Sermon - September 17, 2023 - St. Martin's In the Desert

Sermon – September 17, 2023

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 19
Year A
September 17, 2023

First Reading: Exodus 14:19-31
Canticle: The Songs of Moses and Miriam
Second Reading: Romans 14:1-12
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35


O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Lift High The Cross

On September the 14, we observe the feast day of the Holy Cross Day. The cross reveals the depth of God’s love for us. Jesus’s death is not just a historical event, it is the ultimate act of God’s love for all His people

One story I will always remember. At the age of 19 on May 30th, 1431 Joan of Arc an English Soldier was burned at the stake, through the flames, she asked if the cross could be held high so she could see through the flames.

Jesus asked us to take up the cross and follow Him.

In our baptism, the sign of the cross is traced upon our forehead, a reminder that we are marked as Christ own forever. 

Forgiveness Helps The Soul

Jesus has been traveling with the disciples to Jerusalem. He has been healing people, curing people from diseases, like epileptic. He walked on water, fed 5000 people, raised Lazarus from the dead. He took his disciples Peter, James and John to the high mountain, there they saw Moses and Elijah.

He was asked to teach them how to pray, (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus says, Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  

Jesus is preparing His disciples as He gets closer and closer to Jerusalem. In (Matthew 17:22-23), As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.

So, in today’s gospel Peter comes to Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

Why did Jesus say this? Why not just say, once is enough! Jesus wants His followers to forgive those who ask for it, to let it be second nature to them. 

There should be no limits on how many times we are willing to forgive someone who seeks forgiveness. 

Jesus continues to tell them that the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wishes to settle accounts with his slaves.

The King forgives the accounts of a slave, after he begged forgiveness. But the slave did not offer the same lenience to a fellow slave who owned him money.

Jesus’s message is that we are to treat everyone, like what would be done in the kingdom of heaven. Not seven times, but seventy-seven times or more then you can count. 

God’s response to limitless debt…. a limitless amount of forgiveness.

We forgive because God has first forgiven us.

When we have a friend, family member or someone we know sin against us, we are reminded in todays gospel on how important it is to our Creator that we forgive that person.

I get it! Sometimes the hurt is so incredibly bad, the act against you or your family is the worst and horrific crime and sin, that to forgive, would take incredible courage.

To learn how to forgive, you must learn what forgiveness is not. Most of us think we know about forgiveness, but here are some of things that it does not mean.

Forgiveness does not mean you are pardoning or excusing the other person’s actions.

Forgiveness does not mean you need to even tell the person that he or she is forgiven.

Forgiveness does not mean you should forget the incident ever happened.

Forgiveness does not mean you have to continue to include the person in your life.

Forgiveness is not something you do for the person who wronged you; it is something you do for you, for peace within, to nourish your soul.

But if the person comes to you and ask you to forgive them. God wants you to forgive them not only for them, because they asked, again, for you to be able to heal and move forward. 

If we refuse to see God, to focus on God, when someone has done us wrong, we allow the darkness to creep within our souls and it could destroy you. 

To forgive is “not” to put yourselves in arms way again, as some might think, but it is to release you to freedom, that your heart and soul deserves.

I do believe that having our entire heart and soul where God dwells, that the benefits we receive, are the forgiveness of our sins, though God’s grace and mercy.

“Holy scriptures tell us that there is personal value in forgiving others, because we all have been granted unconditional love and forgiveness by God himself.”

Let us now revisit the Cross. Jesus died for our Sins, He died on the Cross, without Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins, no one would have eternal life. 

Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

If you have resentment, go to the Cross you must surrender the matter over to God, asking God to replace your resentment with forgiveness and love toward the other person.

The Reverend Lola Culbreath