Worship September 13, 2020
I welcome you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
A love that never ceases,
A creativity that designed the universe,
A hope that cannot be quenched,
A pursuit of reconciliation no matter the cost:
These are the things that are of God,
Then let us worship God.
We sing and speak your praise, O God, grateful for the many ways in which you have healed us. Keep our hearts, our minds, and our spirits open to learn ways in which we can offer healing love for others. For we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
Join me in singing My Hope Is Built
Hymn UMH # 368 My Hope Is Built
Scripture Matthew 18: 21-22 (NRSV)
God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out on us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that our hearts and minds may be opened. Amen
21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.
You’ve got to be kidding! Seventy-seven times? You’re nuts!
That’s what He said.
Listen! I’m no push-over. I’m willing to let bygones be bygones and all that other stuff, but I won’t be forgiving anyone seventy-seven times, I can tell you that!
Then you aren’t really forgiving them, are you?
Well, sure I am. But I won’t be a doormat. What difference will it make if I do forgive seventy-seven times or even more?
Maybe then you will truly let go of the hurt and step out of the pain. That’s what forgiveness is all about, not just speaking the words, but actually letting go of the situation. It doesn’t mean that you will have to let the hurt happen to you over and over again; it means that you will lay it down. You will have learned something about yourself as well as the one who hurt you.
You mean, I’m supposed to learn something from all of this?
Absolutely. Do you think God retains God’s disappointment over you when you fail and fall short? God forgives, wipes the slate clean, gives another chance, time and time again. That’s what God wants us to do: to live lives of forgiving love.
But it’s not that easy, you know.
God is with you. You will always have help with this.
You’re sure of that? Really sure?
Without a doubt!
A gentleman named Roy Burkhardt had the task of finding work for New York parolees.
He tells of one business owner who never failed to find a job for an ex-convict.
After many years the employer asked Roy if he had never wondered why he worked so hard to find jobs for rehabilitated criminals. Then he told Roy Burkhardt his own life story:
It seems he was a young man working for a company in Columbus, Ohio, delivering goods and collecting money.
He said over time, he stole several hundred dollars from the company.
One day his boss suddenly told him, “Go home. I’ll take your route today. Bring your wife and come to my house this evening.”
He waited at home all day and his wife kept asking why he wasn’t at work. Later he said, “Don’t tell me there isn’t a hell. I lived through it that day.”
In the evening, the young couple went to the boss’ house and was greeted warmly by the boss and his wife.
After they had visited for a while, the older man turned to the younger one and simply asked him to tell his wife why he had not been at work that day.
Although challenging, the young man began telling the story of what he had done.
His poor wife broke down and wept.
Then the boss spoke again, he stressed how morally wrong the young man’s conduct had been.
He said, “I could put you in prison, but I’m going to give you another chance.”
He told the young man to report for work as usual the next day.
He said, “We will not let you handle money, yet”, “but you will have an opportunity to redeem yourself.”
The young man went back to work and eleven years later became president of the company.
As he related this story, his eyes filled with tears. It was why he kept giving others a second chance.
The scripture read today has Peter asking Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times if someone sins against him.
He likely thinks offering forgiveness seven times is a generous and maybe even an impressive number of times.
But Jesus replies, not seven times but 77 times. Some version of the scripture even say that Jesus said 70 times 7 times.
It would be hard for me to keep track of the number of times I truly forgave someone.
I think I would stop focusing on the forgiveness and instead focus on the number of times I needed to forgive.
Today we are talking about forgiveness.
A neighbor spreads gossip about you, then apologizes and of course you forgiver her.
The second time, you also forgive her.
The third time, you are not so sure.
A brother-in-law assumes you took a family treasure and later finds this treasure at his home, he apologizes and you tell him it’s okay; six months later, he does it again, and this time it’s not okay.
Maybe you accidentally ran over one of your neighbor’s rose bushes with your lawn mower – twice. But you soon find out his limit of forgiveness was once!
