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Sermon (3) and Liturgy for Ordinary 24 - Proper 19 - Year A
Genesis 50:15-21; Psalm 103; Matthew 18:21-35
"As we Forgive Those who Trespass Against Us..."


READING:  Genesis 50:15-21; Psalm 103; Matthew 18:21-35
SERMON :  "As we Forgive Those who Trespass Against Us..."

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or24sx 995000
                  
   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   The children's story, with only very minor changes, is from Charles
   Kirkpatrick (www.Sermons4Kids.com) "Message for Ordinary 24, Year
   A", as sent to the PRCL List in September 2002.  The Call To Worship
   and the Benediction are based on the 1999 Eucharistic Preface and
   Benediction of Nathan Nettleton, as found in his mailing "Eucharistic
   Preface - Proper 19" as sent to the PRCL List in September 1999.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP 
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Let every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
P  Let all creation give praise to our God
   In him is forgiveness for every sin
   And salvation from all that would destroy us.
L  In the days of Moses God divided the sea
   and allowed his people to pass through on dry ground.
P  God delivered them from their oppressors
   and led them by fire and cloud to the land of freedom.
L  In Jesus Christ, God's reign of love and mercy has come to all,
   to set us free from the law of sin and death.
P  Whether we live or die we belong to him,
   he knows our weaknesses and lifts us when we fall.
L  Give praise to the one who sets us free.
P  Let all people sing of his love and his mercy
   and call on his name forevermore. 


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Loving and merciful God, we praise you and thank for your compassion and
your grace.  You do not treat us as we deserve though our faults deserve
correction and our failings deserve punishment.  As a parent takes pity on
an erring child and restores them to the path of righteousness, so in
Christ you open your arms to us and forgive our sin and set us free from
those things that oppress and bind us.  We come before you today in humble
gratitude for this.  Help us to worship you as you deserve and to live in a
way that is pleasing to you.  Bring to our minds all that you have done for
us and grant to us in our remembrance the fullness of your grace, so that,
pursuing what you have promised, we may share in and increase your heavenly
glory; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Come Let Us Sing of A Wonderful Love"                    - VU 574


CHILDREN'S TIME   "Over and Over Again" (Matthew 18:21-22)
Object    An Assortment of Pencils with Worn and Vanished Erasers.
Theme:    God's Forgiveness and Our Forgiving Others
Source:   With only very minor changes, this is from Charles Kirkpatrick,
          www.Sermons4Kids.com, "Message for Ordinary 24, Year A", as sent
          to the PRCL List in September 2002. 

Good morning.   I brought along something for you to look at today. 
Something that all of us use all the time, especially in school.   Just
look at all of these pencils!  What can you tell me about them.... There
are short pencils, long pencils, skinny pencils, and fat pencils.  There
are yellow, red, black and white pencils.  There are many different shapes,
sizes, and colours of pencils but there is one thing that all of these
pencils have in common.  The eraser is worn off on every one of them.  

Do you know what that tells me?  It tells me that I make a lot of mistakes. 
When I make a mistake, I erase it and start over, and over again, until I
get it right!  I don't know why I keep these pencils, because as many
mistakes as I make, a pencil without an eraser is pretty useless.

These pencils remind me of people.  People come in all different sizes,
shapes, and colours too, but we all have one thing in common, we all make
mistakes!  We make a lot of mistakes.  That is why God sent Jesus to die on
the cross -- to erase our mistakes.  When we do something wrong, we can ask
God to forgive us and because of Jesus, He will erase our mistakes and we
can start over again, and again, and again.  Unlike these pencils, God's
eraser never wears out!

Just as God forgives us over and over again.  Jesus taught us that we
should forgive other people over and over again.

One day, Peter asked Jesus, "How many times should I forgive someone who
sins against me?  Should I forgive him seven times?"  I imagine that Peter
was pretty proud of himself for being willing to forgive someone seven
times.

Jesus answered, "Not seven times, but seventy times seven times!"....   I
think Jesus knew that if he said we should forgive seventy times seven
times, we would never be able to keep count and we would forgive over, and
over again, just as he forgives us.

It doesn't matter if we are short or tall, skinny or fat, red, white,
yellow, or black, we all need God's forgiveness. We also need to remember
that Jesus taught that we are to forgive others just as God forgives us.


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Let us pray.....  Dear Jesus - we all make mistakes -  thank you for
   coming to erase those mistakes. -  Help us to forgive others - the
   same way you forgive us -- over, and over, and over again.  Amen.

