Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Luxuriate In God’s Grace (Matthew 18:21-35)

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

April 19, 2015

Series: Embrace God’s Grace

“Luxuriate In God’s Grace”

(Matthew 18:21-35)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

     Have you seen the latest Sprint Commercial? I don’t know why but I love that commercial. I think maybe it’s because of that phrase “some people are stupid rich.” I’ve never been “Stupid Rich” but I’d be glad to be part of an experiment to see just how much money it would take to make me Stupid Rich.

     We always associate being Rich with Luxury, don’t we? So, what do you think of when you hear the word Luxury or Luxurious? Diamond encrusted gold faucet handles in your bathroom? Endless amounts of caviar and champagne? 1800 Thread Count Egyptian Sheets? A chauffeur driven luxury? A Yacht as big as a small island? Or maybe it’s Pearl Baily’s “Solid gold Cadillac?”

     I just showed my age, didn’t I?

     There’s a big difference between Luxury and being Stupid Rich. Stupid Rich is being completely and totally self-absorbed and oblivious to the needs of others. The Dictionary defines Luxury as “the state of great comfort and extravagant living.”

     I consider God’s Grace to be the greatest Luxury of all because it brings Great Comfort to our hearts and souls. And because it is the Most Extravagant Gift ever given. It costs us nothing; but it cost God everything. And all we’re really called to do is Luxuriate In God’s Grace.

PRAYER

     Our passage today from the Gospel of Matthew is the parable of the ungrateful servant. It’s a story about our debt of sin. It’s a story about forgiveness through God’s Extravagantly Free and Redeeming grace. But it’s also about anger and the judgment that follows an unforgiving spirit. Let’s look at the passage.

Matthew 18:21-35 NRSV

[21] 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?”

[22] Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

[23] “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.

[24] When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him;

[25] 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.

[26] So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’

[27] And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

[28] 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.’

[29] Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’

[30] But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.

[31] 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.

[32] Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.

[33] Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’

[34] And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.

[35] So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” [NRSV]

     Here’s the thing, Jesus had just been teaching about forgiveness and how we are all called to forgive because we’ve been forgiven. Peter must have been thinking about what Jesus taught and weighing it against the Scriptural teaching of an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth. And when Peter asked if forgiving seven times was enough, he wasn’t being flippant or even impertinent. I believe Peter thought he was being magnanimous. But Jesus says, not even 7 times is enough. We have to forgive 77 times or 70 times 7 as one of the other Gospels puts it. (Both of which were colloquial phrases meaning an infinite number of times.) Then Jesus tells this parable about the master and slave.

     The central theme I see in this passage is about Grace and Gratitude. Gratitude was something the servant had in short supply. This guy was Rich in God’s Grace and should have luxuriated in it. But instead it made hime Stupid Rich. He squandered it.  He didn’t share it. And it got taken away.

     When it comes to God’s Grace and Forgiveness, you and I are called to Luxuriate in God’s Grace. And the way we Luxuriate in God’s Grace is to TAKE IT IN, SOAK IT UP, LIVE IT OUT AND PASS IT ON.

I. TAKE IT IN - THE GIFT:

     A. WE’RE CALLED TO TAKE IT IN. We’re called to take in this Gift of God’s Grace.

     Have you ever received a gift you didn’t open? I can’t think of a single present or gift that I didn’t almost immediately open. And yet, the Gift of God’s Grace is offered day after day; It’s offered minute by minute of every day and it’s turned down. Sometimes the gift is taken but it’s never unwrapped or opened. it just sits on the shelf.

     Sometimes the gift is taken but it’s never opened. The person who takes it carries it with them everywhere they go. They’re proud of the gift and they show it to everyone they meet. Isn’t this a beautiful gift? Look how beautiful the wrapping paper is. Look at the intricacy of the bow. But they never open the gift and discover what’s inside.

