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A debt cancelled

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Sermon Harlton 14th September 2008

Matt 18:21-35

At the end of last month, we witnessed one of the most harrowing news stories of the summer. You'll remember the TV pictures. Deep in the idyllic Shropshire countryside, a blaze was demolishing a dream family home. Horses and dogs were found dead in the stables, and then, one by one human bodies were brought out of the house. Christopher and Jillian Foster, and their 15 year old daughter Kirstie were all dead.

Friends knew Christopher as a wealthy entrepeneur, who loved his family and enjoyed life. But bit by bit a different picture began to emerge. The family mansion was due to be reposessed, baliffs were being sent to seize property. Mr Foster's business was in trouble, his debts had run away with him, and the lifestyle he enjoyed was crumbling. It's difficult to imagine how that must have felt for him – his family and friends knowing that the life he was living had all been a facade. The events of that night are still unclear. But it seems that his feelings of utter ruin drove him to do the unthinkable – to shoot his own wife and daughter rather than tell them the truth. And then destroy everything, including himself.

That may seem a bleak place to begin a sermon – but gospel reading also describes a man facing utter ruin.

Debt – brought before the king 10,000 talents – facing the prospect of being sold into slavery. Him, wife, children.

But how much exactly was 10,000 talents?

A lot more than Christopher Foster owed. A huge amount, more than the tax bill of the whole of Jewish nation. Not millions but billions of pounds.

Important question: Not how much exactly?

How (exactly) could you ever run up such a debt?

How could you ever repay such a debt?

No Good/ Not enough

Hotels on (Jerusalem) Mayfair / Park Lane. Best friends at school with Richard Branson

No one had enough to redeem him.

Except one person – the King. Only the king.

Knees “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” - pathetically optimistic.

Mercy. Writes off the whole debt. Everything.

Here we come up against the Gospel truth. Only God can save us.

We all have run up a huge debt. By walking our own way, rather than God's way.

And only God can save us from our own self-ruin, from our own hell.

The Good News of the Gospel is that God not only can save us, but chooses to save us. Jesus.

Trusting Jesus doesn't make our life just a little bit better – Christmas bonus.

Transforms our life and our future by paying a debt that we could never pay.

Anglican order of service – always have a confession and absolution. We (includes me) come as poor sinners in need of forgiveness. Leave assured of God's forgiveness in words of absolution.

In this week's news we saw American Govt take decisive action – bailing out mortgage companies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. In was the only step to save the ailing property market. Only the government could do it.

The man in Jesus' parable was in debt could only be helped by the King.

We are lost and can only be helped by God.

Part 2

Story doesn't end...

Man who has been saved by the king, goes out into the street. Meets a fellow servant who owes him 100 denarii. Forgetting immediately mercy – seizes his debtor by the throat “pay me the money”.

How much was 100 denarii?

Much smaller unit of currency than talent. Day's wage.

Thousands of pounds.

Not insignificant. Not just tenner lent down the pub. Right to expect it to be paid back.

BUT 100 denarii pales into insignificance placed alongside debt he had been forgiven by king.

500,000 times smaller!

Scandalous about servant's behaviour – not just that he seizes throat --> prison. But he does so after being forgiven hundreds of thousands of times more himself.

So what message did Jesus want his hearers to take away...

  1. You have been forgiven much
  2. As you have been forgiven, so you should forgive.

Don't know much about your church in Harlton. Warm welcome. Know from churches I've been involved with, unforgiveness can thrive.

Members of the same church avoid each other, rather than adressing an issue that has caused hurt.

Sometimes big things, sometimes trivial things.

But however big they are they pale into insignificance compared to how much we all have been forgiven by God.

And so we who have been forgiven much should place no limit on forgiveness.

v21-22 “Lord if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as 7 times?” Jesus said to him “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy seven times.”

Each week we pray together the Lord's prayer

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Let's pray that God will help us be faithful to our word.

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