Summary: Sermon is second in a four-part series, it focuses on the parable of the servant who was forgiven by his king, but was quick to judge another. The sermon is an invitation to silence the unforgiving voices.
Series: Leaning into the peace of God.
Sermon: Silencing the Unforgiving Voices
Proper 19, Year A
Series: Last week I started a series on leaning into the peace of God. The first sermon was how peace of mind comes when we work through conflicts. This week I’m continuing the theme of leaning into God’s peace be facing another form of conflict… conflict with the self.
Intro: “Dentists Are Seeing an Epidemic of Cracked Teeth,” said a headline in the New York Times last Tuesday.
The author, Tammy Chen, is a dentist in New York City. She says that the pandemic has the dental business booming; “I’ve seen more tooth fractures in the last six weeks than I had in the six months before covid.”
What’s causing this apparent “epidemic of cracked teeth”? She says it’s stress and anxiety. We are grinding our teeth at night because of covid-induced nightmares, covid-phobia, and our infatuation with the 24 hours news cycle.
It all made sense. She even told us how to defend ourselves from the “cracked teeth epidemic.” She recommends a breathing exercise before bed. That sounds straightforward enough. But what she said next… that’s when I hit the pause button.
Apparently, after we do our breathing exercise, we are to “wiggle and flop around on the floor like a fish” to release some tension.
I think most of you are like me, you’re fairly open-minded people. Nevertheless, there is a point of no return. Allow me to confess my edited first thought, “My dear, you are either young or do not have a fused spine because a cracked tooth is better than a fractured back.”
But my second thought was, “There’s something missing from this article because simply relaxing the body and not softening the soul will not keep us from grinding our teeth in our sleep.”
With that in mind, let’s dive into this passage and see where we can find God’s peace.
When I look at the reading, I immediately see some problems, and they are not trivial problems either. But before we dive into them, it’s important for me to admit that I’m taking this text in a very new direction.
Most sermons today will focus on a direct reading of the passage. Preachers will tell parishioners not to be like the unforgiving servant in the story. They will say that Jesus warns against holding grudges since God has forgiven us of so much.
They will show us how the King forgave a servant’s debt that amounts to 20 million dollars in today’s standards, but that servant would not forgive a man who owed him the equivalent of $20. The sermon will end with an admonition; to forgive lest we end up in a spiritual prison, like the unmerciful servant.
That’s a good sermon, and it’s a sermon we need to hear. We need to see the world through the eyes of God’s mercy.
But that’s not the sermon I’m preaching today because, much like the article from the Times, I think it misses something. It’s difficult to treat the behavior when we don’t look at the soul—the place where the behavior is born and resides.
Let’s try something different with this passage this morning; let’s turn it inward. Let’s realize that each character—the King and the unforgiving servant—are parts of the self.
Carl Jung said, “The one who looks outside dreams, the one who looks inside awakens.”
See, when we hear the parable in the traditional sense, we remain on the surface. Most of the time we’re not as judgmental as the servant who demanded $20 after his king forgave a 20 million debt.
Here’s an important point: Normally, we’re not like that to others, but we are like that to ourselves. According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has about 40,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% of those negative thoughts are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.
We say things to ourselves that Jesus would never utter to a human being. Have you ever heard, or even said, “I’ll never forgive myself for what I did _____ .”? That is the voice of the unforgiving servant, and it will steal our peace.
We all know that voice, “God has forgiven you, others have forgiven you, but I will not let you forgive yourself. You’re in a jail of anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame over that $20 bill you stole. If people find out who you really are no one will ever love you.”
He uses shame to silence us. He wants us to keep our stories—even the ugly ones—locked up where they can’t help others. He’s always easy to recognize because he has no mercy.
What I want to know today is can Jesus speak to that unforgiving person inside who tells us we’re not as gifted, smart, privileged, or educated as others, so we shouldn’t even try to make a difference in the world.