Service Times: Sunday 8:00 and 10:45 - get directions

“Over Budget & Behind Schedule”

Date: September 17, 2017 Speaker:



“Over Budget & Behind Schedule”

Matthew 18:21-35

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: September 17, 2017

Pastor Mark Wiesenborn

St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

 

     Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  In light of this week’s sixteenth anniversary of the tragedy known to us all as “9/11” and observed since then as a National Day of Service and Remembrance (or Patriot Day), our sermon comes from the Gospel – where Jesus uses a parable to teach the danger of withholding forgiveness:

“The master summoned him and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  Then Jesus says (as an unmistakable warning to all who are listening): ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’”

 

Dear friends in Christ, these past few days it has been impossible to pick up a newspaper or watch television without being reminded of September 11, 2001, and the lasting consequences.  It has been etched into our minds and spirits as a day of heart-breaking tragedy and of courageous triumph.  We are reminded of those whose lives were ended, or forever altered, by wicked people committing violent acts of terrorism.  Yet I must point out an even greater tragedy, to which most have probably never given a thought.  Some who died that day almost certainly perished without saving faith in Jesus Christ; and others may have been struggling with matters of faith and conscience even as they realized they only had minutes (or seconds) left to live.

 

And so I must ask you to consider what should be a straightforward question this morning – one I hope will strike you as becoming more urgent in the shadow of 9/11:

“If today was to be your last opportunity to tell somebody that you were sorry, or to offer forgiveness to someone who had wronged you… WOULD YOU DO IT?

 

Last week I spoke about Christian accountability, and based on Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18 we considered the three vital aspects of humility and holiness and reconciliation.  Christians in churches all over the world are in serious danger of fellow members failing, and falling down in their faith!  You may remember my statement that: “A steadfast refusal to forgive someone is nothing less than a willingness to not BE forgiven, and that can be spiritually deadly.”  Today we take up the challenge of Christian commitment, as Jesus leans into each of our faces and says with a sense of urgency “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from the heart”.  This is a message of tough love; listen and learn, or else.

 

We are “People Under Construction”.  During this series of sermons, we have been re-discovering what it means to have a Jewish carpenter named Jesus Christ as our Maker and Redeemer. Forgiveness is not easy.  When someone has done us wrong, we expect and desire that they will pay the price for their transgressions.  That attitude comes from our human nature; from the place in our bellies that understands hurt, and makes us ready to lash out with payback.  Some fear that forgiveness will be mistaken as weakness.  Those men who left jobs and families in order to follow Jesus were every bit as human as you and I are.  “Peter comes up and says to Jesus, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus replies, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’”

 

When I was working as an engineer, a report of being “Over Budget and Behind Schedule” was among the most personally-hazardous messages that a Project Manager might be required to deliver to the President of the company.  Sometimes excuses were offered, and occasionally it was clear that the assignment had encountered challenges that no one could have anticipated. Under the best circumstances, the hoped-for outcome included patience and mercy. But tough management decisions often meant that someone had to pay the price for failing to get the job done.

 

The privilege of following Jesus and serving Him can include both satisfying rewards as well as costly lessons.  Jesus uses the parable to teach Peter and the rest of his disciples the importance of both receiving mercy, and showing mercy to others. That’s what we mean by Christian accountability: obedience to the commandments of God, as well as faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus Christ including the mission of His Church in sharing the message of reconciliation.  God is watching how we do!

 

And as you already know, someone had to pay the price for our past, present, and future failures.  Jesus has already made our citizenship in Heaven possible by His suffering and death on the cross nearly two thousand years ago.  Now the job of all who believe in Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven, until He comes again on the Last Day, is to go and spread the Good News of salvation.  But when we honestly examine how we are doing, not just within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod but among all Christian churches, the Mission Field seems overwhelming and unwelcoming to the message of light and life which we have received ourselves.

 

But that’s because we tend to see it as our “project” rather than God’s grace being put into action through us, one person at a time. So how do we do it? How do we turn disappointments and hurt and anger into mercy, in order to let go and forgive? Our struggles with living according to our human nature instead of following Christ are what cause our spiritual growth to be Over Budget and Behind Schedule.

 

There is a story about a family that lived on a farm, and their twelve year old son who accidentally killed one of the geese by throwing a stone. Figuring his parents wouldn’t notice one of twenty-four gone he buried it. His sister saw his crime and said, “I saw what you did, and if you don’t wash the dishes for me, I’ll tell mom.” The boy did the dishes for days, until his mother pulled him aside and asked how long he was going to keep allowing his sister to take advantage of him. The very next day, the boy finally said to his sister, “It’s your turn to do the dishes.” His sister said, “I’ll tell mom.” The boy replied, “She already knows and she has forgiven me – I’m free again.”

 

Pastor Henri Nouwen describes forgiveness as the way to freedom. To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you.” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

 

I have known Christians who would insist that unless and until someone repents and apologizes, they have neither the obligation nor the desire to offer forgiveness.  That displays the self-centered, hard-heartedness of our human nature.  This brings us to one of the great paradoxes of our faith: “If Christ died so that the sins of all people for all time might be forgiven, then why are not all people saved?

 

Our Lutheran doctrine regarding forgiveness, drawn from Matthew 16-18, is a special God-given way of applying the Gospel to the individual. In Luther’s Small Catechism we find this explanation (question #271):

God is surpassingly rich in His grace.  First, through the spoken word, by which the forgiveness of sin is preached to the whole world; second, through Baptism; third, through the Holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys; and finally, through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.”

 

With respect to our individual relationships with God, we each rely on His grace through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice to receive the promises of forgiveness and salvation and eternal life.  The point that Jesus is making in today’s parable is that forgiveness has no limits for those who repent.  A few verses earlier he says: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

 

Our human nature occupies itself in measuring people and sorting them out.  Friends and foes.  Heroes and villains.  Good guys and bad guys.  But the reality is that each of us, without exception, are sinners in the hands of a loving God.  God hates our sin, yet He never stops loving us.  Repentance is necessary in order for us to receive forgiveness from God – but as brothers and sisters in the shadow of the Cross, we are called to point ALL people to our Savior and King rather than to place ourselves upon His seat of judgment and mercy.  Our willingness to forgive others from the heart, no matter how undeserving some may seem, is an act of gracious love that has the power to spread farther and endure longer as a witness to the great love of God than we could ever imagine!!! Therefore I will ask you once more:

 

“If today was to be your last opportunity to tell somebody that you were sorry, or to offer forgiveness to someone who had wronged you… WOULD YOU DO IT?

is death

 

All things are possible, through God who gives us strength! In the name of Jesus, who is our gracious Redeemer and also our friend!  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 


GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 18:21-35 [ESV]

 

      21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

 

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

 

28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.

 

32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

 

35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”



No Response to ““Over Budget & Behind Schedule””

Comments are closed.