Keeping Count

This is the script of the worship I prepared for our online service this morning, led almost entirely by prerecorded slots.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23 because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. 24 He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26 The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27 The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.

28 “Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29 His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30 But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32 So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33 You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34 The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”

35 And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

Last week on a day when my lungs were really bad, I had to ring 111 for advice.  The doctor told me to take 10 puffs of Ventolin in one dose, two puffs at a time.  I very quickly discovered that ten is a difficult number to keep count of.   

Seven is a number beyond that which I would struggle to keep track of unless I was doing bars and gates! So seventy times seven is basically saying not keeping count – beyond any number that you can keep track of – just do it.  That is Jesus advice in the question of keeping tally in how often we, or more specifically I, might want to forgive someone.  Don’t count, there is no magic number assigned, just keep doing it.

Forgiveness is part of the Christian life, not being walked all over, but letting go of those things that someone has done to us that has hurt us, no longer letting it have any power in our life, or in the relationship with the person we feel has ‘sinned against us’.

Last week’s reading, the previous few verses to these, was about how to deal with disagreement in churches.  The first thing you had to do was not chunter about it behind their back but go and talk to them about it.  Probably if you haven’t got the guts to do that, you should let it go…

Jesus, as he often does, uses an exaggerated story – but to good effect. A man has had a huge debt forgiven him, but immediately goes out and threatens someone who owes him a very small amount.  It seems that he has immediately forgotten the kindness that has been done to him and is determined to have back what he is owed.  Ultimately that cost him the forgiveness and freedom that he had been gifted.

So I wonder, is one of the new paths God is opening up to us of forgiveness?  That is a radical way to live – a way we could all benefit and live freer lives from.

If we live in awareness of all that we have been given and forgiven, that must surely make us live a generous and forgiving life.  God’s grace in me, his generosity and forgiveness in my life, should lead to graciousness towards others.

God takes us to a new place, to live a new way.

In the Exodus passage God opens up the seas for his people to pass through to a new land and a new life.  As I said, when I read that passage, the immediate thought in my head was ‘What is God opening up to us?  What new land is God leading us to?’

Life feels like a constantly changing new land at the moment.  The sand seems to be constantly shifting beneath our feet, just when we think we have worked one piece out, something else changes, we are constantly reassessing.  But God is opening up a new place.

We have become part of a new Circuit, we are exploring where both physical and Zoom services are going, but God is taking us to a new place, opening the way before us.

Whatever that place will be, it must be a place of grace, of love, and of mutual forgiveness, living the life God has given us, the freedom from where we were, the release of the burdens we were carrying, that we affect our lives and our reactions.  That we may be patient with others, as God is with us, and live by forgiveness and grace – that free gift of God to each one of us.

May God bless us,
each on our journey with God
and each other.

May you know God’s presence,
this day
       and always.
          Amen

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