the 15th sunday after pentecost
the PRAYER. . .
O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we may delight in doing your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
the READING. . .
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?”
the DEVOTION. . .
It was a Sunday afternoon in September and I was one of a dozen or so pastor-types gathered at the front door of the church waiting for worship to start. The “home” pastor went in. Welcomed everyone. Made a few comments. Then, began to lead the congregation in the brief order for confession and forgiveness. Somebody opened the door so we could join in. Sign of the cross. Heads bowed. Voices serious. “Most merciful God, we confess …” As soon as we said, “Amen,” I looked up to listen for the forgiveness. But to my surprise, the door was already closing! Apparently, we didn’t need forgiving as much as we did confessing!
We’re so much better at saying we’re sorry. Promising never to do it again. But in this week’s gospel reading, that’s not Peter’s question. He doesn’t ask how many times he should confess. In fact, he doesn’t even mention the word! Instead, he asks, “How often should I forgive? Seven times? Seven times seventy times?” And when he answers, Jesus doesn’t say anything about confessing, either! “Forgive,” he says, “Forgive, whether they confess or don’t! Whether they’re sorry or aren’t! Forgive and keep on forgiving! Again and again! Over and over! Time after time after time! After all, forgiveness is a gift only you can give! So, give it! Give it freely! Without limit! Without measure! Give it … just like me!”
Bob Barndt, pastor