     B. There’s an old story about a young man from a wealthy family who was about to graduate from high school. The custom of this affluent neighborhood was for the graduating senior to receive a new car. And the boy fully expected that the tradition would hold true for him as well.

     He spent months talking about cars and looking at them with his father. A week before graduation, father and son found what seemed to be the perfect car. The young man was absolutely certain the car would be in his driveway or at least he’d receive a set of keys on graduation day.

     Yet, when he opened his father’s graduation present, it was a Bible. The young man was so mad that he threw down the Bible and stormed out of the house. He never reconciled with his father and remained estranged until his father died.

     As the son went through his father’s belongings, he came across the Bible his father had given him years ago. He brushed off the dust and opened it. And to his surprise and horror he found a cashier’s check between the pages of Scripture. It was dated the day of his graduation for the exact amount of the car that he and his dad had chosen together.

     The problem with the young man and servant was the same. There was no gratitude in them.

     Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 (repeat) “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.” [NRSV]

     We’re called to receive the gift of God’s Grace. We’re called to TAKE IT IN and open it up and Luxuriate In It.

II. SOAK IT UP - THE GIVER:

     A. WE’RE CALLED TO SOAK IT UP, TOO. BECAUSE WHAT WE ARE REALLY SOAKING UP IS THE GIVER, NOT JUST THE GIFT.

     I’ve got to tell you that the image of how to SOAK IT UP that is stuck in my head, comes from spending time with my Grandkids. Even though they are getting older, Grandma and Grampa are still some of the greatest toys ever created. They love being with us. They don’t want us to leave.

     Usually at some point in our visits there comes that moment. After the excitement of our arrival dies down; after all the crawl and maul activities; there’s usually a time when we just sit together. Sometimes they crawl into my lap or snuggle up next to me on the couch. And then it happens. That moment of deep connection, that sense of love and joy and satisfaction of simply being together. And we both Luxuriate in the moment.

     In five minutes it might be compleley different. But for that moment, it’s perfect. And I soak up as much of it as I can because with our busy schedules it may be a while before I get to see them again. But for me that’s the image of what we’re supposed to do with the Grace and Forgiveness of God.

     WE’RE CALLED TO SOAK IT UP. BECAUSE WHAT WE ARE REALLY SOAKING UP IS THE GIVER, NOT JUST THE GIFT. WE’RE CALLED TO LUXURIATE IN GOD’S GRACE.

     Write this passage down. 1 John 4:15-16 (repeat) I’m reading from The Message.

     John writes:  “Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God. God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.” [Msg]

     That’s what I mean. WE’RE CALLED TO SOAK IT UP. BECAUSE WHAT WE ARE REALLY SOAKING UP IS THE GIVER, NOT JUST THE GIFT.

III. LIVE IT OUT - THE GRACE:

     WE’RE CALLED TO LIVE IT OUT. WE’RE CALLED TO LIVE A LIFE OF GRACE.

     Storyteller Bill Harley tells about a children’s T-ball game he witnessed a few years ago. On one of the T-ball teams was a young girl named Tracy. Tracy ran with a limp. She couldn’t hit the ball to save her life. But everyone cheered for her anyway.

     Finally, in her team’s last game, Tracy did the unthinkable. She hit the ball. Tracy’s coach began hollering for her to run the bases. She landed on first base, only to be told to keep on running. She rounded second base, and the fans stood to their feet and cheered. With one voice, they were all urging Tracy to head home. But as she neared third base, Tracy noticed an old dog that had loped onto the field. It was sitting near the baseline between third base and home plate. Moments away from her first home run, Tracy made a momentous decision. She knelt in the dirt and hugged the dog. Tracy never made it to home plate.

     But the fans cheered for her anyway. Tracy had made her priorities clear. Love was more important than winning. And the fans cheered for her anyway. (1)

     That is Grace. Those fans were living a life of Grace before the entire world.

