Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service 

September 14, 2017

Dear Friends,

This week's Thursdays Thought for Sunday's Service is based upon Matthew 18:21-35:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’  But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.  Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

This passage stimulates my mathematical side.

  • Forgiving someone 7 times x 1000% = forgiving someone 70 times.

Therefore, when it comes to the subject of forgiveness discussed in the earlier part of today’s passage, one might easily conclude that Jesus seeks to raise our expectation about how we are to forgive others by 1000%.

If we consider forgiving someone once a day, doing so 70 times in a year could figure this way …

  • 70 ÷ 365 × 100 = 19.18% of the days within any given year we are called to forgive.

Wow. That's exercising forgiveness toward someone (at least once for a couple of minutes, anyway) 1.34 days out of every week. That's a timeframe that encompasses all of Sunday and a good portion of Monday.  And yet, Jesus doesn't stop there.

Within the parable there are two amounts of money owed by two different individuals: 10,000 bags of gold and 100 silver coins.  Let’s temporarily equate the relative difference in value between gold and silver for this example, and reduce 10,000 bags of coins to 10,000 single coins.  Now let’s consider a simple calculation using our new figures from what each man owed, 100 valuable coins on one hand vs 10,000 valuable coins on the other.  When it comes to the subject of forgiveness, through closer examination of the parable located a bit further on in today’s reading, Jesus seems to be raising our expectation not just by 1000%, but by 10,000%.

  • 100 valuable coins × 10,000% = 10,000 valuable coins.

Again, wow!  And that doesn’t even consider that it’s forgiving a debt of 10,000 bags of coins…

and gold coins to boot.

By golly, and shoot.

That’s a lot of forgiveness and debt relief.

Perhaps it speaks to the basis for belief.

          It at least translates to much more           than a few valued coins…

like how a relationship fastens together and joins

               with something more prime                than two nickels and a dime.

By this simplistic rhyme, forgiveness all the time

not only exonerates one from paying another back a couple of days each week,

    Jesus also calls to differently understand      what it means to bless -- forge and seek,

expand, extend and embrace the entire part

         of what is owed,

                  with a merciful, Christlike heart.


               Rev. Richard Wagner