Sermon Text: Forgive as You have been Forgiven

September 13, 2020 Church Blog, Sermons0

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Proper 19A – Forgive as You have been forgiven

  1. As often as I can, whether it’s in the context of pre-marital counseling, confirmation, or Bible study, I emphasize that the Christian faith is both the easiest and hardest thing in the world because of forgiveness let me illustrate
    1. In 2012 teen Jordyn Howe took his stepfather’s gun to school and accidentally shot Ady Guzman-Jesus’s daughter while showing the firearm to friends.
      1. Guzman-Jesus not only forgave the boy but also asked for him to get a lighter sentence, telling reporters that she believes her daughter would have wanted it that way.
      1. Howe was sentenced to serve one year in a juvenile detention facility and tour the state with Guzman-DeJesus, talking to students about the dangers of guns
      1. The judge in the case said, “In 20 years, I’ve watched human tragedy unfold in this courtroom, I could have never imagined a victim’s mother embracing her child’s killer.”
      1. What would you do?
    1. Early on the morning of October 2, 2006, Matt Swatzell was driving home from a 24-hour shift as a firefighter and EMS and had only 30 minutes of sleep.
      1. He was less than four miles from his home when he suddenly heard what he calls “the most God awful sound I’ve ever heard.”
      1. He realized he had fallen asleep at the wheel and crashed, and when he got out of the car, he saw the car of June Fitzgerald, who was pregnant and her 19-month-old daughter Faith. Faith survived the crash but her mother and unborn sibling did not.
      1. According to Today, Fitzgerald’s husband, a full-time pastor, asked for the man’s diminished sentence—and began meeting with Swatzell for coffee and conversation. Many years later, the two men remain close. “You forgive as you’ve been forgiven,” said Fitzgerald, “It wasn’t an option.”
      1. What would you do?
    1. As children, Pascale and her younger brother endured constant torments from their mother
      1. “She would hit me and my younger brother, fling plates in our direction, and call us names. My father tried to get between her and us, and she wouldn’t spare him, either.”
      1. After graduating from college, she moved across the country, away from her parents, got married and had a daughter.
      1. Then, at the age of 73, Pascale’s mother suffered several strokes. Pascale found her mother unable to communicate or understand language. She was the only relative capable of caring for her mother because her father and brother had died.
      1. She sat by her mother’s side around the clock, reading books aloud and just talking—though not sure what, if anything, her mother could understand. Through this the hate she had for her mother dissipated into forgiveness and love, though her mom remains in a vegetative state – What would you do?
    1. Forgiveness is the easiest thing to receive but the hardest thing to give…we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven.
      1. On the one hand, we love to be forgiven, to be given a second, third, fourth or millionth chance – our capacity to receive forgiveness seems limitless
      1. But on the other hand, our natural capacity to forgive is often very limited, just think of some of the maxims that we use, “Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me…I can forgive but I’ll never forget…”
      1. We have long memories for even trivial slights, who is in your life that you have a hard time even being in the same room with because you just don’t like the way they talked to me or they disrespected me…
  2. Our OT and Gospel lessons are about radical forgiveness, the Gospel lesson provides the principle of how we are to forgive the OT lesson shows us how it’s done
    1. In our Gospel lesson Jesus tells a parable in response to Peter’s question about how forgiving he should be.
      1. Peter thought he was being very magnanimous when he offered to forgive someone if they sinned against him 7 times (Jewish tradition was 3)
      1. Our Lord responds, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Mat 18:22) which is saying limitless…forgiveness doesn’t stop
      1. Then He relays the parable of the servant who owed an extraordinary amount of money to his master, impossible to ever pay off, yet the master forgives the debt when the servant pleads for it.
      1. Of course the point is that the servant represents us and the master is God, the debt he owed is the same as the penalty we owe for our sin – incalculable, and just as the master forgave the servant God forgives us.
    1. But unlike many parables where our Lord puts the burden of interpretation on the listener by leaving the parable open-ended, here He gets right to the point
      1. When the forgiven servant did not extend that same forgiveness to a fellow servant’s comparably paltry debt the Master says, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Mat 18:32-35)
      1. Our sin debt before God is beyond payment, like the servant we should be thrown into prison (hell), yet the Lord readily forgives that debt when we plead to Him in faith.
      1. But having received such a great treasure in being fully forgiven we should just as readily forgive the sin debts when others have wronged us. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
      1. That kind of forgiveness is demonstrated in our OT lesson by Joseph
    1. Remember the context of our OT lesson, Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers decades earlier, now he has risen to a position only under Pharaoh in Egypt by God’s deliverance
      1. During the course of a massive regional drought Joseph moved his family from Israel to Egypt to provide for them.
      1. In our reading Joseph’s father has died and the brothers are fearful that Joseph will finally have his revenge so they tell this lie in hopes of preventing that,  “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” (Gen 50:16-17)
      1. But instead Moses reports, Joseph wept when they spoke to him saying, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Gen 50:19-21)
      1. What would you do if the ones who sold you into slavery now stood before you and you had unlimited power to dispense justice?  
    1. Joseph not only forgave but actively provided for their welfare, continued the relationship, he forgave as he knew he had been forgiven by God
      1. It wasn’t you go your way and I’ll go mine he cared for the people who tried to kill him just as Pascale cared for her mother after years of abuse
      1. Our Lord and Savior became a man that first Christmas, lived a perfectly sinless life yet died a criminals death on the cross willingly as a sacrifice for our sin debt so we could be forgiven.
      1. Now our Lord says, “If you will follow me…be like me forgive as you have been forgiven.”
      1. It cost Jesus His life to forgive you what will it cost you to forgive – your pride, your reputation, the belief that you were right…Our Lord says forgive as you have been forgiven.