Hear the Spirit: Proper 19A

Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 19A in the RCL

September 13, 2020 | Pentecost +15

A generous forgiveness from the heart.

Collect for Proper 19

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.~BCP 233

Genesis 50:15-21 NRSV

In our Hebrew scripture lesson Joseph’s brothers fear his wrath upon learning of the death of their father Jacob.

15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?’ 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, ‘We are here as your slaves.’ 19 But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Romans 14:1-12 NRSV

In this reading Paul calls upon the Roman disciples to live with tolerance for one another’s scruples, recognizing that everything can be done to honor the Lord with whom each Christian has a relationship.

1 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. 11 For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Matthew 18:21-35 NRSV

In the gospel lesson Jesus bids his disciples to offer a forgiveness which is, for all practical purposes, unlimited, and he tells a parable about a man who, although forgiven much, still himself had no mercy.

Note on Matthew 18:24
The servant owes roughly 150,000 years’ worth of wages—an absurdly insurmountable debt intended to shock Jesus’ listeners and pale in comparison to the much smaller amount demanded by the servant in v. 28. The Greek text’s reference to 10,000 talents represents the largest number used in ancient calculations and the highest monetary unit at that time (one talent was equivalent to 15 years’ worth of wages).

Source: John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mt 18:24.

Talent: a unit of silver equal to 6,000 Greek drachmae or Roman denarii. One talent was roughly equal to what a typical worker could make over a sixteen-year period. … In [Matthew 18:23–35], Jesus uses creative exaggeration to stress the incalculable difference between divine and human mercy. A servant owes his king (God) 10,000 talents (millions of dollars), a debt that is forgiven; but then the first servant does not forgive a fellow servant who owes him 100 denarii.

Denarius: a silver Roman coin that would have been the usual day’s wage for a typical laborer (plural, denarii). This is the most mentioned unit of currency in the NT. Jesus used a denarius as an object lesson for his teaching that one should give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor (Matt. 22:19); his disciples complained that 200 denarii would not buy enough bread for a hungry multitude (Mark 6:37).

Source: John W. Betlyon and Mark Allan Powell, “Money,” ed. Mark Allan Powell, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 651.

21 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?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 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. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 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.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 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. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Psalm 103:8-13 BCP 733

The Psalm Response is a hymn of blessing in thanksgiving for healing forgiveness and for all the Lord’s acts of compassion and justice.

8 The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us, * nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, *
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, *
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, *
so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children, *
so does the Lord care for those who fear him.

Supplemental Material

“Forgive our sins as we forgive” Hymn 674 in Hymnal 1982

On Sunday, September 13th we’ll use the hymn “Forgive our sins as we forgive” after we’ve heard the reading from Romans and before we hear the Gospel passage. What follows is an essay by C. Michael Hawn, distinguished professor of church music at Perkins School of Theology. He is also director of the seminary’s sacred music program. Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church is a dependable online resource for study. I recommend the site. ~Fr. Dan

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Accepting and giving forgiveness may be one of the most important aspects of living. I believe that the Assurance of Pardon is one of the most significant parts of Christian worship: “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!” These words may offer healing and hope for many in worship, even beyond anything else said or sung. Forgiveness is not only a personal way of living, but also an attribute of societies. How many times do we observe centuries of hate and hurt that, because of the inability to forgive, continue to fester and cause suffering, death, and destruction?

Portions of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) have been cited in many hymns. For example, the militant missionary hymn, “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations” (United Methodist Hymnal, 569) echoes “Thy kingdom come on earth” in the refrain: “And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth.” Presbyterian hymnologist Louis Benson concludes his Communion hymn “For the Bread which You Have Broken” (United Methodist Hymnal, 614, 615) with the first petition, “let your kingdom come, O Lord.” Forgiveness has received less attention, however.

With “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” by Rosamond Herklots (1905-1987), we receive a full treatment of Matthew 6:12: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (KJV) Luke 11:4 states: “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” “Trespasses” first appeared in William Tyndale’s translation in 1526 and was retained for use in the first Book of Common Prayer in English in 1549. The English Language Liturgical Consultation (1988), a group of ecumenical liturgists in the English-speaking world, proposed “and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” A companion Scripture is Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (ESV).

