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Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 17, 2017

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 17, 2017

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

The word of the Lord came to me: 2What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? 3As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. 25Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Ezekiel is a prophet who was exiled to Babylon along with the King of Israel and many of the priestly and monarchy class. In this passage of Ezekiel’s prophecy, he addresses the question, “Why are we forsaken by God and in captivity on foreign soil? Who sinned, us or our parents?” It is a valid question since Deuteronomy states, “I will visit the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the thirds and fourth generations of those who reject me.” But Ezekiel insists that the Israelites are suffering the consequences of their own actions. To use the metaphor, the children both ate the sour grapes and now have their teeth set on edge.”

Many Israelites in Babylonian captivity thought that they were completely forsaken by God and all was lost. Ezekiel rejects that idea, insisting that God is fair and will respond to those who repent and ask for mercy.

Psalm 119:33-40

33Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.

34Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

35Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

36Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.

37Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.

38Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.

39Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.

40See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm with each letter of the alphabet getting, not one line, but one whole set of stanzas. This stanza is the fifth stanza and begins with the letter “he” which makes the “h” sound. In the entirety of this psalm, relationship with God is replaced by faithful keeping of God’s law. Instead of the usual, “Have mercy on me…” Psalm 119 says “Lead me in the path of your commandments.” This shift to moral, righteous life from seeking the love and mercy of God is common in Christianity as well as Judaism.

Romans 13:8-14

8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

This passage is written in the context of governmental authority. Paul insists that all governmental authority is God’s tool to punish evil and maintain justice. I wonder if Paul thought and taught the same thing as he was fed to the lions in the coliseum by Caesar.

Paul moves from that teaching to the above by invoking Jesus’ very words, “The greatest commandment is this, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Note: neither Jesus nor Paul were talking about feelings in this command. “Love” in this case is a covenantal obligation, not a feeling. Because you are in covenant with God and God gives you all things, as well as mercy and grace, therefore, you are to treat your neighbor as well as you treat yourself.”

Paul goes on to explain why it is not only important to follow this command, it is urgent. Paul believed, as did many early Christians, that Jesus would return “on the clouds with his angels” any minute. So if Jesus is going to walk in on you any minute now, you want to be on your best behavior. Verse 14 can be understood to mean, “Therefore, drop your old behaviors of being self focused, and instead imitate Jesus in all you say and do.”

Matthew 21:23-32

23When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

The setting for this conflict between Temple Authorities and Jesus is Palm Sunday afternoon. Jesus got off the donkeys (actually both jenny and her colt in the gospel of Matthew) and headed on over to the Temple where he cleansed the Temple, and taught the crowds. The chief priests and their colleagues approached Jesus to challenge him. “Who authorized you to teach this drivel?!” they demanded. This parable reinforces a theme in the gospel of Matthew, one that will build up a head of steam as the gospel moves to Good Friday. This theme is that the Jewish commoners are shepherdless sheep who are being misled and misused by the corrupt high priest and King Herod. Throughout the gospel, the Jewish authorities chastise Jesus for ignoring those in power and ministering to those without power. The high priests and the colleagues, the Sadducees and Pharisees are confident that they already know God’s assessment of the current situation. Whereas, Jesus who is God speaks the Word of God, which they reject.

In the above parable, the first son is the representation of the Jewish authorities: the high priests and their colleagues, etc. They claim that they are doing the word of God, metaphorically going out into the vineyard (a common Old Testament image for the Jewish people), but they do not actually do what they claim they are doing. Whereas, the peasants, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and fishermen that follow Jesus metaphorically blew off God’s command to go and serve the world in God’s name, but because they hear Jesus’s words and believe into him, now they are harvesting grapes.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 16, 2017

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 16, 2017

Jonah 3:10-4:11

3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. 4:1 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3 And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live." 4 And the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?" 5 Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. 6 The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, "It is better for me to die than to live." 9 But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die." 10 Then the Lord said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"

Nineveh was a city from which had come several armies that marched on Israel. When God called Jonah to prophesy to Nineveh, he was asking a Jew to prophesy a warning of doom to a Gentile enemy. Obviously Jonah was reluctant, to put it mildly. He did not want God to show mercy where Jonah felt retribution was appropriate.

God tries to help Jonah see things from his vantage point through the little shrub. It is an odd attempt since Jonah did not create or love the shrub, whereas God both created and loved the Ninevites.

“and also many animals” – A careful reading of the book of Jonah finds that the Ninevites not only donned sack cloth and ashes themselves, but they also put them on their animals. God not only has pity on the Ninevite people, but also the animals.

Psalm 145:1-8

1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. 7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8 The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Such lovely words of adoration of God. The key verse in the psalm that applies to this week’s lessons is the last: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

This selected pericope are about God’s fairness/righteousness and our perceptions of it. To be gracious and merciful means to give out what is not earned but rather what is needed for life. The God of the Hebrew Scriptures is frequently described with the qualities of graciousness, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. Jesus is the very embodiment of those qualities. We love God when those qualities apply to us and our loved ones. We resent God when Jesus is gracious and merciful to those whom we want punished!

