Pentecost 15, Year A

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Pentecost 20, Year A October 18, 2020 Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96
Pentecost 19, Year A October 11, 2020 Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A Philippians 4:1-9
Pentecost 18, Year A October 4, 2020 Pentecost 18, Year A Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46
Pentecost 17, Year A – Elizabeth Heimbach September 27, 2020 Pentecost 17, Proper 21 Year A Matthew 21:23-32
Pentecost 16, Year A September 20, 2020 Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation Matthew 20:1-16
Pentecost 15, Year A September 13, 2020 Pentecost 15, Proper 19 Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35
Pentecost 14, Year A September 6, 2020 Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20
Pentecost 13, Year A August 30, 2020 Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28
Pentecost 12, Year A August 23, 2020 Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20
Pentecost 11, Year A August 16, 2020 Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28
Pentecost 10, Year A August 9, 2020 Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A I Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33
Pentecost 9, Year A August 2, 2020 Pentecost 9, Proper 13, Year A Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22; Matthew 14:13-21
Pentecost 8, Year A July 26, 2020 Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, 2020 Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Pentecost 7, Year A July 19, 2020 Pentecost 7, Proper 11, Year A Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30,36-43
Pentecost 6, Year A – Evening July 12, 2020 Pentecost 6, Proper 10, Year A Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23


Pentecost 15, Year A

Sermon Date:September 13, 2020

Scripture: Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35

Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 15, Proper 19

“The Unforgiving Servant” – 1973. Jesus MAFA

God’s destiny for each of us is that we should live in God’s commonwealth of justice, peace and freedom, here on earth, as that commonwealth already is in heaven. 

But since we have free will, we can choose whether or not to accept God’s destiny for us. 

God’s commonwealth of justice, peace and freedom has already begun, but how easily we can miss it and become complicit in supporting injustice and hatred.  An old Latin proverb says that silence is the voice of complicity. 

Our destiny as those who live in God’s commonwealth of justice, peace and freedom on this earth requires us both to speak and to act in ways that make clear who we are and whose we are—Christians in a weary land that needs our voices and our actions on behalf of God’s commonwealth of love. 

In today’s Old Testament reading, Joseph, one of twelve brothers in the land of Canaan, had been betrayed by them and sold into slavery in Egypt, where he eventually rose to wealth and power.

Eventually, Joseph brings his whole family, including his father, and his brothers and their families from Canaan to Egypt so that they will not starve to death during a severe famine.  When their father dies, the brothers figure that Joseph will finally mete out to them the punishment they know that they deserve for having betrayed him years earlier.

So at last the brothers break the silence and bring up the betrayal that has never been spoken of between them and Joseph until this moment.  The brothers ask Joseph for forgiveness for what they did against him all those years ago. 

Here we get to an important part of living in God’s commonwealth of freedom.  The brothers remembered what they had done. 

Think about the word “remember.”  In his commentary on Genesis, Christopher Davis points out that to re-member something is to put it back together.  So the brothers re-member the past and instead of justifying what they did, they take responsibility for the past, and ask Joseph for forgiveness. 

Joseph also re-members the past.  He does not hold on to any grudge over what has happened, but he forgives his brothers.  Joseph says to his brothers that he is not in the place of God.  He will not be their judge. 

Joseph knows, as he re-members the past, that God took the harm that the brothers intended for Joseph and used it for good.  Joseph has freely forgiven the brothers, and they have nothing to fear. 

Their mutual future of justice, peace and freedom in one another’s company has now been spoken and guaranteed. 

And the past has been re-membered and redeemed.    

Peter, the disciple, knows that his destiny is to be the rock on which Jesus will build his church.  Peter will help to shape God’s commonwealth of justice, peace and freedom on earth.

When Peter asks Jesus how many times he has to forgive someone who has sinned against him, Jesus tells Peter that he has to forgive not seven, but seventy-seven times. 

The number seven suggests completeness.  True forgiveness is complete, heart felt forgiveness, a complete re-membering of all that has passed, so that a future of justice, peace and freedom is assured. 

