The Story for the
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sept 13, 2020
prepared by the Rev’d Rhonda Waters
Then Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Something to Do
Is there anyone you are reluctant to forgive? Or someone you truly want to forgive but simply can’t? Spend some time in prayer for that person and for your relationship. You don’t have to ask God to make you friends – just ask God to bring you the grace of forgiveness and commend that person into God’s care.
And be forgiven
Is there anything you feel guilty about? Spend time in prayer asking God to forgive you so that you can be set free from that burden and turn your energy towards living in God’s ways.
Something to Wonder
How many times…
Peter’s desire for clarity is understandable. Our world is full of largely arbitrary numbers intended to provide reasonable guidelines to situations with no clear boundaries. For example, nothing magical happens on your 18th birthday to suddenly render you an adult but we need a clear boundary for when to start treating you like one.
Jesus’ answer, like so many of Jesus’ answers, is that the question is wrong footed. Forgiveness is not about counting or keeping score. Forgiveness is about an abundance of grace, spilling over from God so that we might share it with others. The numbers in the parable emphasize the fundamental uncountability of God’s forgiveness: 10,000 (The Greek word is actually myriad) talents represents an impossibly huge amount, akin to “a gazillion”…or to “seventy times seven”, and then contrasts that to the relatively insignificant amount of grace being asked of the slave. Surely, having been forgiven the world, the slave can extend some mercy to their fellow?
The story, fundamentally, is about how we respond to God’s forgiveness, not about how we trigger it.
How do you respond to God’s forgiveness?
The Dangers of Forgiveness
This passage, and others like it, have been used to control people living in abusive and oppressive situations and to enable the ongoing evil behaviour of those in power over them. How do we hold both truths together: we are called to a radical form of forgiveness AND we are called to lives of dignity as persons created in the image of God? What is the difference between forgiveness and permission? Between forgiveness and reconciliation? Is it possible to forgive without forgetting?
Something to Learn
Restorative justice is a set of practices that seeks to disrupt the simple pattern of finding guilt and assigning punishment. Ideally, it finds a way to balance forgiveness with justice in a way that allows people – both offenders and offended – to move forward.
Reconciliation through Restorative Justice
This short video describes a restorative justice practice in the context of a First Nations Healing Circle.
The Little Book of Restorative Justice
by Howard Zehr with Ali Gohar provides a very accessible introduction to the theories and philosophies that underly restorative justice.
Something to Pray
Holy God, we do not always understand your word or your ways.
Give us wisdom and imagination and courage as we learn and grow.
The story this week has made me wonder about…
(what questions are still on your heart?)
Receive my questions and help me hear your answers.
The story this week has filled me with…
(how are you feeling?)
Accept my praise, heal my hurt, ease my worry.
The story this week has reminded me of…
(are there situations or people you are thinking of?)
Be with all who are in need of you.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.