Friday, June 18, 2010

Generous Forgiveness

Friday, June 18, 2010 -- Week of Proper 6, Year Two
Bernard Mizeki, Catechist and Martyr in Mashonaland, 1896

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 971)
Psalms 88 (morning)       91, 92 (evening)
Numbers 13:1-3, 21-30
Romans 2:25 - 3:8
Matthew 18:21-35

"What if some were unfaithful?  Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?  By no means!  Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true."

Paul is writing a rhetorical argument with Jews, or more likely, Jewish Christians.  He claims that circumcision is unimportant.  A Gentile who follows the ethical law of the Torah is more praiseworthy than  Jew who does not.  Yet Paul honors the "oracles of God" which were passed down through Judaism, and he values the foundational traditions that have brought God's revelation to us through the Jews.

Paul's intention is to switch the focus.  He intends that we focus on God and God's faithfulness, justice and truthfulness. 

Human beings have all failed.  Though the Jewish faith may be the highest and most moral achievement of human history, it is ultimately a failure.  No one can achieve perfection, Paul says.  Especially by the self-absorbed concentration on your own performance that law-following requires.  Paul is convinced that making your life into some sort of perfection-project only creates personal anxiety and frustration.

Paul found peace and freedom when he quit.  He quit trying to fix himself.  He quit making his life a project to try to please God.  Instead, he accepted the fact that he had already been accepted by God as God's gift to him, and to all of us.  God loves us before we are lovable.  God gives us the gift of intimate relationship -- including our forgiveness and exaltation -- as pure gift.  Nothing needed but to accept the gift. 

What if you were unfaithful?  "Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true."  God's gift of acceptance is free and is universal.  Simply accept the gift.  You are accepted.  Accept the fact that you are accepted.  That's Paul's gospel.

Within the spirit of that freedom and grace, Paul says it is natural (almost easy) then to be loving and gracious to others.  We've been given everything, we can live more generously and freely.

We hear a story about the consequences of acceptance, forgiveness and freedom in the parable that Matthew gives us today.  A king settles accounts with a slave by forgiving that slave of an enormous, unpayable debt.  (The amount is huge:  10,000 talents; a talent is more than 15 years wages for a laborer.)  All of that debt is forgiven.  That's good news. 

Then that same slave throws a fellow slave into debtor's prison for failing to pay him 100 denarii.  (A denarius was the usual day's wage for a laborer.)

When the king discovers the forgiven slave's harshness, the king retaliates.

"Forgive us our debts/trespasses as we forgive our debtors/those who trespass against us." 

God loves and forgives all.  If we have accepted the gift of God's generous love and forgiveness, we are obligated to extend the divine love and forgiveness to others.  To all.  Including those who are not of our faith.

Lowell

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Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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