And in the word's of Jesus who taught us to pray together as one family...

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


* HYMN:   "Jesus Bids Us Shine"                                    - VU 585


SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS: ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SPECIAL MATTERS
- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries     
- Special Matters      
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD    (verse 2 - VU 371)
                
  Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God they will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!


A READING FROM GENESIS 50:15-21
   (NIV)  When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they
   said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for
   all the wrongs we did to him?"  So they sent word to Joseph, saying,
   "Your father left these instructions before he died:  'This is what
   you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the
   sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now
   please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." 

   When their message came to him, Joseph wept.  His brothers then came
   and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they
   said.

   But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 
   You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish
   what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don't be
   afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured
   them and spoke kindly to them.


RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 103 (VU 825) & the Gloria Patri (sung)
           
   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  
   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
   World without end.  Amen

 
A READING FROM MATTHEW 18:21-35
   (NIV)   Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall
   I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"   
   Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

   "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle
   accounts with his servants.  As he began the settlement, a man who owed
   him ten thousand talents was brought to him.  Since he was not able to
   pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all
   that he had be sold to repay the debt. 

   "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he
   begged, 'and I will pay back everything.'   The servant's master took
   pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. 

   "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants
   who owed him a hundred denarii.  He grabbed him and began to choke him. 
   'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. 

   "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with
   me, and I will pay you back.' 

   "But he refused.  Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into
   prison until he could pay the debt.  When the other servants saw what
   had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their
   master everything that had happened. 

   "Then the master called the servant in.  'You wicked servant,' he said,
   'I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 
   Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on
   you?'  In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be
   tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 

   "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you
   forgive your brother from your heart."

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ


*  HYMN:  "Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive"                          -VU 364


SERMON:  "...As we Forgive Those who Trespass Against Us..."

   O Lord, we pray, speak in the calming of our minds and in the
   longings of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the thoughts
   that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen.  Amen.

Our three readings today speak to us today of sin and of forgiveness 

Our first reading shows Joseph - being implored by his brothers, in the
name of the God of their Father, to forgive them.   And Joseph does -
saying - as he does 

   - "Don't be afraid.  Am I in the place of God.  You intended to harm
   me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being
   done, the saving of many lives..."

Joseph, you will recall, was sold into slavery by his brothers, who were
jealous of the favour shown by their father towards him and resentful of
the attitude that Joseph seemed to have towards them.  They would have
murdered him, but for their reluctance to actually have his blood on their
hands,  but the fate they condemned him too was little better than murder,
for no slave is able to do as they wish - and the life of a slave could be
taken at the whim of his master.

Indeed it was only because of Joseph's favour in the eyes of God that
Joseph was able to prosper in his slavery and, after many trials and
tribulations, including more than two years in prison for an offense he did
not commit, rise to the position of being at the right hand of Pharaoh,
where he was charged with the task of keeping Egypt safe from seven years
of drought and famine.

Joseph was most surely sinned against by his brothers.
   And yet, many years later, when hunger brought them into Egypt - he fed
   them; indeed he provided richly for both them and his father,
saying even then, that God had a purpose in allowing them to sell him into
slavery, for it made it possible for him to save them and all his people in
their time of need.

Joseph was given the grace to see beyond the pain to the gain.
   - the grace to see that while evil was done to him - God was able to
   use that evil for good.

Often for us that is a most difficult thing.

We can't see anything good coming out of the harm that others have done us.

We can't see any reason for mercy - for forgiveness - even if, in other
areas of our life, we prosper.

We carry the wounds of the past with us, we remember the hurt done us, 
   
We think of what might have been, rather than looking at our life as it is
now and seeing in it the hand of God to do good for many, and from that
point of view, forgiving the harm done to us by few.

The truth be told - even in the story of Joseph, sin remains sin, even
though God brought good out it.

That is the simple fact that we do well not to lose track of.

No matter what God does with the sins that have been committed against us
they remain sins.

The Psalm today speaks to us of what God does with our sins.
Let me quote from the first eleven verses of

   Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who
   forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases....  The LORD is
   compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He
   will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he
   does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our
   iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so
   great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from
   the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us... 

God removes our sins from us.  Out of love for us, God forgives us our
sins.  God cancels them out.  God makes the debt that in justice we owe to
him - of no account.  That is the great message of the cross - that God so
loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him
might not perish, but have  eternal life.

As you all know from your experience - sin is grievous.  

Sin is always wrong.  
It is always bad.  
It always hurts someone.   

