“So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16)
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
|Claude Vignon (French, 17th Cent.) "The Unmerciful Servant"|
“And in anger his lord handed him over to
be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.” (Matthew 18:34)
The above verse from our appointed Gospel for Pentecost 15, Year A (Matthew 18: 21-35) is a pretty nasty verse, don’t you think? A man is condemned to torture in a debtors’ prison for the crime of un-forgiveness. But, if you think about it, the lack of forgiveness, the gripping on to grievances and wounds, is a type of torture. God may not condemn us to it. Rather, we condemn ourselves to it.
Jesus isn’t into keeping score. Jesus demands forgiveness that goes beyond our ability to count up wrongs. The slave in the parable has racked up a debt so high no one could repay it. It’s actually an exaggerated amount almost equivalent to the national debt of a small country. Jesus likes to use a little hyperbole for effect at times, but the point is this guy is unable to make things right. Fortunately, he serves a gracious lord who takes pity on him.
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
is only a story. Any similarities between actual events or persons living or
dead is entirely coincidental.)
Once upon a time there was a tiny Lutheran church with a small praise ensemble. One of the musicians (let’s call him “Bob”) was a very well-meaning but stubborn man. God had given Bob tremendous musical talent. Unfortunately, Bob also had an enormous ego and wanted everything his own way. This caused friction within the praise team and much consternation for the church’s worship committee, the Praise Director (let’s call him “Joe”), and the congregation in general. Many of the Lutherans grumbled about Bob. Some of them complained to the pastor, but none of them confronted him directly about his behavior.
One day, after a particularly acrimonious verbal run-in with Joe, Bob came to see the pastor. The pastor was a very timid man who was uncomfortable with inter-personal conflict, but he invited Bob to his office to hear him out. Bob sat down in a chair and in his very self-important stentorian voice declared, “Pastor, the trouble with Joe is he just doesn’t listen!”
The pastor thought about this statement for a moment. He never liked to contradict anyone, and always thought everyone should have their say. He had tried to reason with Bob in the past, and knew this would be difficult. After a pause, and screwing his courage to the sticking-place, the pastor replied, “Joe doesn’t have to listen, Bob. He’s in charge. He talks and you listen.”
This reply incensed Bob. Realizing he had no ally in the pastor, he stormed out of the church and was never heard from again. Although the praise team found themselves bereft of Bob’s talent, a wave of relief wafted over them and the congregation in general. It was as if the clouds had parted and warm sunshine shone down upon them.
THE above parable illustrates a point: Even in the church there are people who misbehave and need to be called out on their inappropriate shenanigans. This has always been the case. Even the community for which our evangelist Matthew wrote his Gospel had their own contentious issues. It’s always wise for us to remember that the church is not a country club for saints but a hospital for sinners. If you go into a hospital, don’t be shocked if you run into sick people.
We have a duty to correct one another. We also have a duty to love and forgive one another. We’ll be on the right track if we do it Jesus’ way.
God’s peace, my friend. Stay safe. Thanks for reading.