Sermon: “Forgive us our sins…”

Matthew 18:232-35

So we get started early in life, this keeping track, counting how many times we have been wronged.  Remember complaining:  “She hit me three times!”  or “He has left his towel on the floor in the bathroom every day this week!”  Tally marks.  Just like the artwork on the screen.  Peter was a scorekeeper too.  He knows forgiveness is expected, but he wants to know how much forgiveness is required.  How many times do I need to forgive someone for the same wrong?   He is making forgiveness into a law you can measure yourself against– you either measure up or you don’t, just like your swim time meets the time required to enter a particular race or it doesn’t.  Being close doesn’t cut it.  Well, Jesus could have laughed in Peter’s face at his misunderstanding of what forgiveness is all about.  But, being Jesus, he never makes fun of us or puts us down in front of others.  He just tells a story.  A story to teach about forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not a law you can keep or something that you can tally up.  It is about strengthening and healing damaged relationships with real people in your everyday life. You may as well say that you must forgive someone 77 times (or maybe 70 x 7 times)– no one is going to keep track to that extent, so there is clearly no need to tally it up.

I have a story to tell you too.   Continue reading

Sermon: “Thy Kingdom Come…”

God seems to have a knack for starting small and impacting on a gigantic scale.  With one elderly couple, Sarah and Abraham, God builds a community of faith that spreads out through the lands which are now Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and more. Starting with one man, Jesus, God expands the community of faith to the rest of the world.  So the image of a tiny mustard seed transformed into a tree/shrub that could get as big as 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide, home to birds and more, is a good one.  The image of a few tiny grains of yeast impacting an entire bowl of dough, spreading, growing into something very delicious is a good one.  Size doesn’t matter.  Fame or riches doesn’t matter.  God has a knack for starting small.

God starts even with you.  Jesus’ words, “the kingdom of God is within you”, have at least two meanings, and very likely Jesus meant to get across both ideas.  Because he is in the midst of the people, the kingdom is there in their presence—some translations say, “among you”.  In your midst, right here with you, in front of you.  In other words, if you want to point to the kingdom of God, point at me!  And the words also mean inside of you as an individual, in your heart, in your very being.  The kingdom of God is within.  You.  If you have to find a physical place where you can point to the kingdom of God, look in the mirror.  You are the location of God’s kingdom.  You are the worker in God’s kingdom.  You are the sharer of God’s kingdom.  Continue reading