Philippians 1:21-30

21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. 27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Philippi was named after one of Herod the Great’s sons, Philip. It was a place of “commercialized Judaism”, if you will. Philip had completely sold out to the Roman Empire and was Jewish in name only. Philippi was the seat of government of Philip’s area of rule, so the practice of Judaism was considered mockery by the faithful. In this setting, Paul and his companions evangelized and a new Christian community was born. The congregation in Philippi was described by Paul as faithful, generous, and humble.

In this section of Paul’s letter to this congregation, Paul is conflicted. He wants to die (perhaps rather like Jonah, wanting suffering and conflict to end), and he wants to continue to live and serve Christ through evangelizing and serving, particularly faithful communities like this congregation.

Matthew 20:1-16

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, "You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, "Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, "Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, "You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, "Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, "These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

The above lesson is immediately preceded by the following:

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the Kingdom of Heaven, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold[c] and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

This is a sister teaching to the parable at the beginning of chapter 20, above. In both the teaching and the parable, Jesus is speaking of God’s justice and our perception of it.

The typical laborer’s day started at 6am and ended at 6pm, and earned him a wage just enough for food, clothing, and rent for the day. If a laborer was single or had a very small family, or lived with other laborers, the money could be stretched, but for the average married man with children, this money would meet the family’s needs for the day, and no more. It was common for laborers to gather in the marketplace by 6am so as to be hired for the day. Those who were hired at 9am, noon, 3pm, and 5pm, may have arrived late for any number of reasons from hangovers to sick loved ones. The parable does not judge them for their tardiness. In fact, the parable does not judge them at all, which is what sticks in the craws of the 6am laborers. Everyone, no matter how many hours he puts in at this man’s field, gets the same wage.

In some ways, this does reflect exactly life here on earth. Perhaps we were hoping, certainly we were expecting, that life in heaven, in God’s Kingdom of Heaven, would be very different. I am confident that it will be! Not only will God’s will always be done there, we will always be doing God’s will there, which will mean that we will rejoice when everyone gets what they need. Not just us…but everyone!

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 15, 2017

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost 15, 2017

Genesis 50:15-21

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?” 16So 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. 18Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.”19But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God?20Even 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. 21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Do you remember the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers? Jacob fell in love with Rachel, but on his wedding night in the pitch blackness of his tent, he consummated his marriage with the wrong woman! Jacob’s father-in-law sent into Jacob’s tent, Rachel’s older, unwed sister, Leah. Jacob was eventually allowed to marry Rachel but she was slow to conceive. Leah had several children by Jacob first, as did Leah’s slave and Rachel’s slave. Finally Rachel conceived Joseph, and many years later died while giving birth to Benjamin.

While Jacob should have favored his oldest son over all eleven others, he favored Joseph instead, which made his older brothers hate him. One ill-fated campout, Joseph’s brothers beat him and sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up serving Potiphar, and the local jailer, where Joseph used his God given gift to interpret dreams. This gift landed him in front of Pharaoh where he interpreted two dreams. Pharaoh was so impressed by Joseph’s dream interpretation that he made Joseph second in command of the kingdom of Egypt. In the service of Pharaoh, Joseph administered the gathering of food during bumper crops to be rationed in a several year drought. During the drought, many people came from all over to Egypt to buy food, even Joseph’s brothers. Joseph recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him. After a convoluted series of tricks Joseph played on his brothers, he finally revealed himself to them in the most moving moment of rapprochement in the Hebrew Scriptures. Joseph and his eleven brothers “cry on each other’s necks” and make peace. Joseph moves the whole family to Egypt to live in abundance and safety.

Then comes the above verses. Since the Joseph’s brothers still have not forgiven themselves for what they did to Joseph, they assume he has not truly forgiven them either. But Joseph speaks God’s words to his brothers. It is up to them whether or not they want to believe him.

Psalm 103:1-13

1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—

3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

4who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.

7He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever.

10He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

11For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

12as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.

13As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

“nefesh” – This is the Hebrew word that is usually translated as “soul” but in the first verse of this psalm, it is also translated as “all that is within me”. The psalm is written in Hebrew more or less “Praise the Lord, oh my nefesh, and nefesh praise God’s holy name.” From the translation of this verse into English, we discern a fuller meaning of the word we most commonly read as “soul”. Soul is not some part of us that God takes to heaven, leaving the rest behind. No, Soul is “all that is within me.” Soul is our aspirations, our memory, our despair, our past-present-future, our imagination, our all. This psalm admonishes our all to praise God!

The psalm goes on to describe who God is and why God is worthy of our praise.

Verse 5 describes God fulfilling God’s covenant with the faithful. First, “God redeems your life from the Pit”. The Pit is the primordial nothingness from which God created all that exists. There is a strain of Judaism which did not believe in resurrection but rather that after life on earth, there is nothingness. This verse states that because God has promised it, God will redeem your life from nothingness even after you die.

