Monday, September 11, 2017

Forgiving – 17 September 2017 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost/ Lectionary 24

The preacher today might circle around issues of forgiveness in our individual lives and in our national discourse to help the assembly come to terms with the fact that judgment is God’s alone. This is a radical counter to our civic notions about assigning blame and meting punishment.

Matthew 18:21-35

Peter raises a question about the quota for forgiveness, wondering when enough is enough. Jesus’ response. . .  [stipulates] the need for far more than Peter can imagine. The parable that follows is full of hyperbole, and certainly was received with humor as Jesus told the tale. . . The amount of money—ten thousand talents—is more money than a small country could accumulate, let alone a single slave.

The blame for the situation rests with both the slave, who has become encumbered by such an astronomical debt, and by the master, who lent it in the first place. The slave compounds the outrageousness of the situation by promising to repay a debt that ten lifetimes could not repay.

The gracious forgiveness of the debt is all the more unbelievable. The humor wanes as the slave who has been let off . . . now demands payment in full for a small amount from another slave. The outrageous has become outrage, and certainly the crowd would cheer as Jesus tells of the harsh punishment of that worthless slave.

We realize we have been caught by this parable, as the slave had been caught by the master. Judgment is not for us, forgiveness is. –– Timothy V. Olson

Genesis 50:15-21

While Joseph has reconciled with his brothers and has been reunited with his father, Jacob, in chapter 45, Jacob’s death presents a test. Will Joseph, now beyond the influence of his father’s place as patriarch, turn to seek revenge upon those who stole a lifetime of living with his father from him? Joseph’s responses to his brothers’ fear are notable. . . He recognizes that wrath, judgment and vengeance belong to God alone. Note in his next statement that the announcement of forgiveness is not an avoidance of accountability of judgment. . .

Through God’s gracious acts, the evil intended has been overcome for good, redeemed by divine act. In so doing, the original evil is condemned as well. Joseph now acts in accordance with the redemption, not the evil. Joseph desires to sustain them all and care for them. The human cycle of evil is broken. –– Timothy V. Olson

Romans 14:1-12

Paul continues his explication of how the lordship of Christ affects the daily life of the faithful in this passage. The subject at hand is the diversity of religious practices in the community. While the issue is the consumption of food, it seems to have wider implications about our life together in community as well. Paul uses images of the “weak” and the “strong” to identify the diversity.

Note, however, the way Paul defines each in contrast to the cultural norms of his day. The weak are those who observe the food laws closely, the strong are those who do not. This grows out of Paul’s overarching argument that faith is the center of righteousness, not works of the law, and that with faith comes freedom.

For Paul, the gift of grace that justifies does not release one from the reality of God’s judgment, it changes the character of the encounter. –– Timothy V. Olson

Timothy V. Olson is the Lead Pastor for Mission and Vision at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Ankeny, Iowa.

Homily Service 38, no. 10 (2005): 13-24.

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