John Wertz, Blacksburg, VA

Warm-up Question

We all make mistakes.  Share one excellent mistake you have made and what you learned from the experience.

A Mother’s Forgiveness

In December 2012, Josh Brent, an offensive linemen with the Dallas Cowboys, got into his car after a night of drinking and was involved in a one car accident.  His passenger, Jerry Brown, Jr., a teammate and Josh’s best friend, was killed in the crash.  At the time of the accident, Josh’s blood alcohol level was .018 – twice the legal limit.  He was eventually convicted of intoxicated manslaughter and served 180 days in jail and was sentenced to 10 years of probation.  In June 2014, Josh was released from jail and in early September, he was conditionally reinstated by the National Football League and given a 10 game suspension.  If all goes as planned, Josh will return to the football field a mere two years after his deadly accident.

While some people were outraged that Josh didn’t serve more time in jail and other people were surprised that the NFL would allow him to return to the field at all, Stacey Jackson, the mother of Jerry Brown, Jr., announced that she was “very happy Josh has been reinstated with the Dallas Cowboys!”  Shortly after the accident, Jackson publicly stated that she had forgiven Josh and that she hoped others, including the Dallas Cowboys would do the same.  At Josh’s sentencing, she asked the court for leniency saying, Josh is “still responsible, but you can’t go on in life holding a grudge.  We all make mistakes.”  When the news of his reinstatement was made public, she affirmed her forgiveness and her hope that Josh would be given the opportunity to rebuild his life. “My beautiful son”, she said, “is in Heaven now, and Josh has to be given a chance to live his life and do something for someone else! We all make mistakes, and we all have an entrance date and an exit day. Although I miss Jerry every day, I know he would be very happy that Josh has another chance to play football!”

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think the NFL should have reinstated Josh Brent?
  • How do you think you would have reacted if you had been Stacey Jackson?
  • According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, over 300,000 people drive drunk each day. To combat this problem, some people are proposing blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testers be added to all automobiles.  How would you feel about having to pass a BAC test each time you needed to start your car?  What arguments could you make for and against this requirement?

Lectionary 24

Genesis 50:15-21

Romans 14:1-12

Matthew 18:21-35

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

shutterstock_205370161editWhen Peter asks, “Lord, . . . how often should I forgive.  As many as seven times?” (Mt 18:21)  It appears that Peter is hoping Jesus will give him a clear, definitive answer.  It appears that he is hoping Jesus will say something like “You must forgive offenses one to six, but once you reach offense number seven, then withholding forgiveness is perfectly acceptable.”  Instead of providing a simplistic black and white answer, Jesus responds “seventy-seven times” and offers Peter a parable that demonstrates God’s generous forgiveness, the difficulty we have in extending forgiveness to others and the call we have to model God’s forgiveness in our relationships with others.

As the parable begins, we see a king ready to settle his accounts.  We see a slave facing a debt that is impossibly large and we see a king ready to take the steps necessary to secure repayment.  The order is given for the slave, his family and all his possessions be sold, but then something remarkable happens.  The slave asks for patience and mercy and out of pity, the king forgives the debt.  While the king doesn’t specifically say to the slave, ‘Go and do likewise’, it is clear that the king expects his generous forgiveness to be reflected in the life of his servant.  Shortly after receiving this generous act of forgiveness, however, the slave finds himself on the other side of the equation.  A debt is owed to him, mercy is requested, but unlike the king, this slave refuses to extend forgiveness.  When the king finds out, he is furious.  How could one receive mercy and forgiveness and not share mercy and forgiveness with others?

We too have received a generous gift of forgiveness from our King.  In the waters of baptism, we are washed in the generous promise that thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection our debt of sin is paid.  Like the slave, the question for us is “How will we respond to this generous gift?”  Will we receive God’s gift of forgiveness, yet refuse to share it or will we receive God’s gift of forgiveness and build on that gift to extend God’s forgiveness generously and freely to those around us?

Discussion Questions

  • What would the world be like if there was a law that said you only had to forgive the same person seven times in a lifetime?
  • Think of the last time someone forgave you.  How did it make you feel to be forgiven?  What difference did that forgiveness make in your life?
  • What are ways that you can draw on the strength of God’s forgiveness to help you forgive others?

Activity Suggestions

  • Using the Confession and Forgiveness in the ELW (pg. 98) as a model, work as a group to write a prayer of confession that relates specifically to your life.  Ask if your prayer can be used in Sunday worship or just use it in a service with your group.
  • Try adding the phrase “I forgive you” to your life.  When someone says, “I’m sorry.”  Reply “I forgive you” instead of saying “Ok” or “Thanks”.  Pay attention and see how it feels to actually say “I forgive you” to another person

Closing Prayer

Merciful God, in the waters of baptism, you connect us to the promise of forgiveness and new life.  Help us receive your forgiveness in our lives and to know the good news that your ability to forgive is greater than our ability to sin.  Inspire us to offer mercy and forgiveness to the people in our lives.  Amen.