Matthew 18: 21-35 (NRSV)
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.
Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Letting go and forgiving from the heart seems one of the hardest human acts. The emotional pain often takes longer to heal than the physical pain. Its ‘unseen’ nature makes it difficult to identify, even by the sufferer, let alone for those who are not experiencing it. Its lingering leaves an unsettled presence that surfaces again at other moments when injustice occurs to you or to another whom you love. It will continue to be an unpleasant surprise until it is acknowledged, named and dealt with. Travelling through this process in prayer, with another trusted person or professional is a gift that will enable letting go and healing.
Forgiveness does not mean accepting unacceptable actions. Perpetrators often act as the slave in the story, with a sense of entitlement and inflated sense of their rights over another. Action reflects intention of the heart. The slave did not reflect the genuine unconditional love for our neighbour we are called to offer. A perpetrator cannot force forgiveness from you, as that in itself becomes another injury of enforced dominance. Nor is it our place to expect it from a person we have wounded.
Forgiveness allows us to accept that respect we each deserve,
by identifying, naming, forgiving, letting go, so as heal the injury and move on.
It is an act of love, at the very heart of a faith filled life.
Prayer of Confession
Show us your way.
We are hurting from words and intentions of others.
They are like heaping coals on a slumbering fire in our hearts.
We do not always live in your presence,
nor feel that we are worthy of your love.
When demeaned or humiliated,
the wounding is compounded by our own low sense of self.
It is hard to let go…
In this space we offer to you these times…
Show us your way.
Grow in us a resilience through faith
that all are welcomed in God’s family;
that we are welcomed in God’s family.
Prune away our sense of unworthiness.
Train in us the vine of love that reaches out to others,
Those that are hurting
and those who are hurtful.
you encourage us to create peace-filled relationships;
you nourish our growing hearts with your presence;
you strengthen our living so we let go of what holds us back.
We are enriched to live in your way.
Thanks be to God. Amen
Prayer of Adoration and Thanksgiving
Forgiving and accepting Jesus,
who taught, lived and walked with so many different people,
you gave us a way of being together,
in all our diversity through the whole people of God.
You offered a consistency of love
and a way of expressing it.
We thank you for this insight of how to live with grace.
We thank you that, for all our different ways of worship,
of ministering and offering mission,
we each offer the gifts that we have to all your people,
and practice the presence of God in our lives.
Through faith and with love for others, we also grow. Amen
Commissioning and Benediction
Go out with a heart that is warmed by the love of God!
Be filled by with the fire of the Pentecost Spirit
So that you are able to connect with our family of God
as diverse as the Pentecost gathering.
Let us not be afraid to walk the road with Jesus,
and to learn to love all whom cross our path.
May forgiveness grow in our hearts
and judgment fall away from our being.
Go, with this gracious sense
that we are all welcomed and welcoming as the whole people of God.
May peace and hope fill your days, this week, and beyond. Amen
This reflection & prayers may be shared as long as the original writer is credited.