Sermon for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

(Transcribed by machine 04/15/2024)

In the name of Jesus, amen.
To Charlotte and all the baptized,
these words from Psalm 103 are how the Lord clothes us
in his righteousness and forgives all of our sins.
He does not deal, this is what the verses say,
he does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities,
for as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Now how far, I wonder, is the east from the west?
I wonder how long you have to travel east to get west.
In fact, I think you could probably just keep going
and never get there.
And that’s the point that the Lord wants to make.
In other words, he’s removed our sins so far from us
That they can never find us and we can never find them.
And that’s the business of his church.
That’s the business of baptism.
It’s the business of the supper.
It’s the business of the word.
The business of preaching.
It is the business of the forgiveness of sins.
That you come in here with sins,
and the Lord says, I’ll take those now.
And they belong to him.
And you belong to him.
And his righteousness belongs to you.
And he wants you to know it.
Now, the trouble is that not only are we sinners, but we also live with sinners.
In other words, not only do we sin against God and one another, the world and everything,
but we are also sinned against.
And the question that we want to reflect on today is what do those two things have to
do with one another?
That’s what Peter wanted to know.
I mean, after all, Peter was given the office of the keys,
Matthew 16, the church given the authority to forgive sins,
Matthew 18, and so then he asks the Lord Jesus,
well then, how many times should I forgive my brother
when he sins against me?
And you know, the rabbis had an answer to that.
The answer was three.
That’s why the rabbis invented baseball.
Three strikes, you’re out.
And Peter says, well look,
Jesus seems to be really interested in mercy and grace
and forgiveness.
It seems like he would want us to forgive more often.
How many times should we forgive?
The rabbis, they’re gonna forgive three times.
How often?
So Peter says, how often should we forgive?
And I just can’t help but think Peter says it like this.
Seven times?
In other words, look at how generous I am.
I’m gonna forgive my brother seven times.
And you wonder if, you know, he’s looking at James
and he’s like, I counted five.
But Jesus answers and he says,
no, look, not seven times,
but 70 times seven.
490.
And if you’re thinking, well, you know,
my brother sinned against me 473 times,
you’re not doing it right.
In other words, you’re gonna lose track.
My mercy is abundant.
And in this way, and here’s what Jesus wants to do,
he wants to connect our being forgiven
to our forgiving those that sin against us.
And he does it with this beautiful parable
of the unmerciful servant.
And we’re gonna go there, but I wanna get there
through the Old Testament passage,
because I can’t, the picture, Genesis 50,
this is the story of Joseph, and it’s at the end,
And it’s this moment that should be attached
to our imaginations.
We should think about it.
You remember what happened with Joseph.
He had 10 older brothers at the time
when he was sold into slavery in Egypt.
His brothers were gonna murder him.
They hated him.
They were gonna kill him.
They decided instead, let’s make some money off of him.
They sell him into slavery.
And through a series of ups and downs,
Joseph ends up being second in command in Egypt.
The Lord gave the pharaoh, and then Joseph interpreted it,
at the dream of the seven years of plenty
and the seven years of famine,
and so Joseph had arranged things in such a way
that not only was Egypt cared for
with an abundance of grain,
but they could also sell it to the people around them,
and they were making great money.
I mean, Pharaoh was becoming wealthy on this,
and even Joseph’s brothers have to come down to Egypt
to get grain, and Joseph sees them,
and he recognizes them, and he loves them.
Even though they don’t deserve it, he loves them,
And all these things, it’s an amazing story
where he hides the cup and he arrests him
and he gets Benjamin back and all these things.
And then finally in this dramatic moment,
he reveals himself to his brothers.
I’m Joseph, he says, and he falls on them
and he weeps because they’re alive and he’s alive,
his father’s alive.
He says, look, come down here, move the family to Egypt
and the whole family moves down there
and Joseph is taking care of them
because they’re alive and well
and he’s full of joy in this.
And this goes on seemingly for a number of years
until at last, Jacob, Israel, the father, dies
and then look what happens.
The brothers are worried.
They’re worried because they think
that the reason why Joseph was being nice to them
is because dad was still alive.
They think that Joseph is just waiting
for an opportunity to punish them
or to afflict them or to throw them in prison.
They think, and here’s the point,
they think that Joseph’s love and mercy to them
is just a show.
They’ve been living in fear of him their whole lives.
They’ve been living in fear of him
and now their dad has died and they’re like,
he’s not here to protect us,
there’s nothing holding him back.
So they invent this story.
They said, they go to Joseph and they tell him,
dad died, but by the way, by the way,
on his deathbed he had one last thing to say
and what dad said on his deathbed
is he wanted us to tell you to be nice to us, to forgive us, and Joseph weeps.