The Companion to Hymns and Psalms (1988), the companion to the 1983 Methodist hymnal used in England, provides the origins of this hymn:

This hymn was written in June 1966 and printed soon afterward in the parish magazine of St. Mary’s Church, Bromley, Kent. The idea of the hymn had occurred to Miss Herklots when she was digging out weeds in her nephew’s garden; she reasoned that their deep roots, obstructing the growth of the flowers near them, resembled the bitterness and resentment that can become entrenched and hinder the Christian’s growth in grace.

Herklots’ language is potent in describing the blessings we miss when our “heart . . . broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart” (stanza two) In stanza three, she contrasts the “trivial debts [that] are owed to us” with “our great debt to [Christ]!”

The final stanza is a prayer of petition “cleanse . . . our souls” and “bid resentment cease.” Forgiveness leads to establishing “bonds of love” so that “our lives will spread [Christ’s] peace.”

Rosamund Eleanor Herklots was born in Masuri, India, in 1905 to missionary parents. She was educated at Leeds Girls’ High School and the University of Leeds in England. Working as a teacher and secretary, she began writing hymns in the early 1940s. She submitted hymns for the “Hymns for Britain” competition, two of which were selected to be sung on television. Her total corpus of hymns numbered more than seventy. Herklots died in Greenwich, London, in 1987.

British hymnologist J. R. Watson noted changes in the original text: “At some point after 1978, when an unauthorized inclusive language version was published in the USA, the author modified the third and fourth verses: ‘How small the debts men owe to us’ became ‘What trivial debts are owed to us,’ while ‘Then, reconciled to God and man’ was altered to ‘Then, bound to all in bonds of love.’” This is the version that appears in The United Methodist Hymnal.

I was in South Africa in 1998 during the presidency of Nelson Mandela. Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu presented President Mandela with the bound volumes containing the results of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I was sitting among a group of black and white Methodist ministers watching this historic occasion on television as Tutu referenced one of the many important revelations that took place during the process that the Commission hoped would lead to healing and hope for South Africa. At one point, Tutu recalled a black woman who asked him, “Who murdered my husband?” Tutu responded, “We do not know.” She was insistent, however, and continued, “I must know who killed my husband.” Again, the patient Tutu responded, “I’m sorry, but we may never know who killed your husband.” Still her question persisted. Finally, Tutu asked, “My dear lady, why must you know who killed your husband?” She responded simply and quietly, “So I can forgive him.”

There are many variations of this hymn on YouTube here are two:

Amazing Worship TV

drolas94

“Forgive our sins as we forgive” by Rosamund Herklots

1. ‘Forgive our sins as we forgive,
‘ You taught us, Lord, to pray,
But you alone can grant us grace
To live the words we say.

2. How can your pardon reach and bless
The unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let
Old bitterness depart?

3. In blazing light your Cross reveals
The truth we dimly knew:
What trivial debts are owed to us,
How great our debt to you!

4. Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls
And bid resentment cease.
Then, bound to all in bonds of love,
Our lives will spread your peace.

Text: Rosamund Herklots, b.1905, © Oxford University Press

Source Material

View or Download the Proper 19A Study Handout

NRSV: Bible Gateway website

Book of Common Prayer (BCP): justus.anglican.org

Introductions to the Readings are from the book  Introducing the Lessons of the Church Year, 3rd Ed.  (Kindle Edition) by Frederick Borsch and George Woodward.

“Forgive our sins as we forgive” on History of Hymns curated by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

Ask yourself …

… do you pray for that brother or sister
who’s in difficulty for confessing their faith?

That is the question Pope Francis asked of the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

Grieving after a suicide bomb attack in Peshawar, Pakistan

The Pope’s comments came in response to an attack on an Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan that left 78 dead. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, also spoke of the courage, the willingness to forgive, and the ‘cry for justice’ arising from the ashes of the destruction. Listen to his comments on Radio 4’s World at One.

Well, do you pray for brothers and sisters you may never meet, but who are family to you?

7/20/12—Maturing in wisdom and age

Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people. Luke 2:52 CEB

The wisdom of a Lutheran Pastor …

Note: The House for All Sinners and Saints is in Denver, CO.

As far as we know, all the House for all Sinners and Saints folks are safe, but many of us had friends and loved ones who were at that theater last night who are quite shaken. Kyrie. Let us pray for all those involved including the shooter. It’s one of the less pleasant elements of the Christian faith, but loving the enemy was not a suggestion.
–(The Rev.) Nadia Bolz-Weber (on Facebook)

After the killing in Aurora, CO our bishop wrote …

The horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado rightly brings us to our knees in prayer. Our emotions are myriad: shock, sorrow, anger, and disbelief. While we pray for those who have died, their families, and indeed the perpetrator and his family, we should pause to question the culture of violence that is pervasive in our country.

Guns, violent films and video games did not commit murder yesterday night; a very disturbed individual did. However, it is not a remarkable supposition to think that a contributing factor to this senseless massacre is the lethal combination of available guns and the relentless presentation of violent acts. The latter makes violence seem incidental and inconsequential.

As followers of the prince of peace, we must redouble our efforts to stop senseless violence before it happens. We can go a long way as a society by having sensible gun control and by saying no to entertainment through violence. This will not bring back the victims of this dark moment, but perhaps it will prevent others.
—The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes Bishop

But, I’m not covetous…

The discussion in the Forum yesterday was quite lively. Understandings and opinions varied widely. Karl Jacobson, in his commentary on this parable for WorkingPreacher.org reminded us “A parable is essentially an elaborate allegory. We are invited to see ourselves in the story, and then apply it to ourselves.” I invite you to re-read the parable. Then I invite you to consider Jacobson’s commentary as you see yourself in the story and apply it to yourself.

We covet what God chooses to give to others. A parable is essentially an elaborate allegory. We are invited to see ourselves in the story, and then apply it to ourselves. The wages at stake (even at the moment of Jesus’ first telling of the parable) are not actual daily wages for vineyard-laborers, but forgiveness, life, and salvation for believers. We need not literally be laborers in a vineyard, as we are all of us co-workers in the kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:9).

And in relationship, one believer to another, covetousness is a problem. The point here isn’t necessarily that other folks receive blessings from God that we don’t — that they get more or better or lovelier gifts from God. The problem is that they get the same as us; and they don’t deserve it, do they? They are less worthy, or later arrivals, or just plain worse sinners. They don’t deserve the same as we get, do they? Not nothing maybe, but certainly not the same. The parable’s day laborers parallel perfectly with today’s forgiven-sinners in both our pews and pulpits.

We have a tendency, as the parable aptly illustrates, to covet and to be resentful of what others receive from God. The owner of the vineyard asks those who have worked longest and (presumably) hardest for him, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” The point is that God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness are God’s to give away as God sees fit.

Read the entire post at WorkingPreacher.org. “Gospel” for September 18, 2011

What do you hear in this parable? What do you feel as you listen to the story and apply it yourself and journey into the Kingdom of God where the first are last and the last are first? Leave a comment, continue the conversation.


Two Fathers and Forgiveness: If they can do it . . .

Here is another story from our own day about forgiveness of “biblical proportions.”

As I re-read this article (from my “clippings” file) I thought again about the small acts of forgiveness that I have been asked to make. I thought again of the little annoyances that have the potential of becoming destructive prisons if simple words of forgiveness are never spoken. I also thought about the stories shared with me over the years of “heroic acts” of forgiveness that proved liberating: forgiving betrayals in the marriage relationship, forgiving coworkers whose dishonesty cost a job, forgiving family members for lies and half-truths leading to estrangement, and more. In both the little and the big moments of forgiveness there is seldom forgetfulness—one remembers the hurt, the wrong—but there is always a sense of freedom from the pain when the words of forgiveness can be spoken.

Let the big stories, such as these, inspire the small stories of forgiveness in your life. Also, let the big stories, such as these, inspire the the heroic acts of forgiveness to which you may be called. ~dan

Before the men sat in the kitchen, a humble place for such an event, they had walked in the garden. Two fathers, both raised in Catholic schools, both divorced from their children’s mothers, both who helped raise a son and a daughter, talked for more than an hour.

That the meeting took place seems miraculous. One man owns a business and had traveled from middle America. The other, in whose house they met, works in a New York state factory. They want the same thing: to save the son of the New York man from execution.

The father from Oklahoma, Emmett E. “Bud” Welch, had buried his daughter, Julie-Marie, on a 1995 spring day.

New York state resident William McVeigh is the father of the man sentenced to die for killing Julie-Marie and 167 others on April 19, 1995, in the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.

via Oklahoma City Bombing: Two Fathers and Forgiveness – April 2000 Issue of St. Anthony Messenger Magazine Online.

Is it possible to forgive like this really? Today? Ever?

