This week's author is the Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference Minister for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35 (NRSV)Then Peter came and said to him, 'Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
'For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 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. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 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." Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you." But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. 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. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, "You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?" And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.'
Reflection:Seventy-seven times. Do the math Peter. That's a whole bunch of forgiveness. Into the mix of the heartache and pain that the observance of September 11th produces in U.S. culture this message of forgiveness seems like an odd juxtaposition of the texts assigned for this week.
If you read on in the text you can see how this passage serves as a teachable moment for Jesus to introduce the parable of the "Unmerciful Servant" to highlight God's forgiveness of all of us and the tendency for all of us to judge others so quickly and so unmercifully. At the end of the parable we are reminded of the call to forgive others from our hearts since God has forgiven us all.
When we think of the horrible events of September 11th how does this passage fit our worldview? Is there more work to be done? I had the opportunity to visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. I can't say that I'm glad I went. I can say that it was important to go and it was extremely painful to have that day brought into focus for several hours of the visit. The Memorial has a mission statement that includes this phrase: "May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to protect freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.' (Italics added)
When someone causes us pain it is an instinct for most of us to want to hurt them back. This instinct fosters broken personal relationships and it drives the warring madness of the world. The source of hate is often derived from inflicted pain by others. If someone hurts me I will hurt them back. You know the old "eye for an eye" way to live.
Jesus wants us to practice "77" living. It runs counter to everything within our culture. It can be misinterpreted as letting others run all over us. We are not called to be doormats, but we are called to offer up a generous spirit when confronted and challenged, and it is for our own good.
"People have to forgive. We don't have to like them, we don't have to be friends with them, we don't have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don't we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!"
C. JoyBell C
Prayer:Dear God: Help us practice 77 living. Amen.
Special Prayer Requests:
- Those grieving or suffering in the Caribbean and Florida after the effects of Hurricane Irma, which caused massive destruction of property last week (September);
- the people of Mexico, where an 8.2 magnitude earthquake killed over 90 and leveled many parts of Mexico on Sept. 7;
- the thousands of child immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as their future becomes unclear after the President's announcement that the program will end in the near future; and
- the family and friends of Rev. Fred Atwood-Lyon, retired USS pastor, who died on Aug. 27.
- Those grieving or suffering in Mumbai, India after a building collapsed, killing more than 30 and injuring many others on September 1;
- the people of South Asia where flooding has lead to more than 1200 deaths in recent weeks (August);
- those in Texas and surrounding areas affected by Hurricane Harvey which made landfall on August 26;
- those grieving or suffering after a vehicle attack in Barcelona on August 17;
- the family and friends of John Polglase, the spouse of Columbia pastor Rev. Betsey Polglase. John died on August 21;
- a prayer of joy following the celebration on August 26 at Silver Lake Conference Center honoring 60 years of outdoor ministry;
- those grieving or suffering after a train derailed in northern India, killing 23, on August 19;
- those missing or injured after a U.S. Naval Vessel collided with an oil tanker on August 21;
- the family and friends of Michele Reed Van Epps, wife of Rev. John Van Epps, Archivist for the CT Conference and pastor of Ivoryton Congregational Church. Michele died on August 19;
- those grieving or suffering after violence caused one death and numerous injuries in Charlottesville, VA, when white supremacists and anti-hate groups clashed on August 12;
- those grieving for the two Virginia state policemen killed in a helicopter crash on Aug. 12;
- those grieving in Sierra Leone after mudslides killed more than 500 people on Aug. 14;
- those grieving for 3 soldiers after a U.S. military place crashed off the shores of Australia on Aug. 5;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
- the people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Wapping Community Church UCC
Mark B. Abernethy - SP
South Britain Congregational Church
Jerry A. Smith - P
Ann Ferraro - MM
United Church of Christ, Southbury
Walter L. Pitman - SP
Cynthia C. Holden - AP
First Congregational Church of Southington
Ronald Barting Brown – SP
Rachel Johanna Bahr - AP
Southport Congregational UCC
Paul D. Whitmore – SP
Laura Hutchison Whitmore - AP
Rev. Kent Siladi is Bridge Conference Minister. The Rev. Kent Siladi began his ministry as Conference Minister for the historic Connecticut Conference in June of 2013. The Rev. Kent Siladi is a Connecticut native, growing up in Stamford, and a ...