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Sunday 13th September 2020 Trinity 15

posted 11 Sep 2020, 08:05 by Church Office

     You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 13th September 2020

 Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

 

This week we hear Jesus’ call to forgive, not once not twice but an infinite number of times.  For Peter this seems foolish and, perhaps, impossible, and probably for us too.

Yet Jesus’ refusal to quantify the number of times we must forgive or expect forgiveness is because for Jesus it is never transactional, no one is ever owed forgiveness, it is relational.  Something made clear in the passage from Genesis: Joseph’s brothers are sure that they are not owed forgiveness, that in a measuring of good and evil they can expect to receive evil in return for the evil which they have done.  Yet for Joseph it is not about transactions, give and take, it is about relationship: he is now reunited with his family and so his goal is only how to maintain and build that relationship.  God’s greatest desire is not to see us punished for our wickedness or rewarded for our goodness but only ever to be in a closer, stronger relationship with us.

In PRAM SERVICE (8am) this week we are exploring second, third and 70 x 7th chances.  How many times do we want another chance? How many chances are we prepared to give to others? Songs & Story; Prayer and Play for our littlest members.

SUNDAY SCHOOL starts back this week at 9:30am For the first week our theme is Letting go the bad. We won’t get mad, just keep easy.  Bring to the kitchen table your paper, your pencils and crayons, your scissors and maybe we will be cutting out stuff that we will leave behind finding the glory in the space left by the cutout!!  Join us here: https://zoom.us/j/578055716, you’ll need the password which can be found in our newsletter. To subscribe please go to our homepage to subscribe.

Readings

Genesis 50:15-21 

15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

 

Matthew 18:21-35 

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

 

Sermon

How many times must I forgive? As much as seven times?

Surely no more than seven times?

Is it a cruel joke that we have the most radical call to forgiveness in the week that marked the end of the trial of the Manchester bomber and the anniversary of 9/11?

I hope with all my heart that none of us are ever faced with forgiving those who have killed someone we love.  Yet we are all faced with the difficult job of forgiving, forgiving those who lie to us, mistreat us, expect too much of us, belittle us, misunderstand us and betray us.

We all know how Peter felt – how many times must I forgive? Please don’t let it be as many as SEVEN.

Jesus replies 70 X 7 by which he means, not a higher number – but – no number, stop counting.

But then he tells a parable in which the king seems only to be forgiving once: what kind of a role model is that?

Is our forgiveness dependent on how much we too can forgive? Because, if we’re honest, that is probably not that much – certainly not 70 X 7.  

Well, if this parable were telling us that God only offers us forgiveness if we forgive others then the king would have asked the servant to forgive his fellow servant FIRST before offering forgiveness.  But the king doesn’t, there is no prior condition, he doesn’t forgive because the servant is worthy, or good, or has earned it.  The reason the king forgives is because he is moved to pity.

The debt the servant owes is truly mammoth, the equivalent of his wages for the next 150,000 YEARS.  He asks for patience and promises to pay it back in full.  But however patient the king is there is not a hope in hell that the servant will ever be able to pay him back. 

In the face of such a crushing obstacle the king has pity – his heart is moved, he feels how the man himself must feel, trapped, burdened, hopeless.

In agreeing to write off the entire debt the king is behaving in a very unkingly fashion – in his culture kingship, all power, was based on the number of people who owed you an obligation and the size of the obligations they owed:

In writing off the obligation the king was giving up his power, he was radically undermining his own rule.  He was building a completely different kind of kingdom, a different world in which to live: one based not on obligations, or hierarchy or power – one based on forgiveness and freedom.

Not a world of 7 or 70 X 7 but a world with no counting, no score keeping. 

Sadly the servant cannot accept the king’s offer to live in such a world.  Offered forgiveness and freedom and generosity and equality he cannot offer it to someone else.

Why? The debt he is owed is much smaller – about 100 days wages - there was a realistic prospect he would get paid.  So why does he choose to punish his fellow servant instead?

I think the clue is in the repetition: when the king asks the slave for repayment “the slave fell on his knees before him, pleading, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you” later “his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.”

 

The unforgiving slave has the uncomfortable feeling of having been here before, he remembers for a moment what it feels like to be powerless, to be entirely at the mercy of another person, to have no control over his life. 

The feeling is so unbearable that to end it he does something to prove that he is not powerless but powerful, someone who not only has control over their own life but over someone else’s as well.

