret. But this is wrong because forgiveness is not just for others. It is for us as well. We all have done wrong. We all have hurt those closest to us. We all have lied, we all have cheated, and we all have stolen things that do not belong to us.
Each Sunday we confess that we are held in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We admit that we all have sinned against God by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We acknowledge that have not loved God with our whole heart. And we recognize that we are guilty because we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
Just like the man in the gospel text who received forgiveness but failed to forgive, we concede that we too have received forgiveness from God but have failed to pass on that same forgiveness to the people around us. And we do not always realize the extent that this happens.
Ernest Hemingway did, and he wrote about this very topic. In his short story, “The Capital of the World,” Hemingway tells of a father and son who had stopped talking to one another.
Things had gotten so bad that the son left home. After several years, the father wanted to mend his relationship with his son, so he looked everywhere for him. When he arrived at the capital city of Madrid, he took out a big ad in the newspaper that said: “Paco, please meet me at 12 noon tomorrow in front of the newspaper office. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.”
The next day at 12 noon, there were 800 men named Paco standing in front of the building! In the City of Madrid, there were 800 men named Paco who needed to hear words of forgiveness from the people who loved them the most.
This morning I suspect that we too have people here that need to hear words of forgiveness from the people that love them the most.
Go, offer forgiveness. Tell your loved ones… your neighbors… your co-workers… that I am sorry for the wrongs I have done. Do not forget to forgive yourself. And remember, “In the mercy of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for you, and for His sake, God forgives you all your sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit.”
Let us pray: God of mercy, you know us better than we know ourselves, and still you love us. Wash us from all our sins, create in us clean hearts, and strengthen us by your Holy Spirit that we may give you praise, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.