Summary: A sermon for the 10th anniversary of 9-11.

Ezekiel 1:1-3

Matthew 18:21-35

“The Way of Life”By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN

The Book of Ezekiel begins with:

“In the fourth month

On the fifth day

Of the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin.”

How do you tell time?

Notice that the prophet didn’t use the names for the month.

Nor did he recount time from the year of the Exodus forward like many of his ancestors did.

Something had happened in the life of Ezekiel that forced him to start using a new numbering system tied to an event that had stopped time and started it all over for him.

“In the fourth month

On the fifth day

Of the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin.”

Have you ever had to endure an event which was so distressing that it reset your clock?

Something like…

“The year the basement flooded?”

Or, “the year that tornados devastated so many?”

Have you ever been forced to go through a situation so intense that it stuck in your memory as a date in time that changed everything?

“In the fourth month

On the fifth day

Of the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin.”

What kind of event has the capacity to restart a person’s historical clock?

Perhaps your memories include the start of the 2nd World War or the year the Stock Market crashed.

Maybe, for you, your clock hovers around the day when hijacked airplanes took down the World Trade Center buildings in New York and slammed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Anyone who is 15 or 16 years old or older remembers where they were when they first heard the news on that tragic day.

We remember our fear and, perhaps, our anger, our confusion, and sense of threat.

We remember our tears and our hearts being broken as we watched those Towers, filled with human beings, crash to the ground!

Since then, everything in our immediate world has been shaken.

We have been chasing enemies all over the earth.

Thousands of men, women and children have died in wars.

Our trust of persons who do not look like us, nor worship like us has been severely hampered.

Every time we try and board an airplane, we are forced to remember the reason why we must take off our shoes, go through the metal detectors, the pat-downs and the rest.

“In the fourth month

On the fifth day

Of the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin.”

Or for us:

“In the ninth month

On the eleventh day

Of the year 2001.”

In the years after the World Trade Center Towers came crumbling down--the stock markets began to fail, the housing market crashed, and many of us became unemployed.

So, on the Tenth Anniversary of 9-11, what are we, as Christians to think or do?

Today’s Gospel Lesson from Matthew 18 propels us to wrestle with one of the most difficult practices of Christian discipleship—forgiveness!!!

Forgiveness is a hard road to walk, but it is the way to life and life abundant.

Forgiveness is the Way of Jesus, the Way of the Cross.

And while revenge may seem to be much easier and more desirable, it in fact is what leads to bondage and death!

Did you know that the Greek word for “forgive” means to “let loose”?

It’s like a really tough knot that suddenly gives way and becomes completely untied.

It’s like a dark bondage from which there is sudden release.

That’s what it’s like to be forgiven.

And that is what it is like to forgive as well!

Have you ever done something that you knew was wrong…

…something that you knew hurt someone else, perhaps someone you loved?

What did it feel like when they forgave you?

Did you get just a taste of the love that God has for us?

Did you see just a little bit of Jesus in that experience?

After Jesus teaches His disciples about how to deal with those who hurt us, Peter asks how many times he must forgive someone.

“Up to seven times?” he asks Jesus.

And Peter, having thought he was being very generous with this number must have been quite shocked when Jesus came back with the answer: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Which, in other words, means beyond all calculation!!!

Whoever is keeping count has not forgiven at all, but is instead just postponing revenge!!!

It’s like what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:5: “Love…keeps no record of wrongs.”

In order to make His point even more clear, Jesus tells a story.

In the parable a servant experiences an incredibly undeserved amount of mercy and compassion from a king to whom he owes a huge debt.

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