"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church, Vero Beach, FL
21 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?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
God...Great at Creation, Love, and Other Stuff, but Lousy at Math!
That's right. The God of creation. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The triune God. God the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ. Great at all of these things. But LOUSY at math! That's right, LOUSY at math. There. I've said it. If it upsets you, write the bishop (just kidding, of course.)
Here's why I say God was/is lousy at math. I don't know about you, but I can remember all of the "sins" my buddies committed against me since time began. One of my buddies took away my girlfriend in the 6th grade - I never forgot it. Another broke my favorite putter when I was 16. I never forgot it. I lent a buddy 50 cents in elementary school and he's never paid me back. I never forgot it.
I add up all of the misdeeds done to me for as long as I can remember. You see, I keep a running tally in my head, like a little adding machine. And every now and then, I pull up the tape of all these misdeeds, and add them up. And the total is substantial. Tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the "soft" cost to me of pain and suffering, heartbreak, embarrassment, and so forth. I haven't forgotten a single one of these over the years. BTW, I'm just kidding a bit here to make a point - wait for it below.
And the wrongs I've done to others. Whoa! Who can calculate that cost? Who can add up all the harm, the damage, the whatever, I've caused to others, things both known by me, and unknown, as we often say in our Confession on Sunday mornings. Things we've done or failed to do. The cost is staggering, no doubt.
In our gospel for Sunday, Jesus tells Peter to forgive another's sins not 7 times, but 70 times 7. In the Hebrew, 7 is the perfect number. So, I think telling Peter this must have meant that God wasn't interested in or capable of remembering, or counting up the number of sins committed against him. So he comes up with this ridiculously impossible number. I mean, who will count that many sins, right?
But here's the thing. God is LOUSY at math. LOUSY at adding things up - adding up and tallying our sins. LOUSY at keeping a running tab on the ways we hurt others, the ways we hurt ourselves, the ways we hurt God. I'm better at keeping a tally sheet on all this stuff than God. I'm better at these kinds of mathematical calculations that God is!
And you know what? I'm glad. I'm glad that God stinks at math, because if God added up all my sins, if God added up all the harm I've done, I'd be burning in hell right now. But, because God stinks at math, God can't or won't add them all up. Math. Tallying up our score of sin, is not God's strong suit. If God had been tallying up...adding up the sins of humanity prior to Jesus, God certainly stopped counting when he walked to the cross.
Because at the cross of Christ, all the sins of all humanity of all time, past, present, and future, are wiped away. Forgotten. The ledger sheet, torn up. Remembered no more. God, forgot how to count them. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 103 that:
"For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us."
Yes, God is lousy at math. And thanks be to God that He is! I'll say more about this in my message on Sunday. Hope to see some of you there.