Sermon + Crazy Numbers for Dumpster Divers

Here are different versions of Pastor Brian Campbell’s sermon on September 13 for the Covenant Lutheran Oklahoma City Churches.

Pastor Brian preached on Matthew 18:21-35 and our need to be continually forgiving others of their sins, and to avoid being dumpster divers.

The video version is from the Church At Home service.

Sermon Video from the September 13 Church at Home service.

Below are audio versions of the sermon from the Redeemer service and the St. Mark service.

Sermon Audio from Redeemer for September 13.
Sermon Audio from St. Mark for September 13.

Here is his written outline.

May God guide us as we step out in faith, doing God’s work with our hands and hearts. AMEN.

  • Something that we need to remember about Matthew’s Gospel that will help us better understand today’s lesson is that Matthew describes sins using financial language.
    • When Matthew teaches the Lord’s Prayer, we are to forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. [A]
      • Matthew also connects our forgiveness to the forgiveness we have shown to others, as we also have forgiven.
  • Today’s Gospel lesson, along with last Sunday’s lesson, combine to show us Matthew’s understanding of the value of forgiveness.
    • I want to start with the parable because Jesus tells it to make a different point than what we heard last week.
    • First, you need to understand how ridiculous the amount of debt the slave ran up is.
      • A talent was originally a person’s weight in precious metals. A talent is what would be what you were worth your weight in silver or gold.
      • Practically, a talent is what a worker would accumulate in 15 years of labor.
        • The slave ran up a debt equal to 150,000 years of work.
        • As a comparison, the tax bill that Israel, Judea and Samaria owed to the Roman Empire was 600 talents.
        • A modern estimation is that would be $14 Billion.
      • Selling the servant and his family would do nothing to pay the debt. It is an act of spite, an act to warn the next person who may work for the king.
        • Forgiving the debt and releasing the family is an act of grace.
        • The king literally gives the slave back his life and the life of his family.
    • 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.’ [B]
      • For reference, a denarii is what the average worker was paid for a day’s labor.
        • He was forgiven a debt of 15,000 years labor, and he demands payment of 100 days labor.
  • Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives what we call the Golden Rule,
    Do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law. [C]
    • But this slave ignores this. Having been forgiven of a life-taking debt, he takes the life from another, because he can.
    • He offers no grace, no mercy and no forgiveness.
    • Why would someone who has just been forgiven for everything, not be willing to forgive a small amount?
      • Why don’t we?
      • We have been promised that all of our sins are forgiven by God.
        • Why don’t we forgive others for the one or two things they have done to us?
  • Going back to the start of the lesson, having heard how important it is to go to let someone know that you have forgiven them when they have wronged you, and to be sure to keep them in your community, Peter asks how often do I need to forgive someone.
    • Given that Jesus had just laid out three different ways to forgive, Peter suggests seven as a threshold.
    • Our translation has Jesus saying seventy-seven times[D]; other translations say seven times seventy times, or 490 times.
      • Realistically, Jesus could have asked “Why are you looking for a limit?”
      • If you are trying to maintain a relationship, if you are trying to keep someone with you as opposed to pushing them away, why would you put limits on how you would reach out to someone?
      • The number of times to forgive doesn’t matter like the debt the slave accumulated, Jesus might as well have said “A lot,” or “a gazillion.”
    • The question I have for all of us is why do we have to forgive more than once?
      • To forgive means “to let go.”
        • So if we forgive, we let the sin against us, the wrong done to us go. We drop it.
      • Why do we have to forgive again?
        • Because we go back and pick that sin or that wrong up.
        • We are hoarders for what has been done to us.
          • We let it go, dropping it in the garbage and waste of our lives.
          • Then we go through garbage to pick it back up and carry it around with us.
    • We need to continually forgive because we continually need to be forgiven.
      • We need to continually be forgiven because we continually sin.
      • We need to continually forgive because we need to keep people in our community and not drive them away.
      • We need to continually be forgiven to remind us we are welcome in our community.
      • That’s one reason why I all of the worship services I preside over will have the order of confession and forgiveness early in the service.
        • Even though God has forgiven our sins once, but for all time from the cross, I need to hear that forgiveness, and I think we all need to hear that.
          • Because we need to hear after all of what life has thrown at us in the past week, and all that we have tried to throw back, and all of the things we have let go of and picked back up, we need to know that
            • As a called & ordained minister of the church of Christ, & by his authority,
              I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all ALL ALL your sin,
              granted in the name of the Father, & of the
              Son, & of the Holy Spirit.
  • I want to close with a prayer from one of the references I found about this lesson.
    • Lord, you forgive and forget, forgive and forget, forgive and forget, and keep on forgiving and forgetting.
    • No matter what we do, no matter when we do it, you just want us back, back in relationship with you.
    • How often have we struggled to forgive, let alone forget? How many times are we willing to let go and move on?
      • It hurts when someone says or does something that is not loving towards us.
      • It feels sore and painful, and sometimes, we have difficulty moving on.
    • Please forgive us once more!
      • Help us to forgive and forget just as you do, not that the pain is any less at the time, but knowing that it will lessen when we let go.[E]


[A]    Matthew 6:12.

[B]     Matthew 18:18.

[C]    Matthew 7:12.

[D]    Matthew 18.22.

[E]     Spill The Beans, volume 36.

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