Following the exchange between Jesus and Peter, Jesus begins to teach. In the fashion most often used by Jesus he uses a parable, a story, to teach a lesson.
This parable is known as the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
This parable teaches the concept of mutual forgiveness. Jesus tells the story of a powerful king who had a slave who owed him ten thousand talents.
Verse 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves”.
24 “When he, the King, began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents[c] was brought to him”;
This was an enormous sum of money. Someone at my text study this week described the amount by saying that a talent was the largest unit of money known and ten thousand was the largest identifiable sum.
Continuing on with verse we read 25 “and, as he, the slave, 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”.
The punishment for nonpayment was severe and action could be quickly taken. Imagine you had a debt that you couldn’t repay and for this you and your family were sold along with all your possessions.
At this point verse 26 continues with 26 “the slave fell on his knees before him (the king), saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’
People have told me their stories of trying to convince their mortgage holder or landlord to give them more time or to arrange a payment option but without success.
This story is different because 27 “And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt”.
The king showed mercy and compassion.
Jesus is using this parable to teach us, and that lesson is that God is the king and we are the slave.
We have failed miserably to be the kind of people God wants us to be.
We have stumbled and sinned and fallen short of the mark.
God’s holiness and righteousness demand that we be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect, but we are not.
We are in bondage to sin, bondage meaning slavery, and we do not have the power to free ourselves.
God knows this about us, so he sent Jesus and because of Jesus death on the cross, God forgives us all our sins.
Because Jesus died on that cross we are forgiven and accepted by God.
So far, so good. God loves us, accepts us, and forgives us.
But the parable goes on and now the story becomes more uncomfortable.
28 “But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii;[d] and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’
The slave that was just forgiven a huge amount now is faced with the opportunity to forgive another for a much lesser amount.
You see we are called to forgive others as we have been forgiven.
The second slave then pleads for mercy verse 29 says, 29” Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’
Guess what happens, verse 30 says…
30 “But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt”.
This slave did not receive mercy but was thrown into prison.
Well others saw what happened and they tattled on him.
31 “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.
32 Then the king summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’
34 “And in anger the king handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt”.
Jesus concludes the parable saying
35 “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister[e] from your heart.”
Along with the good news of the Gospel to sinners comes the harsh news that we are to respond to forgiveness by forgiving others. As we forgive others, we too are forgiven. As we refuse to forgive others, God will do so to us.
Those seem like harsh words from Jesus…but each one of us will be held accountable for those sins if we don’t forgive one another.
And I know it sounds harsh, because the wounds and insults and violations that are done to you in this life don’t seem insignificant to you. C.S. Lewis once said, “Everybody thinks forgiveness is a good idea until they have something serious to forgive.”
You have stories, we all do; Perhaps your heart has been broken by unfaithfulness, brutal words and unkind deeds. Perhaps you have been swindled out of money, perhaps you have been treated unfairly by an employer, perhaps you have been abused.
Perhaps you find yourself in a place where you cannot or you will not forgive; this may have been your story for years, for decades, for generations.
And you carry these burdens with you, like a prisoner’s ball and chain, you drag it through life.
Wounds turn into anger, and then bitterness, and then perhaps out and out outrage.
Carrying this resentment affects you physically and emotionally, it affects the dynamics of your family, and there is no relief in sight.
But still we hold on to it!
The Greek word for forgiveness means “to send away” or, quite literally, “to let go.” That suggests that forgiveness is a choice.
It is not something that simply happens over time; it doesn’t just go away if we ignore the pain.
Forgiveness is a conscious decision on the part of the offended person to let it go.
There may never be a reconciliation between the parties, there may not be a miraculous reunion of hugs and tears.
In fact, the person you choose to forgive may not ever know that you have done so; they may not even be living any more.
But you will know. You will feel the weight of 10,000 talents lifted from your shoulders when you choose not to carry it around anymore.