The king of course has done the opposite – he has pity, he allowed himself to feel what it must feel like to be oppressed and powerless and so freely gives up his own power to empower another.

God is not a king who makes us earn his favour, whose forgiveness is conditional, whose generosity is fickle, God is a king who literally gives up his power to empower us. 

We are then free to choose what we do with that power and to live with the consequences.

How many times must I forgive my brother, the one who hurt, stole, cheated, lied, betrayed, killed?

The extent to which we are able to forgive as many as even 7 times let alone 70 x 7 will depend upon how much pity we have, how far we can get inside another’s skin, allow ourselves to feel what they might feel, to understand the wounds they have suffered,

 and how much of our power - our sense of justice and righteousness, the moral high ground on which we stand - we are prepared to give away to heal them of those wounds.

Forgiveness is not about counting it is about connecting – it is about allowing ourselves to stand beside another and feel ourselves to be the same.  Children of the same God whose generosity we can never hope to repay.  Children of a God who is always re-opening the door to a whole new world and inviting us to walk through.

 

Prayers

God of freedom,
you brought your people out of slavery with a mighty hand.
Deliver us from our captivity to pride
and indifference to the needs and gifts of others,
that we may be ready to love as you have loved us,
and to give even as we have received. Amen

 

Prayers of Intercession

The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. As he has commanded us to love and forgive one another, we come before him now to offer our prayers for the Church and the world.

We pray for the Church in this country as we continue to witness to you. Let us be known for our quickness to forgive others, our eagerness to be generous with those in need, our compassion for those who are suffering, and our mercy to those who ask it of us.

We pray for all those who are to be ordained this month, as deacons and priests. That the Lord will send his Holy Spirit upon each one of them to inspire and fuel their ministry in his Church.

We pray for the church here in Clapham, for all the clergy and those who administer our work, especially as we seek to fill two important roles in our parish. Let us pray that the right people will come forward for those. We pray that all will go smoothly as we seek to install the new AV equipment in the church in the coming weeks and months.

That all we do will help us continue to reach out to those who are most in need of the Gospel.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

As we struggle with an ever-changing situation with Covid-19, and further restrictions on our lives as we strive to cope with everything that is going on, let us pray that the Lord will guide all those who make decisions on our behalf. That nobody will be forgotten or abandoned in our communities, and that we can keep the virus under control to avoid further illness and deaths.

We pray for the NHS, for doctors, nurses and support staff, and for all key workers, as they gear up for the Autumn and Winter seasons, as well as dealing with the backlog of patients who have waited for treatment during the pandemic. We pray with gratitude for all the gifts you have given them, for their skill and compassion and willingness to put themselves at the service of others.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

 

We pray for the political situation around the world. For those who continue to negotiate Brexit on both sides. That the Lord will be present in all the discussions and that we might emerge from the negotiations with a plan that will lead our country forward.

We pray for other countries around the world where the political situation remains fragile. We remember Syria, as the people there continue to cope with the effects of a long and devastating civil war. We pray for Belarus, and particularly for the opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova. And for other places on our hearts or in the news. For Malawi, for Libya, for Paraguay.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

 

As we all begin to return to our schools and workplaces this month, let us pray for our local community, that we remain conscious of our neighbours, preserve the community spirit that has grown up during these long months of the pandemic, and support one another as we go through another period of change.

Let us pray for those who will suffer the economic effects of the virus: job, home and food insecurity. We pray the Lord will through his church come alongside those in greatest need and help them find all that they need for material and spiritual health.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

 

For those who are sick and suffering for any reason, at home or in hospital. Let us pray they will find enduring strength and healing in the name of Jesus Christ. We remember especially in our prayers:

Jane Bell, Heidi Bell, Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko,  Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte and Joshua Clarke

And we pray for a moment for our own personal petitions.

Silence

Let us also pray for those who have died, and for all who are bereaved. Let us remember their loss and show compassion to their needs, and travel beside them on their journey through grief. At this time of year we particularly remember those who died in the September 11th attacks in the US, nineteen years’ ago. May light perpetual shine upon them, and may they rest in peace.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer

 

Almighty God,

We know that you forgive all our guilt and heal every one of our ills.

We pray and ask you to hear our prayers,

and to teach us your way of compassion, mercy and love.

 

Merciful Father,

Accept these prayers,

For the sake of your Son,

Our saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

Ċ
Church Office,
11 Sep 2020, 08:05
Ċ
Church Office,
11 Sep 2020, 08:05
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