14th Sunday after Trinity

Collect of the Day

Almighty God,
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Genesis 50.15-21

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.

Romans 14.1-12

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

                   “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
                   ‘Every knee will bow before me;
                        every tongue will confess to God.’“

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Matthew 18.21-35

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.”

Reflection by Arthur

During lock-down and for many weeks since the ‘great release’, people have been showing the most impressive acts of kindness and love to their fellow beings.  These acts of kindness have varied from checking up on a neighbour to see that they are not in need of anything to doing the weekly shopping.  Whatever the act was, I know that it has been done in love and that it has been received gratefully in love.  Under these circumstances it has not mattered whether the act has been great or of little significance in the great scheme of things, it has been really appreciated.

The parable from Matthew’s gospel set for today, the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, is about forgiveness and how this is applied in relation to the sin to be forgiven.  The value of the debt the servant owes the king is simply enormous compared to the debt the servant is owed by his fellow servant.  The sum owed by the servant to the king is so big that it would be impossible for it to be repaid.  The debt owed to the servant by his fellow servant is small enough to easily be repaid.  It is when we take this into account that we see the true imbalance between the actions of the king and that of his servant.

In spite of the enormous debt owed to him by his servant, the king, after hearing his pleas takes pity on him and cancels the debt.  In contrast, the servant pursues his fellow servant to the ultimate end and has him put in prison until he repays the debt.  The question here is an extension of the one which says how many times should a Christian forgive another Christian, seven or seventy times seven?  The answer is that any forgiveness we give to any other is minute compared to the forgiveness we have received from the Lord.  So we should forgive to the fullest level possible and nothing should be considered too much to forgive.

The reading from Genesis describes Joseph’s brothers’ attempts to get forgiveness after the death of their father.  This is a good illustration of the principles of forgiveness and tolerance as outlined in the Gospel reading from Matthew.  The brothers had continually tried to get rid of Joseph through jealousy, made worse by their father’s obvious favouritism towards Joseph.  In spite of the brothers’ actions, God had handled things in such a way that Joseph had ultimately prospered.  In addition, he had been able to save his whole family from starving to death during the famine which lasted for seven years.  Because of God’s favour towards Joseph, Joseph sees the activities as part of God’s overall plan to provide for the well-being of all of them.  If God had seen fit to treat the brothers in the way that he had, then who was Joseph to condemn them?  He refuses to take on the role of judge because he recognises that for all his high earthly status, there is only one who has the right to judge; and that one has judged with mercy.

In the end it comes down to the idea that what we owe and what we are owed are two sides of the same coin, and we cannot separate the way we ourselves have been treated by God from the way we should treat others in the light of that.  The same mercy that we have received must be extended to our fellow Christians, because the mercy we have been shown is vastly greater than any mercy we shall be called upon to show.

Post Communion Prayer

Lord God, the source of truth and love,
keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
united in prayer and the breaking of bread,
and one in joy and simplicity of heart,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

Genesis 50.15-21 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Matthew 18.21-35 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Romans 14.1-12 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (14th after Trinity) ©  1985 Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services
Collect (14th after Trinity) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000