Matthew 18:21-35 (NRSV)
Verse 21Then 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?" Verse 22Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. Verse 23"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. Verse 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; Verse 25and, 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. Verse 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' Verse 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. Verse 28But 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.' Verse 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' Verse 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. Verse 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Verse 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Verse 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' Verse 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. Verse 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."
Many of us remember where we were when the airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers—the shock and hopelessness and anger, the search for victims, the overwhelming sorrow. The days that followed were a time of numbness—except for a special neighborhood evening service of remembrance. All these people, many of them strangers, gathered with us at the foot of the cross to remember and grieve and pray. We lit candles—so many candles that they melted into each other in a waxen mass. Just so, our grief melted us into a common humanity, weeping for the lost, giving thanks for the brave, and trying to understand the hatred that led to such barbarous acts.
Forgiveness is in such short supply in our world. We get even. We bear grudges. We have long memories. And our world is littered with the pain of forgiveness withheld. Healing comes from laying the burden of anger down and reaching out beyond our self-drawn boundaries to extend the hand of forgiveness. It is how we will heal—and how our world will heal.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, breathe new life into us, new hope for tomorrow. We are your foolish forgiven children. Give us the strength to bear witness to your will and your way. Lead us forth in joy and hope not counting the cost, but rejoicing in your righteousness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.