He looks at his brother and he weeps because he loves them and he sees that
this whole time they thought that he was just being nice for the sake of their
dad, that he was waiting for a moment to punish them, that if they stepped out of
line he was going to come and demolish them. He weeps because the brothers
Just think that all of his niceness and generosity and mercy, that it was just a show.
He weeps and he says, don’t be afraid.
You meant this for evil, God meant it for good.
And it’s fine, I love you, I forgive you, I’m not mad at you.
Now we have to have this in our mind because if there’s something that upsets the Lord
of Jesus, if there’s something that causes him to weep,
if there’s something that brings him sadness,
it is the idea that we, his Christians,
think that he’s just being nice to us because he has to,
that he’s just being kind to us
and just being merciful to us because there’s some,
and he’s just waiting to pounce on us
and waiting to destroy us
and waiting for us to step out of line.
And when we think that about the Lord,
like Joseph, he weeps.
And why?
Why?
Because he really loves you.
It’s not a show, it’s not a sham,
it’s not some sort of pretend thing.
His mercy is not like a venture,
like it’s on the edge of a table about to fall over
and you gotta be careful around it
to make sure you don’t make him mad.
No, his sacrifice on the cross,
his bleeding, his dying, his suffering,
all of that was because he has a,
he so loves you that he cannot imagine
and being apart from you.
The forgiveness that he gives is a true forgiveness
and there’s nothing owed.
Now this takes us to the parable
of the unforgiving servant and here’s how it goes.
Now I don’t know how you guys do this.
Here’s how I like to do it.
I like to imagine myself,
especially in the parables but in the gospels,
I like to imagine myself in there
and I like to kind of run through all the different parts.
So I like to imagine being in the parable
as the servant who’s been forgiven.
And then I like to be in the parable
as the king who’s watching the servant come in there.
And then I like to be in the parable as the poor guy who’s outside and he’s waiting for
his friend to come out and he comes out and he starts strangling him, boy, bad.
But here’s where I want to put us in the parable today.
I want to put you as a fellow servant who’s watching all of these things happen.
And I’m going to ask for some extra imagination this morning, but let’s start out this way.
Imagine that you also owe the king a debt, and so you also have been summoned to appear
before the king and you’re waiting outside the king’s chamber to go in and there’s a
handful of you all, you’re sitting there probably on a bench like we have here in the pews,
you’re sitting on the pew next to the guy and you say, well, you’re here to see the
king?
He says, yeah.
You say, do you owe him money?
He’s like, yeah, me too.
I owe him a talent.
A talent, by the way, is a year’s wage.
I owe him a talent.
how much do you owe? And he says, 10,000 talents. What? You want to tell the story
how you owe the king that much money? 10,000 years labor? Not really, he says.
And you ask him, you say, well what are you gonna do? He says, I don’t know. The
letter that summoned me here said that he’s gonna sell me and my wife and my
kids into slavery to pay off and that’s not even gonna get close to it. I’m
looking at a whole life of slavery, I don’t even know,
and you ask, well, what are you gonna say?
And he says, this is all I can say.
All I can think of is I’m just gonna fall on my knees
and I’m gonna beg him for mercy
and I’m just gonna ask him for more time.
Just give me more time and I’ll do everything
I possibly can to pay it off.
Boy, I hope it works.
You tell him and his name is called
and you see him shaking.
He stands up, and he goes, and he,
you know, maybe your eyes catch one last time
before he goes into the room, and he,
he exhales and says, here goes nothing.
And he goes into the room.
Now, here’s where I need your extra imagination.
You know what happens in there,
but I want you to pretend like you don’t, okay?
I want you to pretend like you’re listening
to see how it goes, but you can’t hear what happens.
You can’t hear what he says,
it’s just sort of a mumble like this,
and you can’t hear what the king says,
he says something, you hear the king say something,
you can’t hear what the king says.
And you were like, what happened?
And then he bursts out of the room.
And you’re like, I wonder what,
the king must have heard his plea.
The king must have answered his prayer.
He must have given him more time.
And then you see the man run out of the king’s throne room
and with a wildness in his eyes,
he’s looking around at everyone
and then he sees another servant that owes him money
and he runs to him, and he grabs him by the scruff,
and he says, hey, that 200 denarii that you owe me,
which is a day’s, a denarii is a day’s wage,
which is not insignificant, right?
I mean, 200 day’s wages is not nothing,
but it’s not 10,000 talents.
He seizes him, and he says, give me what you owe.
And you hear with astonishment,
this guy say the same prayer
that the other guy was gonna say,
give me more time, I’ll pay you back,
and he says, no, I don’t have any time, I need it now.
