Flow-through forgiveness
Matthew 18:21-35

Our readings between now and Advent Sunday lead us down a path of stewardship.  Now many people shudder at the very sound of the word, but I hope to take the opportunity in the coming weeks to remove some of the stigma that is attached to the word and develop a deeper understanding of what stewardship is and especially from a Christian perspective.  An overarching theme of stewardship could be “Blessed…to be a blessing”.  Our first reading today transports us to Abram being told that he will be blessed by God so that through him all the families of the earth shall be blessed. We live in the light of that blessing. 

We have been blessed in order to be a blessing to others.  Here’s something I’d like you to think about.  There are some in our congregation who have or still live with a heart condition.  They would be fully aware of the way the heart works.  It’s important that the heart takes in and then pumps out blood, it must be continuous and functioning properly to maintain oxygenation of the blood, cleansing, and to prevent high or low blood pressure or clotting.  The heart never stores up blood for later use, it operates constantly, there is no accumulator built in, what comes in must go out or we run into trouble.

This is what it is like in our lives, we are blessed by God through his gifts to us and because God has freely given to us we’re able to pass this on and through and give to others.  We’ve been blessed to be a blessing to others. 

In our Gospel reading today we will find the context of stewardship or blessing that I want to relate to you today.  We are being called by God to forgive others and not just once or twice, but as many times as it takes.  When quizzed by the disciples as to how many times they should forgive someone’s sins Jesus says “not seven times, but seventy seven times”, reading between the lines that means lots and lots or as many as it takes!

Jesus followed his directive with an illustration using the parable of the unforgiving servant.  Here is this guy who has had a massive debt cleared for him by the king and then he immediately begrudges another individual who owes him FAR less the same grace and favour that was shown to him.  The response is that he is handed over to be tortured until he could repay his original debt!

How many times should we forgive? Seventy seven times, or maybe even seventy times seven.  Let’s put this into a context that is near and dear to many of our hearts, marriage.  This coming week is marriage week in Australia, and given that yesterday was my 23rd wedding anniversary it is pretty close to my heart, and also that over the next twelve months I have six weddings booked up! 

As I work with couples in preparation for marriage we always hit on the subject of things going wrong, of arguments and differences of opinions.  These things will inevitably come up from time to time, even in perfect marriages like mine!  Today’s text speaks to this situation.  God forgives us for the debts that we carry, the things we’ve done wrong and the basic existence of original sin within us.  This is truly a massive debt, just like the slave in the parable.  The sins of omission or commission that we commit against our spouses or that they commit against us are usually more like the hundred denarii size by comparison.  These are things to be overlooked or things to be forgiven.  It’s that flow-through effect that I mentioned before, there is no point storing it up, we need to share it around.  We are blessed and we’re called to be a blessing to others.

This is something to celebrate and to thank God for, the blessing of forgiveness for us.  It’s not always easy to do, our pride can get in the way, we might like to avoid conflict, we may have had our trust foundation broken down a little through some deep hurts.  But there is still the directive from Jesus to forgive multiple times, just as we are forgiven multiple times.

Today is also the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the world trade centre in the US.  There are memorial services and vigils and all sorts of events planned around the world.  I am all for those and I’m not passing judgment because that is not my right or place, but I have noticed that there hasn’t been much talk of forgiveness around in these past few weeks of continuous media coverage.

There are so many other situations in life that are opportunities to offer forgiveness to fellow human beings beyond just the couple of biggies I’ve mentioned today.  Forgiving others is one facet of being a good steward of what God has given us, his forgiveness for our sin.  When we share that forgiveness for others there are relationships built or restored, people are allowed or assisted to live a life of grace and forgiveness too.

How will you take your blessings this week and allow them to flow through to someone else.  That’s a question that’s between you and God, may this week be a true blessing to you and those you spend your time with.