All Saints’ Day
Trinity 22, 2015
The Epistle. Philippians 1:3-11
The Gospel. Matthew 18:21-35
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
We celebrate All Saints’ Day today, and in this commemoration, we think about, pray about, contemplate the lives of those who have gone before us as well as those who are still living who are also worthy of our admiration.
And the Collect for All Saints calls us to pray to God for His grace, that we may follow in the steps and examples of those blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living….that we too may come to those unspeakable joys prepared for those who unfeignedly love Him.
But today is also Trinity 22, and the Gospel lesson for this Sunday gives us just one of those examples through the teaching of Jesus that we are to cultivate in our lives …and to look for in the lives of those who have exercised this virtue well.
Peter’s dialogue with Jesus today coupled with Jesus’ Parable of The Unforgiving Servant, brings to us once again the larger theme of forgiveness….an important characteristic all Christians are to cultivate.
This lesson and Parable cycles around to us once a year and fortunately so…for it is this very concept that we have the hardest time with sometimes.
Forgiveness is one of the virtues or practices all Christians are called to exercise. Yet, we sometimes struggle with the concept.
How do I forgive?
Should I forgive this or that?
How often should I forgive?
What if I forgive but can’t forget?
Is forgiveness the same as forgetting?
These are all valid questions, and hopefully we are all asking at least one of these questions from time to time.
If there is no concern about forgiveness, we have a greater problem on our hands.
But to those who seek forgiveness or wish to live the Biblical model of forgiveness, today’s Gospel is very informative…and it’s for you….it is for all of us…..because it does answer all of those questions.
First we might use the Biblical hermeneutic of comparing Scripture with Scripture. For example, our lesson today comes from Matthew’s Gospel, however Luke also records a similar teaching from Jesus.
And we need to bring this short quote in to help get a fuller picture.
Jesus says in Luke: “If your brother sins, rebuke him.
If he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
So with this added element, of “if your brother repents or asks for forgiveness” we are to forgive him…each time he asks for it…..we can get a broader understanding of the concept of forgiveness.
First it is established then that forgiveness is something we are to seek when we have wronged someone or something we are to offer if someone sins against us. ….especially when a brother (fellow Christian) asks for it.
And if he repeats the offence and asks repeatedly for forgiveness, we are to continue to forgive.
Notice that Jesus does command a rebuke. If he sins against you, rebuke him. So action is to be taken first in an attempt to keep him from offending again.
Some think we are to just sit there and let someone treat us improperly and just forgive.
But it would seem that Jesus has in mind we do something to first point out the offence, rebuke the person, and then when he asks for forgiveness, we forgive.
Again, this is in the context of a brother sinning against us…a Christian committing the offence.
Peter wanted to know how often we must do this. He also asks what to do if it is a brother (a fellow Christian) does this.
And Jesus’ teaching is consistent in both Matthew and Luke. He only is recorded as adding the rebuking in Luke’s Gospel. But nothing changes here.
The forgiveness is to continue to be offered, as the offences continue to be committed. The rebuking of the offender is an important element added, though, because it grants authority to address the offender.
God commands us to love even our enemies, and show kindness to those who persecute us.
He is not at the same time demanding that we approve of their behavior….especially because this person has broken God’s Law against doing harm to someone else.
He is rather calling us to not be filled with hatred.
It’s very important to remember that though the Christian is called to resist aggression and to forgive people and to turn the other cheek, we have a right not to be harmed at the same time.
We have the right to some form of self-defense. And we also have a duty to rebuke the person to encourage them not to sin again.
Much of this is couched in the idea that we have a concern for one another…even if they do something wrong, rebuking is part of the formula to bring wholeness again.
We should not want our fellow Christian to continue on in sin.
Parents exercise this with children. They don't just let the child do whatever he wants to others or to himself because it is part of the shaping of his character.
This continues into adulthood. We should not want others essentially be self-destructive by sinning. We have a duty to one another to point out sin, address it, and pray for their repentance….and hopefully they will do the same for us.
And again, this is done as best as we can and as often as possible.
Though the number seventy times seven is Jesus’ answer, He is not setting a limit to the forgiving. By not laying down a fixed number, Jesus is rather calling us to never become wearied by the act of forgiving.
So to give illustration to this point, Jesus then tells a Parable of a King who wishes to settle accounts with his Servants. One owed Him so much that he would never be able to repay the debt.
He begs for forgiveness, and receives it at the hand of the King. But he does not go out in like manner. When he finds a man who owes him just a very small amount he treats this man harshly, and has him thrown into prison.
Upon hearing the news about this unforgiving servant….(who had received such great forgiveness from the King) the King has him summoned. He calls him a wicked servant for not showing like kindness and forgiveness.
He says, “You wicked servant. I showed you great kindness. I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn't you have shown the same compassion with someone who was indebted to you?”
What does the King do to this man? He rebukes him…and has him thrown into prison and the debt that he owed is reinstated. Recall the debt of the first man was bigger than he could ever pay.
So what we are seeing here is a model of the Kingdom of God and Salvation….and forgiveness at the heart of it.
We owe God so much because of our debt of sin and we are truly unable to pay Him back any way because of its size. Any effort on our part will fall far far too short of God’s perfect demand for justice.
God cannot just forgive sin. He must see to it that justice is done. If God were to just turn a blind eye to sin or just forgive it without punishing it in some way, then He would not be acting justly.
Moreover, He has promised (where? Adam and Eve??) that Sin must be punished.
But here is the Good News. The Good News is brought up and mentioned here often so you should be putting things together by now.
Seeing the gravity and greatness of our sin and God’s requirement of justice He took it upon Himself to fix the problem…
Its John 3:16. God so loved the world (even though it has sinned greatly and brought great offence to Him) He gave…..He gave His Only Begotten Son….to the end that all that believe in Him….should not perish, but shall have everlasting life.
Everlasting life is the pardon….the forgiveness for sin against God….and the reconciliation necessary to have entrance granted to us.
We should think about this often….all of the time. We, with all of mankind have sinned in Adam and have come under the just condemnation of a Holy God.
God hates sin. But when the sinner seeks forgiveness…..as modeled in what was said earlier in Jesus’ Parable… forgiveness is granted.
And yet we would not have found and received this forgiveness if we weren’t first found to be in Christ through faith.
God gave His Only Begotten Son so that those who turn to Him and cling to Him by faith are truly pardoned.
We are pardoned for much more than we are even aware of. Our sin is cosmic in scale and scope. It’s not just something trivial. It’s not just accidental. Our sin is enough to send each of us to hell.
God’s forgiveness of us in Christ has saved us from hell. And of course there are those who do not trust in Christ. Horrifying for us to even think about.
So horrifying we might even try to find ways to soften this concept or make it go away or to try to mangle the Scriptures into saying that hell is not permanent and that we all eventually make it to heaven…but to all do.
Only if we are found in Christ, who never sinned…never offended the Father, never needed forgiveness will we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The minster says in the opening of MP and EP…dearly beloved the scripture moves us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness and we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God….
And then the absolution reminds us that God does not delight in the death of a sinner, but rather He delights when he turns from his wickedness and lives.
Collect for Peace in MP. We pray and acknowledge this very thing….that we must be found in Christ, with a right knowledge of God.
We pray, O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life….
It is the requirement for forgiveness. It is the requirement for eternal life.
General Thanksgiving we speak of God’s “inestimable love in the redemption of mankind.” Inestimable love because of our inestimable sin.
So we should be always looking to forgive….because it is a requirement. It is a requirement of all of God’s saints.
We should seek to do so, because forgiveness on a much greater scale has been offered to us.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.