You do not forgive someone for their benefit; you forgive them for your own benefit.
Jesus taught his disciples and us to pray for forgiveness as we have been forgiven and shortly, we will say the words “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
How many times do we forgive?
We may be willing to forgive once or twice but not over and over again.
And even forgiving once may seem beyond us.
Most of us would rather hold on to our grudges and grievances rather than take the steps that lead to forgiveness and reconciliation.
We don’t have to be taught to hold a grudge, but we do have to be taught to forgive.”
Real forgiveness goes beyond just words but to the reality behind it.
We all need that second chance or third or fifth or seventy-seventh.
Abraham Lincoln once said that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make a friend of him.
Leonard Felder explains in an article, “A Fresh Start,” if you have someone from your past with whom you have never been able to resolve differences or express your feelings, now is a good time to start.”
There is nothing more cleansing,” Dr. Felder writes, “than working through your feelings toward someone whose impact on your life is still felt.
You do not need to carry on your conflicts forever. Healing the hurt inside can free a person.”
We are freed as we forgive and are forgiven.
We are called to forgive from the heart.
We have God’s promise to us that God will take care of the judgment; we do not need to judge another.
We can give our grievances, resentments, hurts, even those legitimate and sometimes terrible wrongs we have suffered-we can give all these things to the Lord and ask God’s power to come into our hearts and minds and transform us, rid us of our grudges, heal us of our pain.
We can ask God to forgive us and give us power to forgive others.
John Patton in his book, Is Human Forgiveness Possible?, puts it this way:
“Human forgiveness is not doing something,
but discovering something —
that I am more like those who have hurt me,
than different from them.
I am able to forgive
when I have discovered that I am really in no position to forgive.”
In other words, human forgiveness is possible only when we have really experienced God’s forgiveness.
We all need forgiveness, the second chance. Our sins are like scarlet, but they have been made white as snow.
We have been washed in the blood of the lamb and are cleansed by the suffering and death of Christ.
We have been forgiven and now we are asked to forgive one another from our heart.
Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
We love to say, “I may forgive, but I’ll never forget!” And we think that we are truly following the ways of Christ. How blind we are, O Lord. Forgiveness means wiping the slate clean, not retaining the hurt. It works both ways: letting ourselves make a decision for healing and reaching out to the one who has hurt us to offer forgiveness and redemption. None of us is perfect. We know that. But Jesus reminded us that love is the ruling component in lives of faithful living. Help us, O Lord, really receive the love that you have lavished upon us. Help us understand that love as an agent of forgiveness. As we have bring before you the names of people and situations that are on our hearts, we seek your healing mercies and tender love for them. Remind us that the same mercy and love is continually offered to us, though we falter and fail, though we seek and strive. Be with us, gracious Lord, all of our days.
And as you taught your disciples, we now pray
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Join together in prayerfully singing Grace Alone
Hymn TFWS # 2162 Grace Alone
MARK 12:41–44 reads
And he (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.
Many rich people put in large sums.
And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.
And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.
For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Prayer of Dedication
Lord, let our congregation be a witness to you:
immersed in scripture, constant in prayer, joyful in worship, generous in giving.
A loving, supportive community reaching out to those in need.
Accept these gifts we offer, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Together we will sing Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
HYMN TFWS # 2171 Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
As you have been forgiven, now go into a world that needs your forgiving, healing love.
Bring peace and hope to others, sharing God’s love with them. AMEN.
- Thank you to Janell, Rod and Jacki for sharing your gifts of reading and music with us.
- Council met this week and asked the Worship team to create a plan, including the criteria and timing for returning to worship in the building. The plan will be presented at the October 8th Council meeting.
- Lawn Chair Worship continues (weather permitting) at 10:30 Sunday mornings in Mora.
- Ogilvie continues at 9am each week.
- Online worship and mailings continue so if you have health conditions that put you at a higher risk for contracting the COVID virus, please allow yourself the privilege of staying home.