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Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

September 17, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
September 17, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 16
Forgive Us As We Forgive

Then Peter approached and said to him, "Lord! How many times shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say seven times to you, but seventy times seven.

Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. "When he commenced the settling there was brought to him a man owing ten thousand talents and having no ability to pay the master, ordered the man to be sold along with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment be made. So the servant fell to his knees and implored him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you all that I owe’! Then the master of that servant took pity on him, and forgave him the debt.

Now that same servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; took ahold of him, started choking him and said, 'Pay what you owe.' And his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused and proceeded to put him in prison until he should pay what he owed.

Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened they were deeply distressed, and came to report to the their master all that had occurred. At which point his master summoned him and said to him, 'Wicked servant! All the debt I forgave you because you pleaded with me! Was it not incumbent upon you to have mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And so the master burning with anger handed him over to the jailers until he should pay all that he owed. Thus also will my heavenly Father do to you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

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The theme of today’s readings is, in the words of Jesus, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Today the Lord teaches us that it is incumbent upon those who have received God’s mercy in Christ, to extend it to others. That it is compulsory and obligatory to forgive others the wrongs they have perpetrated against us; because God has graciously exonerated us from our brazen transgressions against all that is holy and good and right..

Now what you are hearing today is a unique Christian teaching – that we must forgive others, because God forgives us. And why does God do this? In a word because he is full of grace, which means “unmerited favor.” Grace is the foundation of the entire Christian religion and, indeed, of all that exists.

Grace means that Christ reaped what we sowed; and in the words of Saint Paul that “God justifies the ungodly.”

Imagine!

When the judicial system refuses to prosecute criminals it fills us with indignation! But O how happy we are that as King David prays, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” (Ps. 103)

But God is not only Gracious, he is also Just. And so while the Judge of all the earth absolves us of our doom he also gave his One and Only Son to bear the sins of the world. To enter into, and take upon himself our grime, our poverty, our open sores, gaping wounds, our bleeding souls, our burning tears and to suffer man’s cruelty to man which knows no bounds, and finally to die our death.

Being spiritually penniless and indigent as we are no one can pay the insurmountable debt of human sin; no one but the Word made Flesh. And so in the Divine scheme of things it is either Jesus who pays for all, or it is every man for himself which spells catastrophe.

Yes, Jesus is our “Scapegoat,” the Sacrificial Lamb of God by whose death we live. It is a truth we recite at every Eucharist when we say “on the night in which he was betrayed,” only we must learn what those verses mean.

When we recite those immortal words our minds go to Judas, his greed and his dastardly deed. That is not wrong but it is only a small part of the story. Because the word “betrayed” (paradidomi) actually means: to be handed over for legal process; remanded to the courts, the judge and finally to the cold-blooded, sniggering executioner who snuffs out our life.

The St. John Chrysostom Liturgy, which is prayed in the Eastern Church, adds these even more thrilling words to its Eucharistic Prayer. “On the night in which he was handed over, or rather in which he willingly handed himself over for our sins …” our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, gave thanks, broke and gave and said, “this is my body given for you.” It is a reminder of Jesus’ own words, “I have authority to lay down my life, and to take it back up again.” And so he did for us.

The Prophet Isaiah puts it like this:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – everyone – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:4-6)

And so when Christ, in the person of Joseph, does not take revenge on his brothers for the evil they dealt him, but promises to care for them and consoles them with the gospel we must not only rejoice, but also practice the same grace.

And when we learn in today’s epistle not to judge our fellow communicants, our Brothers who celebrate Eucharist with us, but to tolerate their foibles, and forgive them their wrongs – then we recall our Savior’s love for us, and we too are willing forgive.

And when we hear today’s gospel – and nothing could be more clear – that the master forgave his servant, and spared him a lifetime of misery, simply because he asked; then we too must pardon the comparatively tiny debts that people owe us.

Before we leave this theme “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” let us remember that each of us has trespassed against others, and they against us. It is a two way street for which we need daily cleansing; from God and from one another. Or in the words of Saint Paul, “Let not the sun go down on your anger.”

And so make your peace! Forgive your Brother from your heart; even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Eph. 4:32)

Even if your brother’s debt is higher than the mountains, and deeper than the sea, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Phil. 4:13). And with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:38). Amen