Grace and Peace to you, Dear Church, from God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen
I’ve never really been a baseball fan. Growing up it seemed everyone around me was either a Detroit Tigers Fan or a Cleveland Indians Fan. Since moving to this area, it seems everyone around me is a Philly’s Fan.
Although I’m not a fan, I have been to several baseball games. In middle school I saw Cecil Fielder play for the Detroit Tigers. An evening I remember because of the hype. In High School I saw the St. Louis Cardinals play the Cincinnati Reds in St. Louis. An evening I remember because of the company and the large MLB stadium. As an adult, I’ve been to several minor league games, the Toledo Mudhens, the Columbus Clippers and yes, the Reading Fighting Phils with some of you. All games I remember because of the company and the atmosphere.
There is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a baseball game. Fans, of all ages, wearing their favorite caps and jerseys. Super fans wearing their favorite jerseys and carrying their gloves, hoping against hope to catch a game ball. Mega fans wearing their favorite signed jerseys, carrying their gloves, hoping against hope to catch a game ball and keeping score as if their life depended on it!
I’ve decided that I don’t really have the patience to be a baseball fan. I don’t understand why there has to be so many innings…. To be honest what I enjoy the most about baseball games is the company of friends and the atmosphere of hype.
My only real criticism of baseball is it’s most famous rule: 1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out! Yes, that’s my criticism. I guess in the rules of baseball this makes perfect sense. However, according to Jesus 3 strikes, 33 strikes or even 333 strikes isn’t enough to be out.
In our reading today, from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus had just instructed the disciples about conflict in the community of faith. He urged them to confront it directly and wisely. Then Peter asked Jesus a strange question; how many times he should forgive? Peter then suggested seven times. Jesus responded with “seventy times seven times!” Jesus then went on to tell his disciples a parable about forgiveness in the Kingdom of God.
There are a few things you should know about this parable of forgiveness in the Kingdom of God.
- This parable is about the Kingdom of God. This means it is next to impossible to achieve in this world.
- In the parable, both slaves who plead for forgiveness, ask the one in power to “have patience with me.” This must mean patience is important for forgiveness.
- One of the slaves owed10,000 talents. This is a debt that can never be repaid. Today that is over $3 billion comparatively!
- To forgive is to release two hearts of a burden, one from a debt and one from vengeance.
- Jesus called the disciples and Jesus calls us to forgive from the heart.
What does it mean to forgive from the heart? To forgive from the heart means to forgive with faithfulness, commitment, and forward thinking. To forgive from the heart means to have faith, not that the one who wronged you will not wrong you again, but faith that God will once again give you the patience to forgive. To forgive from the heart means to commit to an ongoing relationship with the one who has wronged you. To forgive from the heart means to journey together and grow together with the one who has wronged you.
Now, absolutely none of that is human nature! That’s why Jesus points out that this parable is about forgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven not forgiveness in the Kingdom of this world. To forgive with the heart takes practice, patience and faith. To forgive with the heart takes a whole new way of being in this world, a transformation of the heart and an ongoing atmosphere of community of faith and hope.
Jesus is calling on us and the Kingdom of Heaven depends on us to forget the 1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out rule. Church, you have been forgiven countless times already and you will be forgiven countless times more by the God who loves you beyond measure. God’s forgiveness has given you the power to forgive others. What will you do with that power? Will you abuse it as the first slave in the parable or will you use that forgiving power to change humanity’s cycle of, not even 1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out but 1strike. Church, I pray the forgiveness of Jesus has transformed your heart into one that forgives over and over again.
Peace to you,
Pastor Mary Ann