Saturday, November 11, 2017

Trinity 22 Sermon

Trinity 22 – Matthew 18:21-35 – November 11th and 12th, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
We Christians just have to put up with so many things, sometimes. I mean, think of all that we have to do for God. We could all be home nice and comfy right now, or out there making some good cash, or watching [high school football/NFL pre-game shows], but no, we just have to give up our [Saturday night/Sunday morning] for Jesus. And then there’s all the things that we don’t do as good little Christian boys and girls – we don’t cheat, we don’t rob, we don’t have all that wild fun that other people do – no waking up in the gutter for us. We have to give that all up. Why, we poor Christians even have to be nice to people, even to people who are lousy. Look at all that we have to do for God – man, if we aren’t just the best people in the World!

Now, we aren't normally that brazen about it, but don't we sometimes lament what we are supposed to do as Christians? Poor, poor me – that mean old God just keeps on making me do more and more. . . but, oh well, since I’m a good person – I guess I’ll just do what I have to do. And God rolls His eyes. This is a trap that all Christians may fall into – where we begin to focus on all that we do for God, how much we put up with for him. This is where St. Peter is when he asks of our Lord, Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Alright Jesus, I get this whole thing that You’re the Messiah and that I should be following you – but just how much are you going to expect of. . . me. . . just how good do I have to be? How much love do I have to show – if I don’t take revenge on a person seven times – well, that’s pretty good isn’t it? If I forgave my brother 7 times, I’d be a pretty good person, wouldn’t I?
We know Jesus’ response. 70 times 7. Many, many times more. But when we hear Jesus instruct Peter this way – what we are we thinking? Are we thinking, “Boy, I better do more and more?” Are we thinking, “Boy, my work as a Christian is never done”? Are we still thinking like Peter, wondering what I have to do to get in good with God? If so – we miss the point. Because Jesus tells a story to get our focus on the right thing. Listen.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. To explain, Jesus starts to tell a story. Alright, there’s a king, and this king is going to settle accounts with you. Or put it this way – say you owe the government money – the IRS people are at your door, and it’s time to pay. You want to talk about what you have to do, what you owe, what is incumbent upon you – go look at taxes. You pay, or at best we garnish your wages – at worst, into the graybar motel with you. And the fellow in our story – well, he is up the creek without a paddle. 10,000 talents is an insane amount of money. A typical person might make a talent in 20 years. This is sort of the equivalent of saying, “and this guy owed the king 10 Billion dollars.” A ridiculous amount of money.

And what does the king do? He first appeals to the letter of the law. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. If you want to go by what the law says, this is what happens. If you owe the government, let’s even take a smaller number – let’s say you owe the government a mere 10 million dollars in back taxes – what happens to you? Bad, bad things! And the King says, “alright, bad things are coming to you.”

So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” Now, this is great. Did you notice – the “servant” falls on his knees. He’s already owned by the master – he has no freedom – he’s toast. He’s not a free man anymore – and yet, he falls on his knees, and what does he say? I’ll pay you back. Oh, come on – really? You’ll pay everything? This is utterly ridiculous – it’s like the 3 year old asking her dad to buy a pony and promising her dad that she’ll pay him back. It’s not going to happen. . . and the king should just laugh this guy off.

But the king doesn’t. And out of pity for him, the master of the servant released him and forgave him the debt. No, you can’t pay me back. . . so I’m not even going to demand that you pay me back – don’t even bother trying. Just go, get on your way. Now, we know this wouldn’t happen today – the IRS would never say, “Ah, let’s just forget the audit, and don’t bother about filing next year, it’s all good.” Isn’t going to happen. But don’t you understand – this parable is describing you and God. You owe a debt to God that you can’t pay. God is the Creator – and with your sin you destroy His creation – and you can’t fix that. Can you make up for it, can you restore the earth? It's unpayable – you can’t do it. And yet, what does God do – don’t worry about your debt, your mistakes – I will take care of it Myself – I’ll send my Son Christ Jesus to the Cross, and He will take up your debt, He will clean up your mistakes. Now, go on your way and live your life.

This is how we relate to God. We ought never, never have the attitude of, “look at all I do for God”. All you do – you are sinner! In sin your mother bore you – what are you doing to do to change that! What in you will bribe God? Don’t even try. Make no vain boasts. Rather this – remember who you are – you are a person who falls before God and receives mercy. That is what a Christian is. A Christian is a sinner like everyone else, but a Christian is simply a sinner who is forgiven. And the damnable thing is we can forget this – we start thinking of ourselves as good people, look at how well we pay back God – we’ll cut a deal with You. And do you know what happens to people who forget that they are sinners who receive God’s mercy? Let’s hear what Jesus says.

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him saying, “Pay what you owe.” Now, sometimes we can diminish what this second servant owed – oh, it’s nothing, a 100 denarii is nothing compared to 10,000 talents. That’s not what Jesus is saying. 100 Denarii would be around $12,000 dollars. That’s a goodly chunk of change. I don’t think any of us would bithely shrug off 12 grand – so no, it’s something serious – but the servant goes nuts. Chokes the fellow! And the other servant pleads: So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” Sound familiar? And it’s a lot more realistic. . . but this servant will have none of it. He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. No mercy, no love. Now, by the letter of the law, he doesn’t have to show mercy, to show love. No, the guy owes him cash, let him pay. Isn’t that what we often think when someone sins against us – Hey – he has hurt us, he’s done real damage to me – so forget him. Make no mistake – sin is real, and it hurts. When someone does you wrong – it hurts. But how do we respond to this? Do we forget who we are – do we forget that we too are sinners who are not just as vile, but actually more vile, more worse, more guilty than this person who has sinned against us?

Well, the King finds out about this servant who is unforgiving. Then his master summoned him and said to him, “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 his 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 you heart. Well, who feels good right now? I hear this and I don’t feel too hot. I know that I can lament all that gets done to me, I can feel good about my anger towards people – and what does God say of that? Nothing good.

It becomes, dear friends, a question of how you will relate to God. Are you going to be proud and demand what is owed you – well, if that’s who you want to be, God will play that game with you. And you will lose – you will lose hard. But you know, that’s not how God wants to treat you. This king in the parable, he didn’t want to put the guy in jail, if he had wanted to he would have done so to start. Instead, the king desires and delights in showing mercy.

Dear friends – God delights in showing you mercy. God desires to forgive you, He desires that His forgiveness overwhelm you and cover your whole life. That is who God is, that is how He desires to relate to you. And that is why He instructs you to forgive your neighbor. Do you realize that this is not a harsh burden, a dire command? No – forgive your brother so that your eyes are always upon forgiveness – because when you remember to forgive that fellow next to you, what else are you going to remember – that God is the God who forgives you.

Think on this – God wants everything in your life to point you back to Him, He wants His Word to dwell in you richly. How much so – so much that even when someone sins against you, when someone hurts you – your first thought should be, “Wow, I do worse to God and yet He loves me – how great is God's love and mercy to me!” At all times and in all places, our thoughts should be upon how God has shown us mercy, that He is full of great mercy and kindness. He is the One who heals those who are broken, who gives out forgiveness. God directs us to this constantly, so that we always remember it, so that we live lives full of His forgiveness. And so, my friends, I encourage you – hear God’s Word of forgiveness – know that He desires mercy for you, know that He gives You His Body, His Blood for the forgiveness of your sin – always have before your eyes and in your ears God’s love for you in Christ the Crucified – so that you may always remain in faith – that you may always remain a Christian – that is, a baptized and forgiven sinner who lives by grace, not by works of the law. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

No comments: