September 19, 2023

MESSAGE – Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost – A – 17 September 2023

MESSAGE – Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost – A – 17 September 2023

How have we been Church in the last week? Where have we proclaimed the love, hope, forgiveness and mercy of Jesus?
Who are we wearing? To know Christ and make him known.
What does living together look like? We are encouraged from this week’s Gospel in Knowing and living out the power of forgiveness.
“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” C. S. Lewis.
What God has done for us through the transformation of the Holy Spirit, we should be doing for others as a testimony to God’s grace.
So, our behaviour, what we are wearing is described in this parable today.
Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others.
Realizing how completely Christ has forgiven us should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others.
When we don’t forgive others, we are setting ourselves outside and above Christ’s law of love. Matthew 18:35.
Simply put: You experienced grace, now you go and show grace. You have been forgiven, now you go and live this forgiveness in all of your relationships. It means putting on Christ and living out forgiveness and mercy.

This passage not only speaks to our personal lives but also highlights our responsibility as a church to impact the culture and society that surrounds us.

I. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35)

Let us begin by revisiting the parable of the unmerciful servant. In this story, Jesus tells us about a servant who owed his master an enormous debt, one that he could never repay. But when he pleaded for mercy, his master forgave him entirely. However, this forgiven servant refused to extend the same grace to a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt, choosing instead to have him thrown into prison.

II. Lessons for the Church Today:

1. Embracing the Power of Forgiveness:

  • We are like the servant with the insurmountable debt, unable to repay God for the sins we have committed. Yet, God, in His boundless mercy, forgives us when we repent.
  • Our church must continually emphasise the transformative power of forgiveness, recognising that it is a journey, not a destination.

2. The Challenge of Reconciliation:

  • Forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. The forgiven servant’s failure to reconcile with his fellow servant serves as a stark reminder that reconciliation can be difficult.
  • Our church should acknowledge that forgiveness is often a challenging journey, and it may not always result in complete restoration of relationships.

3. Extending God’s Grace:

  • Just as we have received forgiveness, we are called to forgive others. However, forgiveness does not always mean trust is immediately restored.
  • As a church, we should be a place where forgiveness is practiced, understanding that the process may involve setting boundaries while still extending grace.
III. Impacting Our Surrounding Culture and Society:

1. Be a Beacon of Love and Forgiveness:

  • Our church’s commitment to forgiveness should not be confined within our walls. We must extend God’s love and forgiveness to our neighbours, even those who people may see as unlovable.
  • Our love and forgiveness should be so evident that they draw others to Christ’s transformative grace.

2. Advocating for Justice:

  • Forgiveness does not mean turning a blind eye to injustice. We must actively work for justice in our society, speaking out against oppression and inequality.
  • By standing up for the marginalised, we demonstrate the transformative power of God’s love and forgiveness in addressing societal issues.

3. Being Peacemakers:

  • In a world filled with conflicts, we are called to be peacemakers. This means actively seeking to resolve disputes and promote harmony.
  • As a church, we can engage in mediation, reconciliation workshops, and community-building initiatives to make a difference.
IV. Living Together in Forgiveness (Romans 14:1-14):

Now, let’s turn our attention to Romans chapter 14, where the apostle Paul provides practical guidance on living together in a spirit of forgiveness and unity.

1. Accept One Another:

  • Romans 14 urges us to accept those whose faith convictions may differ from our own. In a diverse church, this means respecting one another’s perspectives, even when they don’t align with our own.

2. Non-Judgmental Attitude:

  • Paul advises against passing judgment on fellow believers. Instead, we should focus on encouraging each other to grow in faith and righteousness.
  • Practicing non-judgment fosters an environment where forgiveness can flourish.

3. Pursue Peace and Edification:

  • As a church, our primary aim should be to pursue peace and build one another up. This means prioritizing reconciliation and forgiveness, even when disagreements arise.
V. Reconciliation in Society: The Upcoming Referendum Vote

As we reflect on forgiveness and reconciliation, let us remember that these principles should extend beyond our church walls and impact our society as a whole. In Australia, an important moment approaches with the upcoming referendum vote.

1. Reconciliation of All Australians:

  • The message of forgiveness and reconciliation is not limited to our church community. We must pray for the reconciliation of all Australians, acknowledging the historical injustices faced by Indigenous peoples and working towards healing and unity. Prayer and action in advocating for a fair and inclusive process that gives a voice to all Australians.

The message of forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35 is a profound reminder of the transformative power of God’s grace.
Let us remember that forgiveness is a journey, one that may not always lead to reconciliation but remains crucial for our spiritual growth.

May our church be a shining example of God’s love, a place where forgiveness is abundant, and the transformative power of Christ’s forgiveness is evident in all we do.
In this way, we fulfill our divine calling to be salt and light in the world, bringing hope and healing to all.