September 11, 2011
TEXT: Matt. 15:21-18/Gen. 50:15-21/Rom. 14:1-12
MOUNTAINS OF FORGIVENESS FROM GOD’S HEART
FLOW THROUGH YOUR HEART TO OTHERS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center loved by God and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:


A mountain of debt – on that there is agreement!  The Chinese government now chides the U.S. for our “addiction to debt”.  The word Trillion has quietly replaced the word Billion in conveying the magnitude of the growing mountain.  How serious it really is right now and for our children’s future - and what to do about it – on that there is little agreement! 


A mountain of debt – on that there was agreement between the King and his servant!  Ten thousand talents owed by one man.  In today’s currency - over a billion dollars!  This was personal debt – not national or business debt.  In that economy it was over 17,000 years of work.  It was un-payable!  Yet, on what to do about it there was no agreement between servant and master.

September 11, 2011
TEXT: Matt. 15:21-18/Genesis 50:15-21/Romans 14:1-12
MOUNTAINS OF FORGIVENESS FROM GOD’S HEART
FLOW THROUGH YOUR HEART TO OTHERS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center loved by God and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:


A mountain of debt – on that there is agreement!  The Chinese government now chides the U.S. for our “addiction to debt”.  The word Trillion has quietly replaced the word Billion in conveying the magnitude of the growing mountain.  How serious it really is right now and for our children’s future - and what to do about it – on that there is little agreement! 


Smaller mountains of personal debt surely surround most of us at times.  College loans in my day were generally in the thousands.  If you had worked and saved before college and worked during college – a state-school bachelor’s degree generally meant several thousand dollars debt.  Today college loans are generally in the tens of thousands even if you save before college and work during college.  School debts become small mountains for many. 


A mountain of debt – on that there was agreement between the King and his servant!  Ten thousand talents owed by one man.  In today’s currency - over a billion dollars!  This was personal debt – not national or business debt.  In that economy it was over 17,000 years of work.  It was un-payable!  Yet, on what to do about it there was no agreement between servant and master.


Since he could not pay, his master ordered him sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” There was no chapter 11 – bankruptcy option in that day.  There was slavery and imprisonment for un-payable debt.  In light of that, the servant’s plan, of course, was a delusion!  He begs for patience.  He seeks to postpone the hour of reckoning in order to try to improve his lot.  He does not ask the King for mercy.  Rather he begs for more time to save himself by his own effort.  It is a deluded plan for no amount of patience would help. 


Out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  Some know how good it feels when years of car payments are satisfied.  University students may look forward to the relief felt when educational debt or seminary debt is fully repaid.  Imagine the awesome relief, the inexpressible release this servant had just received!  A new life had just opened up before him - as a gift!  His standing was now one of freedom and joyful promise!  Think of the possibilities!  Think of the possibilities for you if all of your debt – mortgage/business/auto/school/credit card - debt of any kind were totally forgiven!  Oh happy day – this man’s life was full of brand new promise!  Surely it will flow from his
heart to the hearts of others!


When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 


Oh dreadful day!  What manner of wickedness is this?  How can there be such hardheartedness from one released from his own prison house of debt?  With pure pardon ringing in his ears this servant spews out unforgiving poison from his lips!  All reason is set aside!  His actions are in effect spiritual suicide.  

When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you’?  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”


From your heart - forgiveness is to flow to all others!  From your heart!  This is possible only as a gift from God’s heart.  Recall Peter’s question that set this kingdom parable in motion.  “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Peter believes he is being generous and patient.  In the world it’s strike one, strike two, strike three – you’re out!  Peter is willing to double those chances plus one more.  Then he will lower the boom and shut them out.


Jesus sweeps Peter’s worldly math away with a divine multiplier – seventy times seven.  He does this not in order to see if Peter can count to 490.  He is not calling Peter to be exceedingly more patient in keeping track of things before payback time.  Rather Jesus intends to show Peter that we sinners need mercy, not patience!


Dear Christian – this is the mother-lode of treasure for us sinners!  The doomed servant with the mountain of debt asked for patience – Have patience with me and I will pay you everything!  Such payback would not have been possible for him in 10,000 lifetimes!  He is seeking more time to postpone the inevitable.  He is in denial!  His master refuses to play the denial and delay game.  He knows there is no way the debtor before him can ever pay.  Thank goodness he doesn’t say – OK – I’ll let it slide for awhile and have you settle-up later.  He simply sweeps the mountain of debt aside and makes his own deal.  The master isn’t dealing in patience but in mercy! 


Out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  He forgave the man – totally!  He absorbed the cost – fully!  The former worker – buried under a mountain of debt is once again free – an upstanding citizen in the kingdom.  This is what Jesus is teaching Peter and us.  Jesus’ kingdom is not a kingdom of patience but rather a kingdom of mercy and forgiveness.  The master does not say to the servant I’ll give you more time and extra chances to make it right!  Nor does Jesus give us sinners a certain number of absolutions before He cuts us off.  His is a kingdom of mercy and grace.  He doesn’t say – Your first 490 sins are on me but after that they count against you.  The only exception is willful unrepentant sin that is known and refused to be turned from.  Loving and pastoral care for another then requires that the sin be lovingly retained as long as they do not repent.


Fellow-redeemed, your chief problem today is not the many sins you have committed this past week.  They are a huge problem to be sure!  You can’t even discern them all (Psalm 19:12) and yet you are willing to point the finger at someone else.  But they flow from a far bigger problem – the sin that infects you – original or nature sin!  You have a cancerous disease - your rebellion against God by nature.  The fear of God you lack, the love of God you are missing, the perfect trust in God you are short of amounts to a mountain of debt leading to eternal death.  It is a balance due that you can never ever pay off. 


