Hope Lutheran Church
at Bethlehem Retreat Centre
Sermon for Pentecost 14
~ September 14, 2014
you witnessed this scene?
are with a troublesome preschooler. The child isn't listening. The mother is
frustrated. The father is aggravated. Then comes the moment: "I`m going to
count to three… ONE… TWO… THREE…" and again, "Okay, now I'm counting to three…
ONE… The child stops for a moment and then gets in trouble again. Maybe the
one, two, three is more to calm the parent down than to straighten out the
has a question. How much do I have to put up with from others? When do I
strike? Jesus uses a story to tell him that we are the ones needing
Peter was frustrated with his little brother Andrew….again. Maybe he was tired
of slippery Judas and his whining about money. Or was it James and John, so
loud and annoying with opinions about everything. He remained nice and
patient, but enough was enough. At least once a day he was ready to blow,
surely 7 times was sufficient forbearance. You gotta put others in their
place. You gotta read the riot act. You gotta show them the door. Right
response was deflating. Seven times? How about 10 times longer… and after
that, how about another 10 times? Think about yourself Peter; are you the guy
in the story? These stories drove him crazy…
was on a journey – like we all are. When Andrew first introduced him to Jesus,
Peter was almost done with God, prophets, messiahs, priests and temples.
Nothing worked for him. He trudged to the beach, was not particularly
successful as a fisherman, and hauled his stuff home again. He used to have
more passion for life, but that fire needs fuel and he was running out. Jesus
did no song and dance, in spite of Andrew's enthusiasm. He just said, "Hi,
you want to come along? Come on then." There were no fish anyway. He
left the boat.
had encounters with everyone. He would not abide religious game playing,
revealed motives and called for the truth. When alarm was expressed over the company
he kept at meals or in the crowds, he would simply respond, "Don't worry, it
will be okay." He said to the poor, the sick, the broken and the rejected,
"Have faith, it will be okay." When people raged in despair or roared
in needy frustration, his response was that broken hearts can draw peace. They
weren't forgotten, he assured each one. He touched, he smiled, and he calmed
the person. Even as he spoke of his own suffering and death, it was always
with a whisper, "It'll be okay, trust me." His disciples always wrestled
with what they learned. People found each other and that helped as long as
they got along. That could be tough.
was getting wound up again lately. Maybe he needed to look at himself. Jesus
was usually right about that. "Let me tell you a story," Jesus said.
It was like holding up a mirror.
one was ridiculous in its extremes – but that is why he told it. A debt that
would take 150 lifetimes to pay! Extreme. An impossible offer out of pity. Extreme.
Debt forgiveness that no one would give. Extreme. Relief that was
immeasurable. And then the slave attacks another who could have worked out a
payment plan. Extreme. And others blow the whistle because people who care
look out for each other. And this slave's attitude was responsible for his own
lock up and torture. Clearly he had the biggest problem. It too was extreme. "Wait
a minute," Peter thought, "that's me. I drive myself crazy with my own
attitudes. I need to calm down."
is another story – a mirror I look into sometimes.
was almost ready for parole consideration. 18 years was a long time. He lived
with his guilt every day. For the first 8 years he lived like an animal in the
prison jungle. But a church volunteer got his attention saying that, because
of God's forgiveness, life could still be okay. That drew his attention. No
song and dance. Just a simple statement. He started to follow. Christ was his
focus. Somewhere along the way he started believing that there could still be
life for him. People would hate him, reject him, but there was a road where it
could be okay. Jesus' words "Come on…" led the way.
few months before his hearing, there were good reports all around. Successful
passes. People standing up for him. His aging parents were supportive.
came the day he discovered that someone had gone into his open cell and
shredded all his clothes. He stomped to the chapel, slammed the door, went
into a leatherwork room and pounded on the stone table with all his might. When
I asked him what was wrong, he spoke to me with strange eyes, "I have narrowed
it down to three possible people. When I figure out who did it, well, you
wouldn't want to be that guy." I said, "Sam, you have to calm down." "Right."
was his reply.
brooded for days. I asked him, "Why are you letting this guy control you? Why
are you giving him your life? Why should this change you? What price will you
pay?" He grunted.
next day, he walked in quietly. He brought me a coffee and said, "I've been
thinking about this. I`m not going to let him control me. It's my life not
his. He's got the problem. I`m letting this go. It's not easy, and I don't
like him, but that's forgiveness. I`ll be okay."
would not be tortured and imprisoned by his own attitudes. It was okay. It
still is okay. He has a life and still follows the one who said, "Come on."
can be okay. But it very much starts with us. When someone wrongs us, what
will we do? What will we say? How will we react to the sin, the pain, the
situation? How wound up will we let ourselves get? What will we sacrifice?
When will we see that life can still be okay – without winning, without
striking back? When will the promise register that God is present for us, that
we are held and loved and cared for in a caring community if we have everything
or if we have nothing. When will we let ourselves calm? When will we have
tortured soul in the story insisted on getting his pound of flesh. My friend started
becoming a person I didn't know. Will we sell ourselves for revenge, or hurt
feelings? It's an extreme price to pay.
don't forgive to set others free. We forgive to set ourselves free.
that starts with God…