But the incredible news is - while sin always hurts - it's power to hurt
ends when forgiveness is applied to it. 

We have been forgiven by God.  
Sin no longer has the power to harm our relationship with God,
   it has been washed away, 
   it has been nailed to the cross, 
   it has been buried, never to rise again,
and in it's place new life has come forth, 
a life that we have but to reach for to receive.

That is what God does for us.
- Instead of punishing us for our sin 
- Instead of keeping us at arm's length
- Instead of turning his face away from us as we deserve, God turns to us.  

God turns to us, and in pain, and in tears, and finally in death itself, he
forgives us and calls us - and empowers us - to live as ones  who are able,
like Joseph, to save many lives - as ones, who like Jesus, are able to
bring the word of life to those who are in darkness, the word of love to
those are perishing on account of their lack of it. 

   "God doesn't condone our sin, nor does he compromise his standard. 
   He doesn't ignore our rebellion, nor does he relax his demands. 
   Rather than dismiss our sin, he assumes our sin and, incredibly,
   incredibly sentences himself.  God is still holy.  Sin is still sin. 
   And we are redeemed."    (Max Lucado - "In The Grip of Grace")

We are redeemed.  We have bought out of slavery to sin and death.  God is
good to us - even though some of our brothers and sisters have not been
good to us - even though we have not been good to God.

And so we arrive at the Gospel Lesson today.  
And also at the title for our Sermon  
"as we forgive those who trespass against us."

After listening to Jesus speak to him and the other disciples about how to
treat a brother or sister who has sinned against them, and the procedure to
be followed in trying to win them back to the way of God, those careful
steps I dealt with last week, Peter comes to Jesus and asks him 

   "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins
   against me?  Up to seven times?"

And Jesus gives his famous answer - the answer mentioned in my children's
story about the pencils and erasers - "I tell you not seven times, but
seventy times seven times".

And then Jesus tells an alarming parable about how the Kingdom of Heaven is
like a King who wanted to settle accounts with his servants - and how one
of these servants - even though he is forgiven a massive debt by his master
- fails to be equally forgiving of a fellow servant who owes him but a
small debt.

   "You wicked servant" says the master to the one he had forgiven so
   much, "I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 
   Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on
   you?"   And in anger his master turned him over to the jailors to be
   tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

Alarming is it not?   
And how much more so when you remember the punch line that Jesus offers.

       "This", says Jesus, "is how my heavenly Father will treat
       each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

I call this parable alarming 
because most of us find it difficult to forgive.   

And because, in some way or other, it seems that the forgiveness we finally
   receive depends on the forgiveness we give....

"This", says Jesus, "is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you
   unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

And again, from earlier in the Gospel According To Matthew, 
when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray.  

This, says Jesus, is how you should pray, "forgive us our trespasses, as we
   forgive those who have trespassed against us."

God loves and us forgives us - even before we even ask.
   his forgiveness is total and unconditional,
       and he calls to us to open our lives to him and to accept that love
and forgiveness.

If you worried about being unable to forgive someone one time, 
   let alone seventy times seven times,
there is something you can do about it.

Or if you are worried that perhaps your prayer to God might be fulfilled
   before you are ready for it, and that God will end up forgiving you in
   the way you forgive others 
there is something you can do about it.

And that something is this:
   surrender your judgement to God, 
   surrender your judgement to God 
   and keep praying the prayer that Jesus taught,
and pray it with deep earnestness.

From time to time try changing the words.

Change them from     "And Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
                     trespass against us"

to                   "And, as You have forgiven us our trespasses, help us
                     forgive those who trespass against us"

and change the words back again.

Pray the prayer of Christ
   and savour the grace of God of which our Psalm sings of today.

Remember that sin is sin - and that it all hurts - 
   and yet God removes it from us as far as the east is from the west
          he forgives us 
          he has compassion on us, like a father has for his children,
like a mother has for her child.

Savour what that means for you 
think of how God has shown love for you, forgiveness to you,
   even before you asked,
   even before you thought to ask.

Then you will be, as the Psalm One put its, "like a tree planted by streams
of water"

You will be drawing upon the love of God - the story of God wonder and
grace - the word of God -

and you will be able to yield your fruit in season
   and your leaves will not wither, your actions - and later even your
feelings - will be good.

Yes, sin is sin, and we have a right to be angry about it.    
We should be angry about it. 

But work to let go of your anger at those who sinned, 
   work at it by not only remembering what God has done for you, 
       but also by remembering who is in the end, the only one who has the
right to render judgement.