Give it to me, give it, I’ll throw you in jail
until I get the money, I need it.
And he’s looking around for everyone who owes him something
and grabbing hold of him and give me, give me, give me.
Now, if you saw that happen, if you saw this guy
run out of the king’s throne and he started going around
to all the people who owed him money,
what do you think happened in there?
What would you conclude?
You would, I just, you would lean over the guy next to you
and you said, I guess the king gave him more time.
I wonder how much time he has.
I guess the king heard his plea,
and he’s gotta go now, and he’s gotta go around,
and he’s gotta go to all these guys,
and he’s gotta gather up all his money,
and you see him going and shaking down
all the people who owed him any money,
and you say, boy, I hope it works.
At least he’s working hard, he’s doing it.
In other words, what this servant is doing
when he goes and he’s demanding all the money
that’s owed to him, what he’s doing is acting
like the king answered his prayer for more time.
He’s acting like he still owes the king something.
And in light of that, what he’s doing is right.
Imagine if the king did say, okay,
hey, you’ve got three weeks, what should he do?
He should run around and find everyone
who owes him a quarter and get everything he possibly can
with all the ferocity that he can
and so he can pay back the king.
But here’s the point.
The king did not say you’ve got three weeks.
The king did not say you’ve got a year.
The king did not say you’ve got a million years
in purgatory.
The king did not say you still owe me something.
The king said all that you owe, every single bit of it,
is forgiven.
You don’t owe me,
you don’t owe me,
I’m not forgiving you 9,999 talents
and you still owe me one.
No, all of it is forgiven.
Every single bit.
And someone has to pay it,
someone has to absorb the cost.
It’s the king himself who does it
and he sets him free and he forgives him
and this guy misses it or he doesn’t believe it
or he’s acting like it’s not true.
Now this is what Jesus wants us to think of
when we pray, forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
There’s a danger that we think that
if I want the Lord to forgive me,
then I have to forgive other people.
That’s getting it backwards.
The Lord wants us to live in this life knowing
first and foremost that we are forgiven,
that all of your sins are forgiven.
Every single one of them is forgiven.
There is, you owe nothing to God.
To pay him back, to get his grace,
to earn or to deserve his love,
to get a place in heaven, you owe nothing.
The debt has been completely paid.
In fact, it was overpaid because the thing
that paid your debt is the holy, precious,
innocent suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
His blood, so that you owe nothing.
And this is the point, that we who are free and forgiven
now are set free to live lives of free and forgiven people.
So that we’re able to forgive the sins
committed against us.
So that we’re able to have mercy
on those who have hurt us.
So that we’re able to, as we’ve freely received,
we’re able to freely give, we’re free to be merciful people.
This is what Jesus wants for us to consider.
When you think about it, I asked for your imagination
earlier of the guy sitting outside and the guy goes in
to talk to the king and comes out and you’re trying
to figure out by how he’s acting what happened in there.
Just think that that’s our lives also every day.
That your friends and neighbors who aren’t here
in church with you who have no idea what’s happening in here, who think that we, I mean
I still am trying to figure out what people outside the church think we do when we come
in the church, what took so long? How long was that guy preaching? Here’s my best guess
of what people think happens in here who don’t come. I think that they think that we come
in here to talk about how good we are and how bad they are. How good the Christian is
and how bad the unbeliever is,
how holy we are and how filthy the world is,
something like that.
But here’s the point,
is that those people who are your friends and neighbors,
they see you leaving and coming into the church
and then they see you coming out of the church
and they’re trying to figure out
by how you’re acting what happened in there.
What did their king say to them?
What did he do?
What did he give?
What did he declare?
What did he take away?
What happened in there?
Now, and this is what we need to know.
This is why Jesus gathers you into this place,
is that he has you here to tell you
that he loves you,
that he forgives you,
that he has paid the debt,
that you owe him nothing,
thing, that death is destroyed, that the doors of heaven are open, that eternal life belongs
to you, that everything that is his, his kingdom and his name and his will, that they’re yours,
that he adopts you into his family and he calls you by his own name and he gives you
all of his treasures, that’s, that he calls you his children, that is what he’s doing
with you here.
So we leave, and we’re sinned against, and we forgive.
Because you are children of your heavenly Father
who has forgiven you.
Remember these tears of Joseph.
So the Lord Jesus wants above all for you to know
That is, love and kindness for you is not a show but it’s true.
It’s the truest thing in the universe.
Your sins are just as forgiven as Jesus is crucified and raised on the third day.
This is our treasure.
This is our life.
This is our peace.
So far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
God be praised.
Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding
guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.