Ah, Joseph! His own brothers hated him, (Genesis 37:4), and kidnapped him, (Genesis 37:23). They had even planned to murder him, (Genesis 37: 18ff). They “settled” for selling him into slavery, (Genesis 37:28), a possible if not likely death sentence.  (1)

  • Instead of revenge, Joseph forgave and embraced his brothers. (Genesis 45:1-15)

As Sherry and I prepared for Sunday’s Forum (8/14) she asked a really good questions:

A spectacular example of forgiveness and generosity of spirit:  how can Joseph do that?  Is forgiveness on this scale unreasonable to expect of mere mortals?

The Forum took up the question. Some of our number felt that Joseph may have needed to ask forgiveness of his brothers, suggesting that he may have baited them into their treachery. The discussion was lively and not always what you would expect.

My answer to Sherry’s question about forgiveness: “Yes, mere mortals are capable of such forgiveness.” You and I are, with God’s grace, capable of both ordinary and extraordinary forgiveness. Some examples:

  • We’ll start out close to home: child-parent issues. Bryan McGuire offers what he learned about his dad when he himself became a father; Bryan learned and offered forgiveness: Forgiving my dad (an audio piece from This I Believe)
  • Another audio clip from This I Beiieve: The Long Road to Forgiveness by Kim Phuc who was badly burned by Napalm in 1972 in Viet Nam. She shares her story of being able to forgive. [Transcript of this piece with the photo of Kim Phuc in 1972 after her village was attacked]
  • From 9/11 – Two 9/11 mothers who found forgiveness and friendship – this video speaks to us of the forgiveness found by two women — whose family members were on opposites sides of the 9/11 tragedy — one of whose sons contributed to the death of the other’s son. Click on the image below to see this powerful video.
  • Beyond the 11th – a website detailing the effort of 2 American widows—both pregnant when their husbands were killed in the 9/11 attacks—to help widows in Afghanistan. A documentary, Beyond Belief, is available on Netflix.

The effort to forgive requires effort (and grace, I believe). We all have stories to tell. We can help each other by telling the stories. What stories inspire you? Leave a comment, start a conversation.

____________
(1) WorkingPreacher.org for August 14, 2011. Commentary on Genesis (Alt. 1st Reading) by Wil Gafney

Ever want to “smite” someone?

Joseph made himself known to his brothers…

Hated by siblings? Betrayed? Treated unfairly? Abandoned? Sold as a slave? Hurt? If you are Joseph this is part of your story as you encounter your brothers after their destructive actions (See Genesis 37 read in church on 8/7/11 and Genesis 45 read in church Sunday 8/14/11 ).

How great, if he was human at all (and I believe he was), must have been his desire to take revenge, to “smite” his brothers then and there, to wreak his own kind of destruction on them and their families? He had the power to satisfy that urge.

Instead of smiting (what we expected, if we were honest) we heard that Joseph revealed who he was (apparently he was unrecognizable at first), invited his brothers to draw closer to him, he forgave them their hatred and treachery, and he embraced each one and wept with them in the moment of forgiveness. Here is a story of forgiveness of “biblical proportions.” It leaves me with many questions.

Foremost question: Is this kind of forgiveness (of biblical proportion) possible today? My one word answer, “Yes.” Which then leads to a host of questions: How is this possible? Are there any contemporary (20th and 21st century) models of such forgiveness out there? Am I capable of such forgiveness? Are we capable of such forgiveness? What role do we play in such forgiveness? What is God’s role in such forgiveness? What is at stake? I’ll admit I have more questions than answers. How about you?

I’ll have more to say about this passage—it is rich with mystery—but for now, I offer this poem as a way into the mystery of forgiveness:

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the windblown bud
which blooms in placid beauty at Verdun.

Forgiveness is the tiny slategray sparrow
which has built its nest of twigs and string among the shards of glass
upon the wall of shame.

Forgiveness is the child
who laughs in merry ecstasy beneath the toothed fence
that closes in Da Nang.

Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet
which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.

Forgiveness is the broken dream
which hides itself within the corner of the mind oft called forgetfulness
so that it will not bring pain to the dreamer.

Forgiveness is the reed
which stands up straight and green
when nature’s mighty rampage halts, full spent.

Forgiveness is a God who will not leave us after all we’ve done.

____________
A poem by George Roemisch and quoted by Dear Abby in her column Feb. 10, 1998.