Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
This past Thursday the liturgical calendar passed over what higher traditions celebrate as the “Festival of the Holy Cross.” I’ve chosen to explore two readings from last Thursday, in conversation with today’s lectionary passage from the Gospel of Matthew on forgiveness.
Paul writes in Corinthians, 22”For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom…” What about us Gentiles? What about you and me? When it comes to our religious faith, our spirituality, what is it that we desire? Is it for a tangible feeling that something out there, bigger than us is aware that we exist and sends us a little love nudge now and again? Is it for the music or camaraderie of a worship experience every Sunday or there-abouts, whether or not God shows up? Is it a daily strength prompting us through all the difficult times of our lives enabling us to keep going? Is it something other? Something lingering deeper inside? Is it a searching for that soul-connection with someone that we desire? What is it that you desire for your faith journey?
Peter, in today’s gospel story from Matthew, seems to desire “a righteousness that is as far as it needs to go, but no farther.” Have you ever felt that way? Okay, what’s the limit of my work here? What are the parameters of my task for this job? What has to be done to get it done? How many words do I have to type before I have enough and can pass the class?
“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?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (18:21-22) Presbyterian Outlook editor Jill Duffield reflects on this passage,
“Seventy-seven is a metaphor for infinity. Seventy-seven is code for: “Don’t keep score.” Seventy-seven is a way of reminding Peter and us: Forgive as you have been forgiven and you likely don’t want to calculate that amount. You can’t calculate that figure.
Jesus drives home the point with a parable, the crux of which is this, “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I have had mercy on you?”
Before we get hung up on the parable of the king and his forgiveness, we need to realize at the deepest level of our hearts and beings,
“that it is never the king’s desire to punish the servant, nor is it God’s desire to punish sinners. Quite the contrary—the king’s threat, like God’s law, is a mirror that brings the servant/sinner to self-knowledge and repentance. Only when debtors acknowledge the overwhelming weight of their debt can they see the true greatness of God’s mercy. Calvin’s fundamental claim that “in being aroused by fear, we shall learn humility” echoes this interpretation: to know God, know thyself.1”
Notice how quickly the king forgives! The king was predisposed to want to forgive his servant out of love for him and his station. If this is a parable meant to teach us a truth about God’s being, God is predisposed to want to forgive us as well! Laying this parable along side John’s gospel passage, we are reminded that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son….”
We are forgiven as much as the cross!?! Then the crux is, if our spiritual path is to be more and more like Jesus, we can do no less than forgive with our very lives as well. Oh. Oh my, Jesus, that is a tall order. It is no big mystery that our families are the melting ground for most of the hurts we sustain, for most of the debts cast against us. I would hazard a guess that the majority of counseling issues have to do with family of origin relationship challenges and their fall out. Why, God, Why? You challenge me more than I think I can bear. Or do you? On the other side of the cross we bear, if we are truly on a path of Christ-like-ness, then we are also on a path of self-transformation and healing to wholeness.
Is that my desire, O God? To be whole? To be free of the burden of hurts? Free to forgive and be forgiven? Free to love and be loved? Yes, O Yes Lord! Then it is absolutely imperative for me, and I suggest to all of us, to give up “keeping score” of past hurts. For our own health and the health of those around us, they need to be given up, released, and dissolved into the greater love of neighbor and self.
Don’t get me wrong; if abuse, misuse, neglect, or harassment are in the mix, those are crimes with consequences that need to be meted out. In those cases it is doubly imperative to get the help you need with proper counseling and reporting services. To truly free yourself from past or present hurts, God and you need to find the right path to take for your own health and healing; healing-wholeness being a very healthy desire to have.
May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
 Jill Duffield, in her e-mail of September 11, 2017, to the Presbyterian Outlook “Looking into the Lectionary” subscriber list (http://pres-outlook.org/category/ministry-resources/looking-into-the-lectionary/)
 Katherine D. Blanchard, “Theological Perspective, Matthew 18:21-35, Proper 19 ” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press 2010). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0