The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 27, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Lord, we pray that your mercy and grace may always go before and follow after us that, loving you with undivided hearts, we may be ready for every good and useful work;  we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Genesis 50:15-21

Joseph’s brothers find genuine forgiveness from him and a promise of kindness for the future.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”  So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died:  ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph:  I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’  Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.”  When their message came to him, Joseph wept.  His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.  “We are your slaves,” they said.  But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid.  I will provide for you and your children.”  And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.  (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 103

Praise the LORD, O my soul;

all my inmost being, praise His holy Name.

He forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases;

He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with love and compassion.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is His love for those who fear Him;

As far as the east is from the west,

so far has He removed our transgressions from

us.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear

Him;

For He knows how we are formed,

He remembers that we are dust.

Our days are like grass, like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone.

But the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him

from everlasting to everlasting.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

SECOND LESSON – Romans 14:5-9eba

In those aspects of life where God gives no clear rules, love for God and those around us will guide our actions.

 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.  He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.  For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.  If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.   (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Alleluia.  (Romans 15:4)

 CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 18:21-35 (Sermon Text)

In a parable, Jesus pictures the great forgiveness which we have received from the Lord.  As we are forgiven, may we also forgive others.

 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.  Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.  The servant fell on his knees before him.  ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.  But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.  He grabbed him and began to choke him.  ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused.  Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.  Then the master called the servant in.  ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”  (NIV1984)

C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

SERMON  Christian Forgiveness— Enjoyed and Employed!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I forgive you— but I am never going to let you forget how much you hurt me!

I forgive you— but here is what you are going to have to do to prove to me that you are sorry for what you have done!

I forgive you— but now you owe me!

I forgive you— but…. (You finish the sentence)

 

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?  Do any of these scenarios sound logical?  When we pause and take a deep breath we will have to answer “Yes!” to both of those questions.  There may be times in our lives when we have heard people say something like that to us.  There may be times in our lives when we have said something like that to someone else.  Each of those scenarios sound familiar, each of those scenarios sounds logical because this is how the world works!  This is what our old sinful nature understands!  From a worldly perspective forgiveness comes with conditions.  From the perspective of our old sinful nature forgiveness needs to be earned.

 

That is precisely why our dear Lord and Savior teaches us God’s understanding of, God’s definition of and God’s application of true forgiveness!  With the warm light of the cross shining upon us this morning (Pointing to the cross) let’s study our text for today under the theme:  Christian Forgiveness — Enjoyed and Employed!

 

Last week Jesus taught us exactly what He expects us to do if someone sins against us.  That triggered a question in the mind of the Apostle Peter, a question that has probably crossed our own minds a time or two.  Matthew tells us, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?’”  Peter was concerned that if he faithfully followed Jesus’ instructions that someone might take advantage of Peter’s willingness to forgive.  So Peter wondered, is there a point at which he could refuse to forgive someone?  Some of the rabbis taught that if a person sins against you they should be forgiven three times— but no more.  Peter generously proposed that the number be more than doubled— “Up to seven times”!  Jesus’ response reveals that as God’s children, as Christians, we need to remember that when it comes to forgiving someone who has sinned against us the key question is not about quantity but rather quality.  That’s why Jesus answered Peter’s question by saying, “I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  Some commentators translate this verse, “I tell you, not seven times but seventy times seven times.”  Either way, Jesus’ point is clear:  No matter how many times someone sins against us, as Christians we need to be willing to forgive them!  (See also Luke 17:3, 4)  And then, to make sure that no one misunderstands what our Savior expects of us, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

 

While this parable is so familiar, so clear and so easy to understand, I think it would be beneficial to highlight the key details.  First, the parable begins by focusing our attention on “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants”— something that he had absolutely every right to do.  One of his servants owed the king “ten thousand talents”— a huge sum of money!  A talent was worth 6,000 denarii and a denarius was the standard pay for one day’s labor.  (See Matthew 20:1-16)  Think that through , my friends.  One talent equaled 6,000 days’ wages and this servant owed the king ten thousand talents!

 

Since the servant was completely unable to pay this debt to the king, the king exercised his right to have the servant and his entire family sold into slavery as partial repayment of the debt— again, something that the king had absolutely every right to do.  This helps us to understand why we’re told, “The servant fell on his knees before him, ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’”  Then the king did something that no one could have ever anticipated!  He “took pity on him, canceled the debt, and let him go”!

 

There are two words here that are extremely important for us to note.  The first word is the word translated as “he took pity on him.”  In Luke 7:13 (the account of Jesus encountering the widow at Nain as she was preparing to bury her only son) this same word is translated as “his heart went out to her.”  The second word we want to note is the word translated as “cancel.”  This word can also be translated as, “to send away, to let go, to forgive.”  It is the same word that Jesus used in both Matthew 6:12, Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” and in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Keep those two words in mind.  We’ll come back to them when we apply this parable to our own lives.

