Following a question by Peter as to how often he is supposed to forgive someone, Jesus goes into a parable of a king who called his servants into account. We’d call it an audit today. And, one servant was found to owe ten thousand talents, a lot of money. But he begged the king forgiveness, and the king forgave him. But the servant wanted to press severely for payment of a fellow-servant whose debt amounted to pocket change. What the king does as a result shows that we will see the level of mercy we give to others.
I have a hard time with the Epistle reading here, and not because of what it says. My issue is what some people claim that it says. At the time St Peter wrote this, the world known to him was governed by Rome, and it was relatively just. And, there were no persecutions. Is such a pronouncement of advice all-inclusive?
What of unjust situations. Should civil rights demonstrators stayed silent because segregation was the law? For that matter, should the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts have instead stayed in England and affirmed their loyalty to the Church of England, since it was England’s only lawful church at the time?
Just laws are just and deserve to be followed. But we don’t need to follow injustice in the name of scripture.
This Sunday’s Gospel reading is one of the most powerful, and it can be difficult to see where to focus a sermon. It includes the words of how he has “sheep which are not of this fold”, which is a good verse to inspire controversy!
But perhaps more significant is how he speaks of himself as the shepherd and others as the hireling. And please note that nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus appoint anyone else as shepherd. In fact, his command to Peter is “Feed my sheep”.
While there are some really wonderful hirelings, we need to beware of those who would claim to be shepherds.
In many traditions, and beginning today here, we end the Holy Communion with words from the beginning of the Gospel of John, and today we hear the end of that same gospel. And we see here a problem beginning even before the Ascension which we so often see today.
It appears word got out that one special disciple would not die until Jesus returned. When asked about that, Jesus replied “what is it to you?” Have we experienced being misquoted? Might it be a good idea to understand what is being said?
CONTROVERSY ALERT! I feel tempted to add that because the lesson in today’s Epistle is almost identical to one we face today. In Paul’s day, some people were trying to pressure the Galatians to accept circumcision, even though Peter’s encounter with the centurion Cornelius proved it unnecessary.
Paul’s point here is telling people to stop being hung up on what is no longer necessary, and focus on the current reality of salvation through spirit.
We know the story of Paul’s conversion that happened on his journey to Damascus. We certainly see that God is going to get what God wants! But what of the Gospel lesson?
In the Gospel, we come across some of the most often mis-used and abused sayings in all of Christendom, most often used far away from the original context. Look closely, and you can see again the promise of fulfillment!