Pentecost 15 2017, Proper 19
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 17, 2017
Psalm 103:1-12; Genesis 50:15-21, Romans 14:1-12, Matthew 18:21-35
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When I graduated from Valparaiso University in 1988 I had $5,000 in student loan debt which seemed like a lot of money. I got that paid off in time to go to seminary and accumulate another $20,000 in debt. It took 12 years or so to get that paid off. I thought that was a lot of money, but not compared to others. A number of years ago there was a student in the Miami Lutheran Student Fellowship and Bible study who told me that he was graduating with $90,000 in student loan debt; and he wasn’t going into a highly paid field.
$90,000. If you could get a job making $20 an hour how long would it take to pay off $90,000? 562.5 days of working 8 hour shifts. A little over two years and that is if you did not have to pay taxes or interest or pay for anything out of your paycheck to live. 562.5 days of work.
Having a large debt is tough. It is always hanging over your head; eating up so much of your paycheck. Debt is hard.
How big is your debt to God? For every sin that you have ever committed, how much is that to work off? When you think about the many times you have disobeyed your parents. The many times you have lost your temper. The many times you said hurtful, hateful things to someone. The many times have you lied, cheated, stolen. The many times have you given in to the ways of the world rather than following God’s law. The many times have you said, “I know the Bible says it is wrong, but….”
God requires perfect obedience and you cannot deliver that. I cannot deliver that. We have inherited sin from our parents all the way back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. And so sin comes naturally to us and each sin builds a debt with God. How big is that debt? How long would you have to work in order to pay off that debt? How big is your pile of sin? You built it, one sin at a time. Every lustful thought, word or deed. Every time you gossip about others. Every boast about yourself. Every time you do what you shouldn’t do or don’t do what you should do. Every time you act selfishly.
You are natural born sinner. If you committed let’s say, conservatively, 50 sins a day that would be 350 sins a week, 18,200 sins a years, if you live to be 85 that is 1,547,000 sins. If each sin were packaged in a one cubic foot box and you stacked them on top of each other you would have a stack that reached almost 300 miles in the air to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. That is a big pile of sin. Each box labeled with your misdeeds; your sins; your dishonor. You stand there looking up at that huge pile of sin with guilt and shame and sorrow. If you tried to work off your sins, forever wouldn’t be enough time.
This is the situation of the servant in Jesus’ parable today. He owes 10,000 talents. One talent is worth 20 years labor for a worker. This servant owes 10,000 Talents. That is over 60,000,000 day’s wages. It is an unpayable debt. Like your debt to God for your sin.
The master seeks to collect the debt or at least get some of his money back by selling the man and his family and all his possessions. The servant, faced with this terrible fate, begs the master for mercy and out of pity the master has mercy on him and cancels that whole debt. What a weight lifted off the servant! The great burden of the unpayable debt has been eliminated.
How amazing would it be for someone to cancel all your debt, or for that student to have a $90,000 loan taken away? How wonderful it must be to have an unpayable debt forgiven. What incredible joy the servant must feel.
And yet the joy is short lived. That servant goes to a fellow servant who owes him 100 days wages and demands payment. The other servant begs for mercy but the first servant shows no mercy even though he had just received great mercy. The first servant has the second thrown into prison until he can pay the debt.
The master hears about this situation and condemns the unmerciful servant. “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?” In anger, the master delivers the unmerciful servant to the jailers until he should pay all his debt; which we know he can never pay.
Jesus’ last line in this parable is one of the harshest of the entire Bible. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
As a follower of Jesus you are called on to let go of the anger and forgive those who sin against you.
As a follower of Jesus you have been forgiven all of your sins. Instead of a gigantic pile of sin, your sins have been cleared away. Your unpayable debt of sin has been paid by the suffering and death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, on the cross for you. That giant pile of sin has been washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism. It is washed away by hearing Jesus’ words, “I forgive you all your sins.” Jesus feeds you with His body and blood in Holy Communion bringing forgiveness, life and salvation. The Lord pours out forgiveness on you in a stream of living water that flows into you from God and out of you as you love and forgive others who sin against you. As a forgiven follower of Jesus you are called to freely forgive others.
Forgiveness is tough. When someone hurts you your immediate reaction is to hurt them back a bit more than they hurt you. When someone sins against you, it is natural to get angry and, too often, you want to hold onto that anger and use it as a tool or a weapon. As a follower of Jesus you are called on to let go of the anger and forgive those who sin against you.
Forgiveness is tough.
What does it mean to forgive? Often times when someone apologizes for something we reply, “It’s okay.” But when someone sins against you it is not okay. Forgiving someone does not mean that what they did was okay. Forgiveness does not mean that you won’t need to make some at times to keep safe.
Forgiving someone means that you no longer hold the offense against them. Forgiving means you will not bring up the offense in future arguments. Forgiving means you are not going to seek to get even with that person. Forgiving means letting go of the anger. You may still feel the hurt for a while, but you can let go of the anger. Forgiving means letting God take vengeance. Romans 12:19 (ESV) 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Forgiveness is tough. Forgiveness can be the hardest thing you ever have to do. Jesus knows this. Forgiving you is the hardest thing Jesus ever did. Paying for your sins with His suffering and death on the cross was the hardest thing Jesus ever had to do. Jesus gives you the strength to forgive even when it is hard. If you had to forgive out of your own store of love and goodness it would soon run dry. But you do not forgive out of your own store of goodness. You forgive out of the overflowing abundance of the forgiveness poured out on you by the Lord Jesus.
Forgiveness is living water that flows and needs to flow. It flows into your life from Jesus and it flows out of your life to others and that way it is always fresh. If you get hardened in your sin and turn your back on Christ and stop receiving the forgiveness of Jesus you run out of forgiveness to give to others. If you refuse to forgive others and forgiveness does not flow out of your life that stops the forgiveness flowing in because there is no room and it grows old and stagnant.
Forgiveness is living water that must flow. It flows in; it flows out. You cannot just hold onto to God’s forgiveness and not let any out to those who sin against you.
As a follower of Jesus you are called to forgive from your heart. But forgiveness can be very hard. There is great evil in the world and when that evil is directed toward you, or worse, one of your loved ones, it can be nearly impossible to forgive. So when you find yourself saying I won’t forgive or I can’t forgive, look to Jesus on the cross for you and confess that sin of unforgiveness and receive the refreshing shower of God’s forgiveness in Jesus. Pray for the one whom you cannot forgive. Pray for the strength to forgive with the forgiveness flowing from Jesus. Do not look for the strength to forgive from within yourself, look to Jesus and how much He has forgiven you. Ponder how much God has forgiven you and let that forgiveness flow to others even when you are still hurt.
The pile of sin in your life was an incredible debt that you could not pay, but that sin is gone; it has been washed away. Jesus has paid the price for your sin and taken your sin away. When God the Father looks at you He does not see a pile of sin, but rather a perfect, holy, sinless child of God washed clean in the blood of Jesus. Live in that love and forgiveness.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001