Monday, August 25, 2014

The Enormous Debt Forgiven

The Enormous Debt Forgiven by Fr. Ted Toppses
Sermon Sunday 8-24-2014
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
How much do you think your salvation is worth?  We value different things in life and make our choices of how to spend our time, effort or money.  In today’s Gospel, Christ makes a comparison to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like using the parable of the ten thousand talents.
Christ starts off saying "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents;”   The first thing we should understand is that Christ in today’s Gospel just said something shocking to the people who were listening.  The amount the first man owed in the parable today is actually astronomical and shocking.  Just one talent at the time of Christ was an extremely great deal of money and approximately 15 years of wages for the average person.  3 or 4 Talents would be a lifetime worth of money.  Scholars differ on the exact amount, however by today’s valuation Christ could have said “The king brought to him someone who owed 6 billion dollars”.
Not only were the people stunned by Christ mentioning that the man owed an inconceivable amount, but also that Christ was making a comparison of this story with the kingdom of God.  What could he mean?
The man could not conceivably pay, and the king ordered him and his family to be sold.  The king represents God, and the debt our sin which separates us from God.  The wages of sin is death.  So the man alone could not save himself and his family.
The man then fell on his knees, saying “have patience with me and I will pay you everything”.  The idea that the man could pay back this debt was almost laughable, considering it was an astronomically huge debt.
Because the man appealed to the mercy of the King, falling humbly on his knees before him, the king amazingly forgave him his entire massive debt.
We cannot save ourselves alone from the massive debt that sin can bring upon us.  Christ however lovingly offered and offers himself for us to remove our sin when we repent.  God removes all obstacles between us and Him in the kingdom of God when we approach with a humble heart.
If the story ended there it would teach us a great lesson, however it does not end there and teaches us even more.  That same servant went out and came upon a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii which by today’s standards is about $15,000 dollars.  He was not merciful nor kind even though he was forgiven his massive debt which was incomparably larger than what he was owed.  The king found out what happened and realized that the man wanted mercy from him and then chose not to give it to his fellow servant; refusing to forgive even a minor debt.
The Gospel ends by saying …
“Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailors, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
When we have sin, and our Lord forgives us so that we may enter the kingdom of God we must also forgive all others who sin against us, otherwise we are not deserving or grateful for God’s mercy.
God is gracious and kind, and we owe extreme gratitude to Christ our Lord and Savior. Christ has freed us from the bondage of sin and loves us more than we know how to love.
There is a fictional story that can be used to teach us about God and how kind and gracious he is to have us enter His Heavenly Kingdom,
Mr. Jones was a kind man who felt that he deserved to go to heaven.  God had a plan for him to understand that Heaven is a gracious gift for those who follow Christ.
Mr. Jones lived a long life and when he died he stood outside the pearly gates of Heaven and St. Peter was there on the other side.  St Peter said “we have been expecting you”.  Mr. Jones smiled and said proudly “of course you have”.  St. Peter said ”We have something special planned for you, you will tell us about your life and for the things you did that were Godly we will assign points, if you get to 1000 points, you will be allowed to enter the kingdom of God.”  Mr. Jones smiled very confidently waiting to begin.  St. Peter said ok, tell me something you did that was good.  Mr. Jones said “I went to Church every Sunday from my youth and rarely missed”.  St. Peter said, “very good, for that we will give you 100 points”.   “100 points?” Mr. Jones said, “100 points?, St. Peter are you sure that’s only going to give me 100 points?” St. Peter said “Yes Mr. Jones 100 points”.  Mr. Jones muttered to himself, I thought that would be worth more”.  Mr. Jones then said to St. Peter, “Well, I was an altar boy and later a parish council member”.  Saint Peter said very good, 50 points.  Mr. Jones now was getting nervous.  He then said  “ I prayed every day and even helped the poor.”  St. Peter said “very good Mr. Jones, that’s another 50 points”.  Mr. Jones was at a loss and confused, he was not understanding, looking at his life he thought he would deserve to go to heaven, and he did not expect what was happening now. He looked at St. Peter and said “St. Peter, I thought I would have more things to say and would easily get to 1000 points, but now I realize I will never get to 1000 points, I suppose I realize now that the only way I will enter the Kingdom of God will be by God’s love and grace”.  Saint Peter looked at him lovingly and said “ Very good Mr. Jones , 1000 points you may enter”
This story illustrates the point that we are not deserving of God’s love or his mercy but as a parent receiving a child we receive God’s grace through the action of our faith and our love for our Lord.  The parable of the talents teaches us about the unending love and mercy that God gives to those that follow Him.  When we follow Christ we be not be unforgiving as the servant was in today’s Gospel parable, but we will forgive all sin against us and realize with true gratitude how much God has done for us.
May we realize that the kingdom of God is not earned but given to the people who follow and serve our Lord, living our faith in Christ, our Lord and God.
Amen.