Then His Master Summoned Him

Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Date: Pentecost XV (Proper 19A) + 9/17/17

Now, wait a minute! “And in anger his master delivered him to the jailer, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your hearts.” Wait a minute! “This is the Gospel of the Lord”? No. This is NOT the Gospel of the Lord! This is threatening Law, bad news, not good news. So again You are coming down on us about forgiveness! “Matthew 18, Matthew 18!” they shout. First You tell us unless we become like children we will not enter the kingdom. Like children we are to act like and admit that we’re dependent on You for everything, like a child. Then we’re commanded to bring forgiveness to everyone who might be falling away. Now today it’s forgiveness again. What? Haven’t we done enough forgiveness yet that we have to hear about it over and over and over again? “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Well then how about 70? No? Then 490? No. Now You tell us a parable that says literally we are to forgive other people “gazillions” of times.[1]

I know. I know what You say is true. First, that my sin is so astronomical that there is no way to pay You back, to pay it off. I watched the new Luther movie last Tuesday night and was reminded how this drove the Reformer crazy he felt so guilty and helpless. Then I know and believe that when You say that Jesus Christ Your Son died for all sin, the sin of the world, His blood on the cross the full payment of our iniquity, His blood the wiping away of our full debt to You, His gift, Your gift given to us simply by faith in Your promise. Lord, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

So I can believe the first part of Your parable, that You are our Master who, in Your compassion, have “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10), through the full forgiveness of our sins.

Yes, then I can even believe the truth of the second part of Your parable, how we, all of us, even though we have received Your forgiveness are so ungrateful that we refuse that same gift to others even though it is ours to give, even though You command us to forgive as we have been forgiven. We know what that feels like when all we want to do is take someone by the throat and demand payback. Even though the other person pleads with us using the exact same words we use with You over and over every Sunday, “Lord, have mercy upon us; Christ, have mercy upon us; Lord, have mercy upon us.” But we refuse to echo those other words, those words that alone give us hope, “Upon this, your confession,” then You graciously look us right in the face and say, “I forgive you all your sins.” We agree with the hymn calling it “Amazing Grace.”

But now, do You really mean that You can reverse Yourself, take away Your forgiveness and condemn us to hell anyway? “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

I know You know who You’re talking about, who I’m thinking about…right now…. Isn’t it enough if I at least say the words, “I forgive him,” “I forgive her,” even though we’d still like to choke them? We won’t, of course, But…. What’s the answer?

Back to the beginning. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” To turn means to repent. To become like children means to become obedient to Your heart of compassion. We do repent of our sin including the sin of refusing to forgive the other dirty fellow. We even repent every Lord’s Day and through our baptism every day, daily dying in Christ. Okay. We can do that. But what about that second power of baptism, that “a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before [You] in righteousness and purity forever”? What about giving me the power to forgive?

“Forgive our sins as we forgive,”
You taught us, Lord, to pray;
But You alone can grant us grace
To live the words we say. (LSB 843)

That’s the hard part, “to live the words we say.” So all we can do right now is pray the words You gave us in the psalm,

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)

A willing spirit. That’s what was missing in the second servant of Your parable. That’s what’s missing in us. That’s what’s missing in me. Lord, fill me with Your forgiveness and then make me willing to “forgive those who trespass against us.”

[1] “ten thousand talents.”

His Rule is Over All

Text: Matthew 18:1-20
Date: Pentecost XIV (Proper 18A) + 9/10/17

In my first parish as a pastor they used to have voters’ meetings every month, a sign, by the way, that there was very little trust of one another. There was one gentleman, I don’t know why he always attended the meetings because, at some point there would be a heated discussion. A lot of the time the issue wasn’t even one of doctrine or of a program aimed at helping someone in need but one of much less importance and significance. I remember one heated discussion on what color the new phones ought to be! Anyway, it didn’t seem to matter what the particular issue was but this man would, (believe me) every month, get so worked up he would issue one final blast and then stomp out of the meeting, slamming the door behind him. There were other incidents in that and other congregations I served where someone had sinful, offensive thoughts or words against someone else calling for the need of repentance and forgiveness. How many times have we heard, when confronted with some difficult situation, someone calling out “Matthew 18!”? In this chapter of Matthew’s gospel, we seem to be attracted to these verses where our Lord gives an outline of the Christian way of calling forth someone away from their sin and toward the way of repentance and faith. Unfortunately, we quite often think of the words more from an attitude of how to punish or get back at someone who has offended us but maybe “in a little more Christian way.” Continue reading His Rule is Over All

The Son of Man Coming in His Kingdom

Text: Matthew 16:21-28
Date: Pentecost XIII (Proper 17A) + 9/3/17

In Matthew chapter 16 the evangelist brings us to the climax of everything that went before, namely, the big question of the identity of Jesus. Opposition to and rejection of Him have increased from the very beginning. We have followed Him increasingly so far avoiding the conflict that will surely be His end-goal. The disciples are gradually coming to faith in the truth, as they said in that wind-battered boat, that Jesus is the Son of God. Now, however, in a place almost furthest away from Jerusalem He teaches them what His ultimate purpose and work and goal is. At His own inquiry God the Father reveals to and inspires Peter to confess Jesus to be the promised Christ, that is the Savior anointed to bring the Kingdom of God and to be its King. Jesus says Peter was blessed by the Father for that confession which certainly had to increase Peter’s boldness and maybe even pride. Continue reading The Son of Man Coming in His Kingdom