 

One might anticipate— even from a worldly perspective— that this servant would be filled with so much joy and so much thankfulness because of what the king had done for him that he would become a “changed man.”  But no.  He went and “found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.  He grabbed him and began to choke him.  ‘Pay back what you owe me,’ he demanded.’”  Using the exact same wording as the first servant used with the king, the second servant begged for “patience” — promising that he would pay back everything he owed.  The first servant refused.  Instead of showing patience, “He went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.”  His actions filled the other servants with so much heartache and so much sadness, that they reported him to the king.  The king was so furious with the “wicked servant” that instead of having him and his family sold as slaves, he “turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed”— which means never.

 

While the parable itself is extremely powerful, the most powerful words of all are found in the last verse of this text.  Jesus says to us, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”  Keep that statement in the back of your mind as we apply this parable to ourselves.

 

Each and every sin that we commit is a “debt” that we owe to the Almighty King of all Creation.  One day our King will summon us before Him to “settle accounts” with us— something that He has absolutely every right to do!  Our debt of sin is so astronomical that there is no way we could ever possibly repay it.  For that reason, our King has every right to “sell us into slavery”— slavery to sin, slavery to death, slavery to Satan.  But instead of selling us into slavery, our King does something that no one could have ever expected.  His “heart goes out to us.”  He is filled with so much compassion and so much pity and so much love that He made a “Plan” to “pay off” our debt of sin for us!  His “Plan” was to send His own Son to suffer and die in our place.  (Pointing to the cross)  The cross on Calvary’s hill now guarantees to us that our entire debt to God has been “canceled.”  All of our sins have been “forgiven.”  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

 

There is only one reaction that we are to have to God’s “Plan,” my friends— and it is not the reaction of the first servant here in Jesus’ parable!  We are to be filled with so much joy and so much thankfulness and so much love because of everything that God has done for us that every single day we consciously enjoy basking in true Christian forgiveness— the forgiveness that flows from the compassion, the mercy, the pity, the “heart” of our God; the forgiveness which guarantees to us that in Christ all of our sins are completely forgiven!

 

The glorious fact that we enjoy Christian forgiveness is what empowers us to employ Christian forgiveness.  Just to make sure that we are all on the same page here, I am using the verb “employ” in its root meaning of “to make use of, to put into action.”  Why do we need to consciously strive to employ the Christian forgiveness that we enjoy?  Because like Peter, we can easily find ourselves in a situation where we fear that someone might take advantage of our willingness to forgive.  To guard against that happening to us, our old sinful nature wants us to be slow to forgive.  By nature we want to remain in control.  By nature we like the feeling of having someone in our debt and under our power.  By nature we want to add conditions to our forgiveness:  “I forgive you, but….”  “I will forgive you— if….”  That is not Christian forgiveness!  That is not how our God has forgiven us and therefore that is not how we are to forgive others who sin against us.

 

Here is where we need to go back to that powerful statement at the end of our text.  Jesus says to you and to me, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart.”  What is our motivation for forgiving someone?  Is it fear?  If someone sins against us do we say to ourselves, “Well, I guess I have to forgive them— even though I would rather not forgive them”?  That scenario puts us in danger of our King handing us over to Satan to be “tortured” for all of eternity.  No, my friends, our motivation for employing the forgiveness that we enjoy is right— there.  (Pointing to the cross)  Overwhelmed by the extravagant surprise of our King forgiving us “from the heart” we now forgive others “from the heart”— no strings, no conditions, just “putting into action” the undeserved forgiveness that we have received from our dear Lord and Savior, the undeserved forgiveness that we enjoy each and every day.

 

We saw a very good example of a child of God employing the forgiveness that they enjoy in our Old Testament Lesson for today.  (Genesis 50:15-21)  Joseph’s brothers realized that they had sinned against him in ways that you and I cannot imagine.  Joseph’s brothers also realized that Joseph was now in a position where he had the power to punish them in ways that they did not want to imagine.  But, when Joseph’s brothers asked him to forgive them— how did Joseph respond?  Did he refuse to forgive them?  Did he put any conditions whatsoever on his forgiveness?  Not at all!  Basking in the forgiveness of the Lord, the God of Israel, Joseph freely forgave his brothers— “from the heart”!  What a wonderful example for us to follow!

 

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?  I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  Since we are all sinners living in a sinful world the chances of someone sinning against us and the chances of us sinning against someone else are tragically high.  My prayer this morning is that we will always stay focused on the cross so that we will enjoy the forgiveness that Christ gives to us so very much that we will indeed strive with His help to employ Christian forgiveness in our relationships with others.

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen   

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 

OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Dear God, we humbly confess that we are worthy of your condemnation because of our many sins.  Still our only hope is to take refuge in you against whom we have sinned.  Oh, the peace that calms our consciences when we are told again and again in your holy Word and assured over and over through your holy Supper that you are merciful and gracious, forgiving sinners in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, who bore our sins, fulfilled your law for us, and paid in full our debt of punishment!  We confidently put our trust in Him who is your Son and our Savior.

 

Heavenly Father, give us hearts that are willing to forgive all who wrong us, even as you forgive all our wrongs.  Let us never withhold forgiveness from others or practice Christian love with mere lip service.  We live, we know not how long; we must die, we know not when.  Therefore fill us continually with a genuine, active spirit of love and compassion, so that we may leave this world in full confidence that the love and the forgiveness we desire from you has been demonstrated freely by us as living proof of our faith.

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.