     Write this passage down: James 2:17-18. Please take time to read this one in context. Again I’m reading from The Message. James writes: “Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.” Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.” [Msg]

     WE’RE CALLED TO LUXURIATE IN GOD’S GRACE BY LIVING IT OUT. WE’RE CALLED TO LIVE A LIFE THAT REFLECTS THE EXTRAVAGANT GRACE OF GOD.

IV. PASS IT ON - THE GRACE:

     A. WE’RE CALLED TO TAKE IT IN, SOAK IT UP, LIVE IT OUT AND FINALLY, WE’RE CALLED TO PASS IT ON. WE’RE CALLED TO PASS ON THE FORGIVENESS AND THE GRACE WHICH WE’VE RECEIVED.

     You see, what got the ungrateful servant in trouble was the fact that he didn’t pass on the gift. A talent was equivalent to about fifteen years worht of wages. The servant owed his master the equivalent of about 150,000 years of wages. When the master decided to settle accounts, the servant fell to his knees and begged for mercy. He said he would work it off. How do you work off that much?

     The king, showed mercy and obliterated the debt. Just wiped it out; erased it from the books. Based on an average salary of $40,000 That would have been a gift equivalent to six million dollars in today’s market.

     And then this stingy, unmerciful, ungrateful servant, goes and demands that another servant who owed him the equivalent of three months salary pay up right then. This servant begs for mercy, too. And what he owes is a pittance compared to what the first servant had just had erased from the books.

     But the first servant shows no mercy and has him thrown into prison. When word gets back to the King, well, he’s furious because the servant didn’t act with the same mercy and offer the same grace he’d received. And the consequences weren’t bery pretty at all.

     And while very uncomfortable for us, Jesus says: [vs 35] “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

     B. This parable is about Grace. It’s about forgiveness and grace. And one of the things we learn is that WE’RE CALLED TO PASS ON THAT FORGIVENESS.

     Forgiveness is always about grace. Grace is a gift. A gift so great that we can’t hold it in our hand. A gift so huge it can’t be contained. A gift so glorious that it can’t be kept to ourselves. It’s a gift that has to be passed on

     We are blessed when we are forgiven. And when we forgive because we have been forgiven then we are twice blessed. Blessing others through forgiveness is living out the resurrection. Blessing others through forgiveness is what makes us Easter people. Blessing others through forgiveness is PASSING IT ON.

     We need to remember is that God is not just a God of grace. God is also a God of judgment. God not only gives us His love and Forgiveness as a free gift; God expects us to share those gifts with others. God WILL hold us accountable for the way we respond to God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.

     WE’RE CALLED TO PASS ON THE FORGIVENESS AND THE GRACEOF GOD.

CONCLUSION:

     You and I are called to Luxuriate in God’s Grace, to embrace it and to make it our own. WATCH

     That’s what we’re called to remember. The Tomb is Empty. Christ IS Risen! And that changes EVERYTHING.

     In a sense that’s what Jesus was telling Peter. “Look if you have to keep count, Peter, then you aren’t really forgiving. Throw away your calculator. Your forgiveness is to be limitless. The name of the game from this point on is forgiveness and resurrection, not bookkeeping.”

     In the Kingdom of God, we’re not called to be Stupid Rich. But we are called to be EXTRAVAGANT.       

     WE’RE CALLED TO LUXURIATE IN THE GRACE OF GOD BY TAKING IT IN, SOAKING IT UP, LIVING IT OUT AND PASSING IT ON.

     JESUS HAS CANCELLED OUR DEBT! WE’RE CALLED TO LUXURIATE IN THE GRACE OF OUR FORGIVENESS.

     AND NO MATTER HOW HARD IT IS FOR US TO DO, WE’RE CALLED TO PASS IT ON!

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

Bibliography

1.   Shared by Bill Harley on National Public Radio’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, July 11, 1995. Cited by Michael Yaconelli, DANGEROUS WONDER (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998), pp. 58-60.

Other References Consulted

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