The Keys of the Kingdom

Text: Matthew 16:13-20
Date: Pentecost XII (Proper 16A) + 8/27/17

Peter J. Scaer, a professor at our Ft. Wayne seminary, recently wrote, “A couple of people have come up to me today and said, basically, ‘What matters is that we all believe the same thing, and that we love one another. That’s what religion is all about.’” And then he makes the critique, “It’s like they’ve swallowed and regurgitated an aisle of Hallmark Cards.” He then goes on about how Christianity is about more than that, namely, Jesus Christ and what He did to save us from God’s judgment. Continue reading The Keys of the Kingdom

One Fellowship of Love

Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Date: Pentecost XI (Proper 15A) + 8/20/17

Today’s readings from the Bible highlight the universal intent of God’s plan of salvation. After all, when the Bible says, “God so loved the world,” it means the whole world, all nations, every single person. It is not only for those of Jewish descent or for Germans, North Americans, or Lutherans. Isaiah delivered the Word of God, saying, “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…these I will bring to my holy mountain…their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” St. Paul is at pains to explain how, though the promised Savior came through the Jews, nevertheless that was no automatic advantage for them. But “God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” Continue reading One Fellowship of Love

O Hear Us When We Cry to Thee

Text: Matthew 14:22-33
Date: Pentecost X (Proper 14A) + 8/13/17

Today we ask simply, of what are you afraid? There are fears, for instance, regarding having enough money for the month. There were occasions when the best counselling I could provide a couple troubled by finances was teaching them how to create a budget. Some fear for their physical well being whether regarding hunger or health, illness or injury, or changing conditions requiring medications or monitoring. There are fears related to the world like threatening weather or national relations like the current concern over North Korea. Having almost drown when I was little I was always afraid of water as a child until an amazing man my first year in college taught me how to swim in five weeks! However, we still need to have a healthy fear called respect for water. Of what are you afraid? Continue reading O Hear Us When We Cry to Thee

His Greatest Treasure

Text: Matthew 13:44-52
Date: Pentecost VIII (Proper 12A) + 7/30/17

As we finish this great chapter of parables of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel with the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, I wish you to have in mind the catechism meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed. Do you remember it? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” We say this because the Bible makes it absolutely clear that, on the one hand, fallen, sinful, spiritually blind, weak, and dead human beings like you and me are completely and totally unable on our own power either to believe in Jesus Christ or even to come to Him. Now a lot of people disagree with that as they think believing and faith is a result of a decision I make. How could it be otherwise, they say, and still be real and personal? The answer is that God works through His Word and is able to do the miraculous, even changing unbelievers into faithful disciples. In other words, it’s all His work, not ours. Continue reading His Greatest Treasure

Shine Like the Sun in the Kingdom

Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Date: Pentecost VII (Proper 11) + July 23, 2017

What an appropriate Gospel reading for us on this first Sunday meeting here in the Troy Historic Village. [Thanks to everyone who helped the move yesterday.] It is appropriate because Jesus is here speaking to two different audiences; first to the great crowds that had gathered about him, so great that Jesus got into a boat to make a sort of amphitheater of the shore of the sea, then secondly to his disciples only in the house. With our change in location many have thought this may be an opportunity for outreach into our new community. We encourage visitors to check us out, but more to check out Jesus whom we proclaim. Continue reading Shine Like the Sun in the Kingdom

Hear the Word of the Kingdom

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Date: Pentecost VI (Proper 10) and The Disposition of a Church Building + 7/16/17

(This is the last Sunday we meet at the facilities of Lutheran High School Northwest, 1000 Bagley, Rochester Hills.)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Is. 40:8). Today we are aware that we are the grass and flower, we are the ones along with the whole world around us who wither and fade. Time goes by faster and faster. Our lives seem increasingly insignificant and our life so small. The one thing, says Isaiah, that stands forever is the word of our God. And that word is our life. Continue reading Hear the Word of the Kingdom

The Kingly Invitation

Text: Matthew 11:25-30
Date: Pentecost V (Proper 9) + 7/9/17

The Word of God before us today describes the struggle of the life and faith of the disciple of Jesus Christ in this world. The Introit from Psalm 91 speaks of how we need God’s shelter and shadow, bringing to mind, for instance, a hard day’s work under the summer sun. Without shade (or in my case a hat) the sun can burn us. We prayed in the Collect about “the wearisome changes of this world.” We get tired, exhausted, bushed after a long day of work or the struggle of living amidst the confusions, contradictions and problems of the world. This is nothing new. How did The Preacher, Qoheleth put it: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl 1:1, 8, 14). Continue reading The Kingly Invitation