St. Andrew's Benefice
Pippa's Sermon - Trinity 14
About forgiveness – a very tricky subject. We say ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we
forgive those who trespass against us.’ But have you ever had difficulty in forgiving
someone? Are there people you still can’t forgive? And we remember Christ on the
cross - ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’
So what does Jesus have to say about it to the disciples?
First comes Peter. Good old Peter. As usual, very human. ‘If another member of the
church sins against me, how many times should I forgive him?’ Peter thinking he was
being big going to seven times. I’m sure you’ve been there. Keeping chalking up the
number of times ....until you erupt. But that’s no good. You said you’d forgiven - but
you hadn’t dealt with the problem. The times you chalked it up wasn’t forgiveness,
was it. You were harbouring resentment.
Jesus’ answer, seventy times seven – he’s almost teasing Peter. He’s really saying
don’t even think about counting; do it. Forgive.
Then comes the parable with the king. If we had just read up to verse 27 it would
have been absolutely fine. Easy. God forgives. Forgives hugely, completely. That ten
thousand talents was a huge sum of money - impossible to pay back. God forgives at
the first time of asking. Repentance brings forgiveness. Alleluia. The servant can go
off rejoicing. There is a God.
Then it all goes pear-shaped. The servant is all too human - he meets someone who
owes him, too; nothing like as much as he has been forgiven but about, say, 3
month’s wages. He doesn’t even forgive him once, let him off for a while, let him off 7
times; he gets him thrown into prison.
And then it’s as if the king, God, is all too human too - he’s mad at being let down; he
takes back his forgiveness, turns the servant over to the torturers.
But - we didn’t think God was like that. How do we cope with it?
First - we know that God sees the whole, the whole context. The whole kingdom.
Thine is the kingdom, we say. And the essence of that kingdom is love, and
forgiveness of those who repent. So what we have here is tough love - what is not of
the kingdom must be dealt with; wrongdoing must be made clear.
Second - turning over to the torturers sounds pretty terrible. Would God do that? But
we do it to ourselves, if we cling to bitterness and resentment and a sense of
injustice, don’t we. It’s horrible. It damages us.
For we must forgive our brother or sister from the heart.
The God whom we see as yet through a glass darkly longs for that servant to know in
his heart that grace that God has shown to him - and be able to pass it on, to truly
comprehend forgiveness. Then there will be joy in heaven. The servant who went
wrong - it’s still possible for him to come right.
But we know, I’m sure we all know, how hard it can be. But God is there to help us -
we can lift the trouble to him in prayer; we can be open to the signs and help he
provides. Often through others. Someone will say something and it’s a bit like a
kaleidoscope - it gives the whole thing a shake and you see it all with a different
pattern. God’s pattern. We see it in the light of the kingdom. So - talk about it. Talk to
God about it. Pray for strength to resist the temptation to get even; the bitterness.
Pray for grace to reflect the merciful generosity of God, of the kingdom of heaven.