God help us to get this right!  The Holy Spirit grant to us focused attention on the magnitude of our real problem.  For you see, if the big problem were your sins of omission and commission you might be tempted to just say – “Lord, be patient with me.  Give me some more time and I’ll clean up my act enough for you to love me.”  “Lord, if you are just tolerant with me I’ll do better next week and even better the week after that – I’ll work it off!”  Make no mistake - this type of thinking haunts and hurts the church today.  It is well attested to by the thousands of “how-to” books on the shelves of Christian bookstores.”  Buy this – study this - and you too can overcome your sins knowing how to live your life better and how to pray better and how to be happier – and even how to forgive more sincerely!


But if we get sin wrong, we will also get forgiveness wrong.  This is true of both the forgiveness we receive and the forgiveness we are to freely give!  You see the Son of God didn’t shed His blood on the cross so that God could be more patient with you while you try harder to get it right!  Jesus did not make the once for all sacrifice so that you could get your own house in order.  No! No! No!  The Son of God shed His holy blood to forgive you totally!  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!   His blood cleanses you from all sin – past – present – future!


The forgiveness God lavished upon you in Holy Baptism is not a loan in order to buy you time to improve your life enough to repay your debt.  No! No! No!  Jesus Christ finished the world’s redemption on Calvary – yours included!  His cry “It is finished” might be stamped “paid in full!”  In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).  Your mountain of sin is not counted against you because Christ took that mountain into the punishment of hell and death and rose again.  At the font He joined you to His death and resurrection – He clothed you with Himself.  To view your washing of rebirth as only a down payment is a great offense to God. 


Such a distorted view of God’s forgiveness will also ravage the forgiveness you give to others.  If you view the gifts the risen Christ gives you in Holy Absolution as a loan extension to get your act together, you’ll treat others the same way.  When you say “I forgive you” it won’t mean “I no longer hold your sins against you – I have put them out of my heart - I will love you and treat you as if these things never happened.”  Rather, it will mean something like “Victim that I am and master that I am – I’ll try to get over this if you get busy and shape up.”  Here, let me show you your fault.  Beloved, that’s not the master’s forgiveness!  That’s the unforgiving servant’s choke hold on the neck of his fellow servant.  Such thinking toward just one person in life robs us of weeping over the mountain of our own shortcomings with loathing.


When his brothers begged for forgiveness, Joseph did not refuse them for a second.  He said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. Even though his brothers had sold him into death threatening slavery, Joseph would have been playing God if he had refused to forgive his brothers from the heart.  They intended to do him evil.  How grievously we think we are sinned against even by those who love us and intend good for us.  That’s why Jesus’ warning is so severe.  In withholding forgiveness we play God.  “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  “Brother” here means one’s husband and wife and father and mother and son and daughter and sister and friend and classmate and pastor and fellow-Christian and neighbor.  We are not to play god.  We are to forgive from the heart.  That’s God’s law!


This mighty temptation not to forgive comes from the deeper heart problem of undervaluing God’s forgiveness for you.  Do you believe that God is truly, totally merciful to you or only patient with you?  Oh, He is patient not wanting anyone to perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  But exceedingly more than that, He is undeservedly merciful to us sinners.  You are not on probation – given more time today to get it right!  You are fully pardoned today – as right as the risen Christ is right - clothed in Him and fed by Him!  Pure pardon from the Father’s heart is what He wants ringing in your ears and lodged in your heart as you leave worship today – overflowing in forgiveness to others.


He is here now kindly speaking comfort to you as Joseph did to his brothers.  He does not say to you, Drink of it, all of you; this cup is given so that I can have more patience with you.  He does say, Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  In response we do not sing to the risen Christ “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have patience with us.”  Rather we sing “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.”  And He does!  Amen. 



THE PRAYERS

Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.


In thanksgiving that God has granted us salvation through Christ’s redeeming work.  In petition that God would grant us always to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that He raised Him from the dead, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


In thanksgiving that God works even evil actions for the good of His people.  In petition that He would use the terrorist attacks of a decade ago to keep us mindful of our frailty and the eternal refuge only He provides, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


In petition for those whose lives were torn by the terrorist attack on 9/11 that those who continue to suffer or grieve may be turned to find comfort in the suffering and death and resurrection of the Son of God, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


In petition for those caught in the laws of Islam, that they might be led to see the one who has fulfilled God’s law and its punishment for them, even the crucified and risen Christ whose love and forgiveness is also for them, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


For our synod and our congregation, that we may remain faithful to the Word of God and reach out to a dying world with the gifts of the risen Christ, for the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit on outreach efforts to those in this and other lands, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


For the schools of our land, for those who teach and learn, for youth to develop their talents not for their own sakes but for God’s glory and the welfare of their neighbor, for university students from this and other lands that they may be supported in all trials and pointed to the true wisdom that is Christ and Him crucified, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


For the living but unborn, for the aged and the handicapped, that God would give us holy awe for His gift of life and the strength to speak and act for the weak and defenseless, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


For those with special needs and blessings and for all who stand in need of our prayers – in thanksgiving for the birth of a son to Christopher and Kelly and in petition that God would bring him to the washing of rebirth – in petition for the unborn child of Chrissie that God would protect the life He has given.  That He would relieve Chrissie as well as restore her health according to His will.  For Irv and Marlowe and Helen and God’s blessing on the care they receive, for Sandy in her medical tests that helpful findings and healing efforts may result, for all whom we name in our hearts… let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


In thanksgiving for those who have died in the faith.  In petition that we might be faithful unto death and receive with them the crown of life, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.


Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray trusting in your mercy; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a