Forgiveness means that we must forever surrender the idea that we are the
judge. 

And I so am happy about that.  
   Because I know what a lousy judge I am.
       Because I know how my judgements of others have proven wrong, and I
know how even when they have been "right", they have done nothing to
improve the situation: for me.  For those I am worried about.  For the one
that has done wrong.

Think on these things.

Think about how God's ways are greater than ours.  
And how God cares.   And wants us to care.

Then pray again,     "Lord, forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who
                     trespass against me"

and again,       "Lord, as you have forgiven my trespasses, help me
                 forgive those who trespass against me"

God will help you as you remember what is so near to God's own heart - and
ask his help with it.  God will help you even as you continue the prayer as
Jesus taught us to pray.

Fear not that you have already lost 
- or will loose your salvation - your joy or peace.
Rather keep trying to forgive 
   - for in trying to forgive forgiveness comes.

Fear not either your failures to forgive despite your resolve to be
forgiving.  The Lord who calls to us to forgive seventy times seven times 
has himself done the same - and indeed even more. 

Your salvation is not lost by one act of malice, 
or even by a series of such acts.
It can only be lost 
   if you commit what the scriptures call the unforgivable sin,
       the sin against the Holy Spirit
       the sin which we understand to be the denial of God and God's power
       the denial of the Truth of God that seeks to leaven your life.

The truth of God is that God is forgiving.

The power of God is the power to help you to stand firm and to show that
truth to others, through the love we give.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.  
All my inmost being, praise his holy name.   Amen


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE   (Rx - And In Your Love Answer)   Singing #400 at
                        the start and the end of the prayer time)

       Lord, listen to your children praying.
       Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
       Lord, listen to your children praying,
       send us love, send us power, send us grace!

Gracious and merciful God -- each one of us here today struggles to do what
is right, but we find it hard - especially when it comes to how other
people have hurt us or hurt those whom we love.  Help us today to make a
break through - bring to mind now, as we sit in these pews, the old
resentments that we have - the old grievances - the old wounds that still
haunt us - and help us to heal.  As you forgive us through the blood of
Christ Jesus - so, in his name, and by his power, help us to forgive those
who have trespassed against us....   Lord, hear our prayer....

Father, we pray for those in our world today who are caught in the ancient
cycle of violence.  We think in particular of nations which are divided by
ancient feuds and of families that are fractured by grudges that have not
been allowed to pass away.   Lord, we know that sin is sin and that you are
Holy, and that your standards are not lessened by your mercy.  But we know
that it is not your will that walls exist between persons, nor is it your
desire that we seek vengeance in your name.   Bring healing Lord to those
who have been afflicted and peace to those who are in conflict with their
neighbours and their brothers and sisters...  Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord - hear our prayers for the world - and within the world - for all who
are burdened and heavy laden.
Indeed at this time, hear the prayers of your people in this place for
those around them and for those who are in other places this day....

   - we pray for children who are abandoned by their parents and for the
   parents who abandon their children...
   - we pray for those overwhelmed with financial worries that they may
   find understanding, opportunity and  support...
   - we pray for those who suffer from afflictions of the body that leave
   them weak and unable to do all they desire - may they find strength in
   you - especially we remember those who suffering from cancer this
   day....  
   - we pray for those under more stress than usual - and who have less
   strength to deal with it.

   We pray for... BIDDING PRAYER... 


Lord, hear our prayer....

Father and Mother of us all,  hear all our prayers and bless us so that the
world may see how much we love one another and remember how much you love
all that you have made.   We ask it through Christ Jesus your Son, he who
gave his life for us so that we might live in your presence and be able to
do all you desire us to do.   Amen

       Lord, listen to your children praying.
       Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
       Lord, listen to your children praying,
       send us love, send us power, send us grace!


MINUTE FOR MISSION


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

   Loving Most Gracious and Generous God - Lord of Life in whom we live
   and move and have our being, accept these gifts we bring to you -
   symbols of love and earthly toil, signs of our praise and gratitude. 
   Accept them and bless them and us in the service of your eternal
   kingdom.  We ask it in Jesus' name.


* DEPARTING HYMN:    "Would You Bless Our Homes and Families"      - VU 556


* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.
 

* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ Jesus,
Show forgiveness to one another as in Christ you have been shown
forgiveness.
- And may the power of God save you from all danger.
- May the mercy of Jesus Christ fill you with love.
- And may the Holy Spirit uphold you and direct you day by day.
Both now and forevermore.  Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                              - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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