For Unto You a Child Is Born
January 3, 2018
December 5, 2017
Wedding Banquet Gone Wrong
A Hot Button Issue
70 Times 7
But I Do Know This God
October 8, 2017
You Can Run...
May 9, 2016
In Her Name
March 25, 2016
A New Direction
March 18, 2016
Whose Wife Will the Woman Be in Heaven?
March 15, 2015
Where Isn't Jesus Tonight? A Christmas Eve Homily
December 25, 2014
Is That Any Way to Treat a Friend? Moses & God
March 31, 2015
The Rev. Tricia Leonard-Pasley
Saturday use to be chore day at my house.
Sometime after breakfast I would call roll and give my children their weekly cleaning tasks.
It is usually at this point that they would begin what can only be described as `labor negotiations.’ Every week it is the same thing.
A typical conversation would go something like this:
“Son, I want you to clean the bathroom.”
A pause, and then he would ask; “does that mean the sink?”
Yes, I say, the sink. Another pause, “What about the toilet?
Do you want me to clean the toilet, as well?
Yes, I reply, the toilet too.
“And the tub, what about the tub?”
It was at this point that my patience would give way,
and, I would send him up stairs with some paper towel, comet,
and a frustrated look.
I think at the heart of his futile query is the hope (however faint) that someday, I just might say; “You know, you’re right.
Cleaning the toilet every week really is overkill.”
And, if that were to happen, he wouldn’t want to find himself
doing one more thing, than what he absolutely had to do.
I suspect a similar dynamic is that the heart of Peter’s question as well.
“Lord, what is the absolute minimum amount of times I have to forgive someone and still be considered right with you?”
To be fair, you should know that Peter’s suggestion of forgiving someone seven times was actually quite generous.
It was the rabbinic teaching of the day that a person must forgive his brother 3 times, but not more than 3 times.
Peter must have thought he was impressing
Jesus by taking the rabbinic 3, doubling it,
and adding one for good measure.
And it is that kind of thinking that makes us love Peter, isn’t it?
But, Jesus, not known for being a moderate,
bursts Peter’s bubble. JUST DO IT,
Jesus says, Not 7 times, not 70, but 7X70.
And to drive the point home, he tells this very scary parable.
It is so scary, because it is so simple. You don’t have to be a biblical scholar or theology professor to get what Jesus is saying here,
and that is part of our difficulty.
Slave A owes the king 10,000 talents.
This is equivalent to about 12 million dollars today,
or, 150,000 years worth of labor back in the 1st century.
A debt so big, it could never, ever be paid off.
Then in a surprise move, the king forgives the slave’s debt completely.
Enter Slave B, who owes slave A 100 denarrii,
the equivalent of a buck eighty.
And, like a scene right out of The Godfather, Slave A says;
`I’m going to break your kneecaps if you don’t pay up.’
When word reaches the king, slave A is done.
“Handed over to be tortured until he pays the entire debt.”
The story is over for slave A and B, but not for you and me.
Jesus says there will be a severe penalty for not forgiving
what is in our power to forgive.
Forgiveness is hard.
It requires giving up things, that I know I at least, personally enjoy,
like being right, and settling scores.
It requires giving up things like pointing to someone
and reciting all the things they did to hurt you.
And, that good feeling you get from being morally superior.
Real forgiveness also requires that we go to places
we would rather not go,
like the wounded places, we would rather others not see.
And, it asks for things we might not be ready to give,
like soul-searing honesty, and vulnerability.
You can bet I am looking for the minimum number of times
I’m required to do that.
But forgiveness is the heart of the Gospel.
It is the very heart of God.
And there is no better text in all of scripture to open us up to this truth,
than the one we just heard.
We must forgive what is in our power to forgive.
When we do, we release into the broken world
the mysterious transforming power of God.
I have only seen it once, maybe twice in my lifetime,
and it was an extraordinary thing to behold.
A man I know committed a crime and went to jail.
The nature of the offense was such that I was sure he
would never recover from the public shame.
I was sure his family would not recover either.
I prayed for him, hoped for the best for him,
but like someone who finds them self in the path of a hurricane,
`the best’ is not usually what happens.
Then something amazing happened.
Something I didn’t see coming.
His wife forgave him.
Oh, not easily, not without help, or anguish,
but then yes, forgave him.
It was only then that I felt the gale force winds of the
Gospel command to forgive,
shake everyone who knew the story to their very core.
And there it was, Peter’s question, rearing its ugly little head,
in my head now.
Do I have to do that too?
I watched them as the months passed.
I watched a man find in his wife’s gesture, a reason to live.
I watched a woman discover that she was a Christian who took the gospel command to forgive seriously, and personally.
And, I watched the Kingdom come alive and transform a situation I once thought hopeless.
Forgiveness is not magic. It is not amnesia.
It does not negate responsibility for one’s actions.
It does not replace consequences for what one has done.
It does not even take away the pain and hurt that comes with sin.
Relationships that are broken, are broken, and need to be repaired.
Damage that is done, is done, and needs to be accounted for.
But, forgiveness, heals.
Forgiveness brings new life to places where once
there was only death and destruction.
Forgiveness is not a footnote in the Gospel, either.
It is the beginning of the story.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ begins with a baby,
wrapped in swaddling clothes, taking on the sins of the world.
God making the first move to bring us back,
before we even knew we were lost.
It is the middle of the story.
Forgiveness is the centerpiece of Jesus’ teaching.
Wherever he went, whomever he encountered,
he often began the relationship with the words:
“Your sins are forgiven.”
And, it is the end of the story, when Jesus cries out on the cross,
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The woman in the story I told you fascinated me,
because, I have met so few people who have actually done it, really, truly forgiven someone.
I thought I would get from her, her secret,
some bit of profound Christian wisdom that I could bring to you today.
So, I asked her, `How did you do it?’
“I guess,” she said, “in an extreme situation,
you just have to decide to do it.”
She could tell I was a bit disappointed, it sounded a bit too much like
`Jesus meets Nike.’
But, when you think about it, that is what Jesus said to Peter.
Just do it. And then do it again, 7X70.
Is there someone in your life that needs the healing power of your forgiveness? There are a few people in mine.
What do you say, if today, We all just DO IT.
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