This is the sort of forgiveness and re-membering that God offers to each of us.  Re-membering our pasts, and  speaking about our sins and betrayals through confession helps us to accept God’s forgiveness, and helps us to see that even now we are living in  God’s commonwealth of justice, peace and freedom for all on this earth, because that is God’s deepest desire and destiny for us. 

Those of us who are participating in the Sacred Ground dialogue circle have learned things we never knew about this history of this nation, things that have happened in the past that have been full of betrayal, injustice and hatred, things that we have not known, and have chosen not to know.

When we have known, we have not spoken.

When we have remembered, we purposefully try to forget.     

But until the past is revisited and re-membered, and hearts are broken open and forgiveness is sought, the future that we all long for—one of God’s commonwealth of justice, peace and freedom for all, cannot be assured. 

Where do we even start?

As fires rage in the Pacific Northwest, an answer to the question of where to start re-membering and redeeming the past is rising out of the ashes of the millions of acres that are burning in California.  

In an article she wrote for NPR, Lauren Sommer explains that the state of California is turning to Native Americans for help to figure out how to control the wildfires that are happening with greater frequency and more destruction. 

Fire has always been a part of life in California.  When Native Americans lived on the land, part of their tradition and culture was to set fires each year.  The people used these controlled burns to shape the landscape, encouraging certain plants to grow for tribal use, to attract wildlife, and to rejuvenate the land. 

Actually, before the 1800’s in California several million acres burned every year, more acres than even the worst wildfires consume today, but the difference was that the set fires were controlled and were much less destructive than the current wildfires that burn with such ferocity.    

When Western settlers came to the area and removed the Native Americans from the land, they banned the Native American burnings as part of the Native American culture that had to be extinguished. The Native American religious ceremonies, including the controlled burns, were banned by the state in the early 1900’s.  There was also a bounty on Native Americans.  The governor instituted a policy of extermination so that the settlers could take the Native American lands. 

Then, with the Native Americans and their cultural controlled burnings gone, the state and federal authorities adapted a vision of simply quickly extinguishing wildfires—wildfire suppression. 

Without the regular burns, the landscape got thick with vegetation and undergrowth that then dries out, creating a huge supply of fuel for the fires that are already more prevalent due to less rain and more heat and that are much more destructive–completely destroying more communities when they burn.  

So now, tribal leaders and government officials are talking about this problem and creating new partnerships. In the article, Sommers says that  “state and federal land managers have hundreds of thousands of acres that need careful burning to reduce the risk of extreme wildfires.  And tribes are eager to gain access to those ancestral lands to restore their traditional burning.”  

Tribal leaders have been reaching out to ecologists, researchers and fire agencies about the importance of indigenous knowledge.  In Northern California, the Karok and Yurok tribes are partnering with the Forest Service to manage land for traditional values as well as for wildfire management.  Studies are showing that these two visions go hand in hand. 

This partnership is sparking God’s commonwealth of justice, peace and freedom as the Native Americans and descendants of the settlers work together to come up with a solution to lessen the destructiveness of the fires for the common good. 

Will those working on the fires together now break the silence and speak of the past with one another?  Will both groups re-member the past from their places in it and speaking the truth in love to one another, assure their future together? 

That remains to be seen, but the actions that are being taken to work together for the common good burn away the undergrowth of injustice and betrayal to clear a way into God’s commonwealth of justice, peace and freedom for all. 

Christians, we know our destiny. 

Do we have the courage to accept that destiny? 

God is inviting us to live together in God’s commonwealth of love.

So re-member the past so that the past can be redeemed. 


Ask for forgiveness.

Take the actions that God has put before you to help draw us all ever more closely into God’s commonwealth of freedom, justice and peace here and now on this earth.   

And have no fear, for God will provide for all of us.  


Resources    Christopher Davis, Commentary on Genesis  Lauren Sommers  –To manage wildfire, California looks to what tribes have known all along