Verse 8 uses legal language to describe God’s dedication to creation in the term “steadfast love”. This is to be interpreted not as a feeling but an action to keep up God’s end of the covenant God has made with us.

Sin- in Hebrew, this is a term from archery which means to miss the target.

Iniquity – continuation of sin without repentance

Transgression – intentionally choosing to sin, purposefully disregarding authority.

This psalm states that God removes all of the above evil from us.

Verse 13 is usually translated into English changing “compassion” to “pity”. While pity has a negative, condescending connotation to it, the actual meaning of the Hebrew word which is translated as “compassion” or “pity” does not. This Hebrew word translated literally is “wombly concern and love.” In other words, the psalmist is describing God is having motherly concern and protective instincts for her toddlers, who are in danger by their own naïve behavior.

Romans 14:1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those 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. 4Who 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. 5Some 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. 6Those 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. 7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8If 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. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10Why 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 judgment seat of God.11For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Those folks who lived in Rome at the time of St. Paul bought their food in market places, just as do city folks today. The meat was sacrificed to the gods and goddesses of the Roman pantheon, then sold in the markets. What Paul describes in the first verses of the above passage is that there is a debate within the Christian congregation in Rome about whether or not one could be a faithful follower of Jesus and still eat this meat. By Paul’s writing, we can deduce that he did not see a problem with eating meat previously offered to idols since idols are not real anyway. Yet, Paul addresses this issue not by stating his own opinion on the meat, but rather adjures the congregation to do what is best for all believers. It is not helpful that Paul labels those who refrain from eating this meat as “weak”, meaning “weak in faith,” but Paul’s point is still clear and liberating: “If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord.” In other words, it is between God and each believer to discern acts of personal piety.

Personal Piety – those activities and rituals, like making the sign of the cross on one’s self, which are outside of scripture, but which aid one in living faithfully. Personal piety does not include those sacraments commanded by Jesus, such as being baptized or receiving Holy Communion. However, some folks return to their seats from receiving Holy Communion and silently pray while others start looking for the Sending Hymn in their hymnals. The silent prayer is an act of personal piety, which is done, hopefully, not as a sign of superiority but as a personal aid in Christian living.

Matthew 18:21-35

Then Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus 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. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 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. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 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.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 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. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

“member of the church” – This is a really curious thing for Peter to say since there isn’t a “church” yet; “church” in English but “ecclesia” in Greek. “Ecclesia” means “the assembly,” “those assembled,” those gathered together for a particular purpose.” In Christianity, this Greek word came to mean both “congregation” and “church” as in “The Church,” that is “all the Baptized Faithful.”

Peter’s question suggests that he has previously believed that he had the ability to either refuse to forgive or the ability to impose a limit on his forgiveness. However, now that Peter has listened to Jesus’ teachings, he seems to be wondering if forgiveness needs to be extended a bit. Jesus’ parable firmly declares that forgiveness needs to be extended, not a bit, but to the moon and back and even more!!!

Jesus’ parable demands, “If God forgives you everything, what on earth are you doing withholding forgiveness from anyone for anything?!” An extremely hard question to answer!

In Hebrew understanding, the heart is the place of logical thinking, while the nose and the gut are the places of emotion. In the Hebrew scriptures, when we read in English, “God’s anger burned at the Israelites…” the Hebrew literally says, “God’s nose burned at the Israelites…” Therefore, when Jesus says, “forgive your brother or sister from your heart,” he isn’t just talking about feelings. Our feelings, our emotions, when used to their fullest advantage, inspire and fuel our actions. We proceed with the act of forgiveness because we feel sorrow and sense regret on the part of our transgressor. However, we may feel vengeful and spiteful, but we can override our emotions by forgiving, despite how we feel. Our forgiveness may need to be extended to folks who are not sorrowful, or who are not available to receive our forgiveness. We weren’t even born when Jesus forgave us from the cross! (“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!”)

A popular notion these days is expressed, “I didn’t forgive him/her for his/her sake. I forgave them for me.” What drivel!!!!!! No! As Jesus makes very clear in the above parable, we forgive because God first forgave us. If I forgive my dead grandfather for his sexual abuse of me, I don’t do it for me. My sin of holding a grudge against my grandfather is a sin against God which plays out in my family whenever we talk about my grandfather. That sin reverberates all over the place and negatively impacts all kinds of people. God demands that I forgive my grandfather because God has taught me how to forgive by forgiving me. If I do not forgive, that is a stumbling block that I put in front of myself in relation to God, and that I throw out in my family’s relationship with each other and me.

Forgiveness is not the same as the sentiment, “It’s okay. You didn’t mean to …” That is mitigation. Forgiveness is saying, “You did mean to hurt me and you did hurt me. This has negatively impacted our relationship. AND, I do not, nor will I, hold this against you. I may change how I relate to you so as to protect myself (if necessary) but I will not hold a grudge against you. I will not dredge this up in future disagreements. I will not savor the righteous indignation of this in the future. I forgive you to end this sin now.”