Trinity 22, 2012
Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
October 21, 2012
Central Passage
Matthew 18:23-35

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.


This parable about the merciful king and wicked servant is not one of salvation. It’s not a sowing the seed parable or a pearl of great price parable. It’s a wheat and tares parable; a sheep and goat parable; a good vs. bad fish parable. It’s a parable about the tares, the goats and the bad fish. It’s a parable about those who say, “Lord, Lord,” but do not keep His word.
But it’s not a parable about salvation. You aren’t saved from death and hell because you forgive from the heart. You forgive from the heart because you are saved from death and hell. You forgive from the heart not in order to get a new heart, but since you have been given a new heart, you forgive from it. By saying, “Unless you forgive from your heart,” is not our Lord saying once you learn to do this you will also be forgiven. That’s absurd. How can we learn to forgive from a heart that is trapped in sin and unbelief, from which comes all manner of evil and covetous desires? Our heart must be made new. It must be reformed and reshaped. It must be recreated before it can do the things of the new creation. So we pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”
This parable is about from whom you come and to whom you are going.
Consider the wicked servant. He came from the darkness of debt, summoned by the king to come into presence of the king. Summoned so that his account would be settled by the king who want to settle his account. And when the king told the servant what his debt would cost him, he pleaded with the king, “Be patient and I will repay it!” But he could not. It was 10-thousand talents. A talent is the equivalent to 20 years worth of pay. The servant owed 20-thousand years worth of pay. No one can pay such a debt. At best the servant thought to distract the king with the promise to repay him, and then to make off out of the kingdom. But the king doesn’t want to loose his servant. So the king has mercy on him. He forgives him his great debt. It’s gone. The servant is free. That which would have cost him everything now costs him nothing.
You, too, have been summoned by the King. Here you are in His courtroom. Here you are in His light, gathered in His presence that He might shine His light of truth and mercy upon you, to have you pity on you and forgive your great debt. He doesn’t want to sell you into slavery, or to take from you your wife and children or anything that is yours. He wants to set you free. He has summoned you here to forgive you from His heart that hung upon the cross and canceled the record of debt that would have cost you everything.
Our sin costs us everything. Just as it would have cost the servant his wife and children and all he had, even his freedom, so it is with our sin. If others knew your sins they would cost you your wife and children, your job and your money. They would cost you even your freedom. But the devil lies to you and tells you that your sin doesn’t cost you anything, that your sin is only an imaginary line between what you call good and evil; an imaginary line that separates decency from indecency. The deceiver would deceive you as he has deceived the nations by making sin only a line of morality set by the comfort level of men and women. So that if you can change our comfort level then you can change what is sinful. We become comfortable with a certain amount of gossip, so we stop calling it sin. We become comfortable with a certain amount of divorce for certain reasons like the pursuit of happiness and fairy-tale love, so divorce is no longer called sin. We become comfortable with the pornography of primetime TV and PG-13 movies and the songs on our radio, so that living together before marriage, sex outside of marriage, and homosexuality cease to be sin and become morally acceptable even if it’s not our preference. We become comfortable with sex for pleasure so that birth control is touted as good stewardship and being responsible. And the God-given mandate to procreate is set aside for the man-driven idea of family planning and freedom from responsibility in sex. What was once divine has become moralized. It is easily to grow accustom to the devil’s morals and forget the word of God. And you can be sure that wherever God makes His will known, there the devil builds a morality of men to do away with the will of God. And the devil dances the jig on the graves of God’s commandments. The devil doesn’t have to convince you to disobey God; that would be hard. He has the much easier task of convincing you that you almost always obey God. And when you don’t, well that’s just other people forcing their morals on you.
The devil does his best to make the Christian faith a faith about moral behavior. Because then he can make us feel good that we have been good and think that we are helping others by judging them in our hearts, trying to get them to be as good as we are. If the devil can get the preachers to preach morality, making morals the measure of righteousness, then he can all the more easily fool us into thinking that we have kept the will of God. And if only other people would act and behave and sound like us, then they’d be okay, too. And we end up judging and not forgiving even while we think we are being good and helping others. But if we fall into the trap of preaching morals as righteousness, if we preach behavior as the measure of pleasing God, then we would be like the proud emperor who struts proudly around in his new wardrobe only to have the child born in Bethlehem point out that we don’t actually have any clothes on. True goodness, true godliness is only found in the blood of Jesus. And true help is not moral encouragement but is the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake.
When we listen to the morals of men rather than the commands of God we become as the wicked servant who didn’t ask for forgiveness but simply asked for more time to make good his impossible debt. And we find ourselves preaching purgatory: imaginary time we have to make up for sins of our past. How silly we are.
Ironically, if we would listen to the fairy-tales of children we would be better off. Because Jack and Jill thought to ascend the hill to take what belonged to God, and Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. And Hansel and Gretel lost their way and found a house of goodness and delight. And the witch therein ate their flesh and bones. Our sin costs us everything.
But the king is not interested in your currency called good works or decent behavior. Because no matter how good or decent you are, it is not enough. So the King has pity on you and forgives you everything. The King sets you free. Not so that you leave and don’t come back, thinking the King will demand payment. The King sets you free so that you are free indeed. Free from the bondage to sin and shame. Free from guilt. Free to live in kingdom of heaven.
You are free. And in this freedom you go forth. From the King you go, not to hide, but to live. For the King has set you free that you might have life and give that life to others who would drink from the springs of living water that flow from the new heart created by your King.
In the light of the mercy and forgiveness of the great King you go and forgive sinners as you have been forgiven, from your heart. For your heart is here made new, created anew by the heart of all men, Christ Jesus. He is your heart and from your heart you forgive others every grievance and sin they have against you. Every lie told about you, every penny stolen from you, every defamation of your character, every pain others have caused you, whatever they have done to you and against you. You cancel their debt for the sake of the King and for their freedom from sin. You forgive from your heart who is Christ, and the light of Christ shines through you onto the face of all men. Then you will teach transgressors the ways of the King and they will return with you to Him, rejoicing in the mercy of the great God who is Lord of lords and King of kings.
For what is required of you, O man, but to love the Lord, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +