September 17, 2023 - Home Worship

For the week of September 17-23 – 16th Sunday after Pentecost

Morning Prayer We give You thanks, O Lord, we call on Your name. We will make known Your deeds among the peoples. We’ll sing praises to You, telling all Your wonderful works; let the hearts of those who seek You rejoice. We seek You, Lord, and Your strength and Your presence continually. We remember the wonderful works You have done, Your miracles, and the judgments You uttered. You are the Lord our God; Your judgments are in all the earth. Amen and Amen. [Written by Tony Peterson, The Africana Worship Book, Year A (Nashville: Discipleship Ministries, 2006), 93.]

Hymn: #98 To God Be the Glory

  1. To God be the glory, great things He hath done!
    So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
    who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the lifegate that all may go in.

Refrain: Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father thru Jesus the Son,

and give Him the glory, great things He hath done!

  1. O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood, to every believer the promise of God;
    the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives. (Refrain)
  2. Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
    and great our rejoicing thru Jesus the Son;
    but purer, and higher, and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.

Call to Worship based on Matthew 18:21-25

Children of God, when we face strife and harm in our midst, we so often turn to God and ask: How many times should I forgive?

When Jesus answers that we should forgive again and again and again, we are tempted to repeat the question: How many times should I forgive? … Until God turns the question around: “How many times have I forgiven you?”

The Lord God has forgiven us seventy-seven times. The Lord God has loved us seventy-seven times. God’s grace has been sufficient for us seventy-seven times.

Let us learn, then, how to forgive not out of our own power, but out of God’s, who forgives us that we might be free to learn to live with one another well. (Discipleship Ministries)

Children’s Time Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all His decrees and His commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Children’s Message I have quite a collection of Bibles. It stems from veracious encouragement from my grandparents and later from my husband. I have kept them all, some have made the moves with us from parsonage to parsonage and others hold down shelf space at our son’s home and others are on the shelves in my parents’ farmhouse. I seem to have received a new Bible at every milestone of my life. Each of those Bibles holds a precious memory and a new adventure.

Because there is a large array of them, I have many translations and differing commentaries. I write in them and store poems, essays and other collected writings in them. As I go through them, I can usually tell what Bible study I was working through or what I was trying to dig deeper to find. Through these Bibles, I have collected my spiritual journey.

What I have come to notice is the ever changing way the words I think I know or the stories I think I know grow and take on new meaning. Maybe that is wisdom – I’m not entirely sure – what I do know is that God is constantly ready to meet me in those pages and reveal God’s vision for God’s creation.

I wanted to take today and encourage you to be ready to meet God in the pages of your Bibles. To see how vast God is and how very near God is to us and how God is desiring for each of us to fully take to heart that we never outgrow our need to be connected to God through our scriptures.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight: Your offering pays for the Together Time entrée.  You are welcome to bring a side dish to complement and complete the meal, but your financial offering permits friends and neighbors to eat and fellowship with us without cost and without contributing to the meal.

Offering prayer: Generous God, You have given so much to us in love and joy – every good thing in our life reflects Your caring. Even in the giving of our offerings, we have tried to give our best but know we could do more. In a world where forgiveness has become a rare commodity, it is often an asset we hold back to maintain power over one another. Help us to hear the teaching of Jesus in the generosity of forgiveness. May we learn to give that to others with wild extravagance! We pray in Christ’s name, who gave all. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn: #394 Some Beautiful

Something beautiful, something good; all my confusion He understood;

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, but He made something beautiful of my life.

Scripture:  Matthew 18:21-35            

21 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”

22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.[a] 23 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold.[b]   25 Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26 But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27 The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.

28 “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins.[c] He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’

29 “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.

31 “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32 His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.

35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Message: Seventy-Seven Times           Pastor Ron

          A husband and wife had many disagreements. Yet somehow the wife always stayed calm and collected. One day the husband commented to his wife’s restraint.

 “When I get mad at you,” he said, “you never fight back. How do you control your anger?” The wife replied, “I work it off by cleaning the toilet.” The husband asked, “How does that help?” The wife answered, “I use your toothbrush!”

          Our Scripture lesson for this morning is about forgiveness. How many times must we forgive someone who has hurt us, mistreated us, exploited us? That is Simon Peter’s question to Jesus. How many times? Would seven be enough?

          Peter thought that he was being generous. After all, the rabbis of his day taught that only three times were required. They said, “Forgive three times, but not the fourth.” That was how they interpreted passages like Amos 1:3. Peter was taking what the rabbis commanded, multiplying it by two, and adding one more for good measure! Seven times, Peter thought, should be plenty enough forgiveness. But it was not enough for Jesus. In answer to how many times we should forgive Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.” In other words, forgiveness is limitless. This is important because some of you are probably thinking, “That’s a lot, seventy-seven times. But at least on the seventy eighth time, I can go ahead and get even.

          We too often miss Jesus’ point. There can be no limit to our forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith. We are not to hold grudges, carry resentments, harbor bitterness. It’s a tough teaching, but it is one of Jesus’ most important teachings. It is at the center of everything we believe about Jesus.

