14th Sunday after Trinity
Being human beings, means that we constantly live with sin. Sin is never far away. It’s always hovering over our shoulders or waiting round the next corner.
‘What are we going to do wrong next? Or who is going to wrong us?’
Sometimes, as we know, the sins people commit are big. And sometimes they’re small or smaller. The big sins are the sins people often equate with ‘sin’, but we do this at the expense of overlooking the smaller sins around us, which can snare us very easily. Yes, we might not steal or commit murder or other acts of violence. We might not have countless love affairs with people. But we may well engage in damaging gossip, we might not love our neighbour as ourselves and we may well attach more importance to the things we desire in this world, than we do to the well being of others in the world.
And let’s remember, those who commit particularly serious sins, are quite often not so different from us. Ordinary people are capable of doing pretty bad things. To look at the extreme sort of case, study shows that in times of ethnic cleansing and holocaust, when people have been herded into camps, facing execution for who they are; the people working in such camps at various levels, have generally been found to be not sadists, or criminally insane. They’ve normally been ordinary people. Ordinary people who were motivated by the power of ideology and the mood of the nation.
So yes, as human beings we constantly live with sin, in terms of what we commit, and what is around us, and often a blurred line can exist between the two.
Sometimes we try to hide our sins. Deny them, shut them away. And maybe we do a good job of that. To the other extreme, others are unlucky enough to have their ‘dirty washing hung out in public’, as they say. Exposed to all who are gazing on. And usually in society our sins are measured by what is known as opposed to what is unknown.
With God however, there is no hiding away. God sees all our sins. The known and the unknown. And that’s why it’s better to come clean with God. To humble ourselves before him and ask for forgiveness, for our God is a forgiving God.
Today’s gospel from Matthew, is a demonstration of just how forgiving God is. As we hear, Jesus says. ‘the kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.’ There is a servant of quite some responsibility, quite possibly someone who is responsible for the payment of the taxes in his country. He owes ten thousand talents. The servant who is brought before the king, cannot pay and so the king orders that he along with his wife, children and possessions, is sold, so that payment can be made. The slave falls on his knees and pleads, ‘have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ Astonishingly, despite the heavy debt, the king releases him and forgives him his debt. This would have been a massive amount in Jesus’ time, ten thousand talents, almost unthinkable for the majority of people. But Jesus is trying to emphasise the extent of God’s forgiveness, even if we’ve sinned greatly. God hears our pleas and through Jesus Christ, we are given another chance.
This is not an easy let off though. The mercy and power of God’s forgiveness, deserves some response from us. If God is merciful and forgiving to us, does that not set an example as to how we should be to others?
The story that Jesus tells goes on. When the forgiven servant goes out, he comes across a fellow servant, who owes him one hundred denarii, a very small sum indeed, compared to what the forgiven servant had owed the king. But instead of showing compassion, he seizes his fellow servant by the throat and demands that he pay. ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ He pleads. But no mercy comes from the forgiven servant. Instead, he throws him in prison until he can pay his debt. His refusal to forgive does not go unnoticed though. Fellow servants have seen what has happened and are greatly distressed and they go and tell the king what has taken place. The ‘forgiven’ servant is then brought back before the king, who says.
‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ The king then hands him over to be tortured until he pays up his entire debt.
The man in question had been forgiven so much for the massive amount he owed, and yet he could not forgive the much lesser debt of his fellow man.
When we stand before God, or indeed if we walk away from God, God sees all the sins we have made against him. That puts us in a kind of debt we cannot wipe out on our own. Only God can do that. And he wants to. Quite often when someone sins against us, it amounts to one wrongdoing and yet we find it hard to forgive. What a contrast with the many wrongdoings we commit against our Lord, and yet he is willing to forgive. Can we not show a little of God’s great mercy and forgive others for the lesser debt?
We might sometimes find that hard, but just remember that forgiveness is living the Jesus way. When at the beginning of our gospel Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive one of the brethren who sins against him. Seven times? Jesus says to Peter. ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy seven times.’
Which actually means, there is no limit to forgiveness, as God shows us.
So let’s try our best to live as God’s people, and learn from this example. So that when we feel the liberation of God’s mercy, we might just want to show mercy to others and tell people about the freeing love of God.
Download 9th Sunday after Trinity Sermon HERE
Download 8th Sunday after Trinity Sermon HERE
Download 2nd Sunday after Trinity Sermon HERE
Download 1st Sunday after Trinity Sermon HERE
Sixth Sunday of Easter Sermon download HERE
Fifth Sunday of Easter Sermon download HERE
Fourth Sunday of Easter Sermon download HERE
Third Sunday of Easter Sermon download HERE
Second Sunday of Easter Sermon download HERE
Easter Sunday Sermon download HERE
MAUNDY THURSDAY ADDRESS - download is HERE
PALM SUNDAY SERMON - download is HERE