          The first thing we need to see is that refusing to forgive can be deadly.  What’s the alternative to refusing to forgive? Isn’t it to carry around for a lifetime feelings of bitterness, resentment and simmering hatred? Why would anyone want to spend their life doing that to themselves? It has been said that harboring resentments in like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. It has also been said that letting hatred simmer within us, eating at our emotions and our body, is like burning your house down to get rid of rodents. C. S. Lewis once observed that he had finally forgiven a man who had been dead for more than thirty years. Imagine carrying negative feelings around for thirty years. Meanwhile, as has often been noted, the other person is out dancing. Why would you do that to yourself?

          Pastor James Stockton tells a wonderful story about a judge in a middle-eastern country who was trying to resolve a difficult case. The wife of a deceased man was asking for the death penalty to be imposed upon the man who had killed her husband. It seems that while he was in a tree gathering dates, the man had fallen upon the woman’s husband and fatally injured him. “Was the fall intentional?” the judge inquired. “Were these men enemies?” “No,” the woman replied. “Even so,” she said, “I want my revenge.” Despite the judge’s repeated attempts to dissuade her, the widow demanded the blood price to which the law entitled her. The judge even mentioned that a sum of money would serve her better than vengeance. The woman refused. “It is your right to seek compensation,” the judge finally declared, “and it is your right to ask for this man’s life. And it is my right,” he continued, “to decree how he shall die. And so,” the judge declared, “you shall take this man with you immediately. He shall be tied to the foot of a palm tree; and you shall climb to the top of the tree and throw yourself down upon him from a great height. In this way, you will take his life as he took your husband’s.” Only silence met the judge’s decree. Then the judge spoke: “Perhaps,” he said, “you would prefer after all to take the money?” And she did. I believe this judge had the wisdom of Solomon. When we refuse to forgive, we hurt ourselves most of all.

          When we carry anger and resentment toward someone else, the person we really hurt is ourselves. Philip Yancy writes, “Not to forgive imprisons me in the past and locks out all potential for change. I thus yield control to another, my enemy, and doom myself to suffer the consequences of the wrong. We forgive not merely to fulfill some higher law of morality; we do it for ourselves.” As Lewis Smedes points out, “The first and often only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiving.”

          Sisters and brothers, this is to say that forgiveness is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. Do you understand that?  I fear that sometimes we regard forgiveness as something we do for God, or something we do because it is the nice thing to do. All of that is true, of course. But forgiveness is ultimately a gift we give ourselves. We need to purge ourselves of all of those negative feelings toward anyone who has hurt us for our own well-being.

          Forgiveness is a choice. You do not have to carry around those feelings of bitterness, anger and resentment. You can choose to forgive. David Augsberger wrote a book a few years back about anger. He noted that anger is a choice. It all depends on how we choose to respond to situations. He told about a large rock in his front yard. One beautiful afternoon he decided to move it using a 2x4 for leverage. Somehow the 2x4 slipped and the rock rolled back breaking his leg. David remembered that no one was home, and he wondered how he was going to get up the front steps and into the house to the phone. (This was before we carried our phones with us everywhere we went.) At that moment the paperboy came along and put the paper on the front steps. He saw Augsberger stretched out on the ground and called out, “Hello, professor! It’s a great day to lie out in the lawn and get some sun.” Realizing the boy didn’t have a clue about what had happened, David laughed so hard that he forgot to ask the paperboy for help. Could a broken leg prompt laughter? I guess it depends on the person and the circumstances. The important thing to remember is that we always have a choice. If a person says, “I can’t control my temper.” That’s not true. It is all a matter of choice.

          And that is important for us to understand. It is possible for us to forgive another person. People do it everyday. You and I need to see that we can choose to forgive. The damage that we do to ourselves through unresolved anger and resentment is far more deadly than the damage we will inflict on one who has hurt us. Why keep hammering at yourself? It is a physiological fact that hating people can cause ulcers, heart attacks, headaches, skin rashes, asthma and even death! As it says in the letter to the Colossians: “Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.” (3:13)

          This is to say that we are to model our forgiveness on God’s forgiveness of us. Jesus told a parable about a man who owed his king ten thousand talents. One talent equals 6000 denari and one denari was the pay for one day of labor. So to pay off one talent you would have to work 6,000 days. And that means you would have to work 60 million days to pay off 10,000 talents. The king was ready to have the man, his wife, his children and all their possessions sold to satisfy the debt. The man fell down before him and begged for more time. The scriptures tell us that the king was moved with compassion and completely forgave the man his debt. What a relief! What joy! But wait there’s more… This same man had someone who owed him about 100 denari. He seized the man by the throat and demanded he pay his debt. And when this fellow could not, this man who had been forgiven his massive debt had the other man thrown into debtors prison. Then the king heard about this and called the man in to see him again. The king said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?”

          And Jesus asks the same question of us today. “Forgive us our sins,” He taught us to pray, “as we forgive those who sin against us.” That’s a hard teaching for many of us because our hurt goes so deep, we feel like we just can’t let go of it. But, sisters and brothers, we can and we must for our own well-being. With much prayer and a clear commitment to it, we can forgive as we have been forgiven.

          There are people in this room today who need to hear this message. There’s someone you need to forgive, not for their sake, but for your own. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother of sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Hymn #140 Great Is Thy Faithfulness

  1. Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is not shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;

as Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Refrain: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided;

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

  1. Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

sun, moon and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

  1. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.