Ordinary Time (Proper 19), Heritage Day
Matthew 18:21–35/18:21–34 IV
Forgive Each Other
Genesis 50:15–21; Psalm 103:1–13; Romans 14:1–12; Doctrine and Covenants 161:5, 162:2
Design a worship center for this service that reflects church heritage. Display pictures of historical sites, past members of your congregation, former prophet-presidents, and church leaders. Also include books that reflect various periods of church history. For example, you could display hymnals that were used over the years in the church.
Sharing of the Joys, Celebrations, and Concerns of the Church Family
Call to Worship
“Help Us Accept Each Other” CCS 333
OR “Creator of Sunrises” CCS 207
Prayer of Invitation
Lord, we have been invited into your presence today. We open our hearts and minds to the gift of love and forgiveness that you offer. As your children, we know you teach us to forgive. We feel connected to our heritage and know that your message of love and forgiveness has traveled with us from the past and will move forward with us toward a more loving future. Knit our hearts together today, Lord, that we might be the community you would have us be. Amen.
Scriptures of Listening
Doctrine and Covenants 161:5, 162:2
Ask a young person and an older one to read the scriptures that reflect our heritage and tradition.
The author of the hymn we are about to sing, William Fowler, was born in Australia in 1830, the son of a British soldier and his wife. Within a few years of the family’s return to England, both his parents died, leaving William an orphan at the age of fourteen. In the winter of 1848, he became dissatisfied with his parents’ Methodist religion and accepted the invitation of a friend to attend the Latter Day Saint church in Sheffield, England. The next summer he was baptized. He was ordained a priest the following year and an elder in 1851. Although we do not know the exact circumstances of the writing of this hymn, it was probably written before 1863, when Fowler and his family sailed for America. He died only two years later, having left to the Latter Day Saint movement a grand hymn, traditionally sung to express appreciation for prophetic leadership in our day. In Community of Christ Sings, the text has been updated to reflect the expanding role of a prophetic people within the church and throughout the globe.
—Richard Clothier, www.CofChrist.org/heritage-ideas, adapted
Hymn of Heritage
“We Thank You, O God, for Our Prophets” CCS 180
Matthew 18:21–35/18:21–34 IV
OR Share a dramatization of the scripture (see below).
Prayer of Confession
Creator God, we are a community of those who have been forgiven. Conversely, we strive to be a community that forgives. We realize that we are human and often fail. We know you continue to lead us in the path of forgiveness and, like your servants, we are called to forgive 70 times seven. Thank you, God for the path of the disciple; for the path of forgiveness. Give us the courage and power to forgive as you have forgiven us. Amen.
Hymn of Confession
“Lord, Have Mercy” (sing through three times) CCS 197
OR “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” CCS 215
Prayer for Peace
Candle of Peace
Ask a variety of people who represent the generations within your congregation to come from their seats and light the peace candle
together. Each person will need a source for their flame. All the flames are symbolically added together to light the candle at the
Use the same people who lit the candle as readers.
Child: Forgive us, God, for not being peaceful.
Teen: Help us have courage to speak out when injustices occur.
Young Adult: Show us the way to make a difference and bring about a more peaceful world.
Middle-aged Adult: Give us patience and compassion for those with whom we do not agree.
Senior: God, we trust in your promises of a peaceable kingdom on Earth.
All: We have faith that peace is possible. Help us go from dreaming about it to acting as peacemakers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Based on Matthew 18:21–35/18:21–34 IV
Disciples’ Generous Response
Generosity in Our Heritage
Ella Devore and her husband, L.R., arrived in French Polynesia in 1891 as missionaries. It didn’t take them long to see transportation as crucial to spreading the gospel of Christ in the South Pacific. Unfortunately, the church did not own a boat. The two prayed earnestly for an answer to their problem. Then one day they heard the words, “Write and make your wants known through the ‘Home Column.’” The “Mothers’ Home Column” was a regular feature in the Saints’ Herald. Begun by Marietta Walker in 1886, the “Home Column” gave counsel, encouraged healthy diets and clean homes, and invited discussion on all church issues. It was quite popular, even among men!
The Devores followed the guidance of the Spirit and sent a letter to the “Mothers’ Home Column.” Marietta Walker responded by pleading with her readers to support construction of the Evanelia, a missionary boat. Women were encouraged to make donations on their birthdays: one penny for each year. Walker also coauthored a book of poetry and donated all proceeds to the Evanelia. Within two years, enough funds were raised to build and christen the “gospel boat.” The Evanelia was just one of many missionary endeavors supported by “Mothers’ Home Column” readers.
Generosity in Our Congregation
Share a generosity story that has happened in your congregation.
Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes
“We Lift Our Voices” CCS 618
OR “Let Us Give Praise to the God of Creation” CCS 607
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Forgiveness
“God Is a Wonder to My Soul” CCS 216
OR “O My Soul, Bless Your Creator” CCS 220
Dramatization: Matthew 18:21–35/18:21–34 IV
By Elaine Adams
For three readers (King, Slave 1, Slave 2) and two helpers.
King: (speaking to Slave 1) You owe me so much money. You owe me more money than you could ever earn in your lifetime. Since you owe me this money, I will take all of your possessions, your freedom, and your family. I will sell all of these things to begin to settle this debt.
Slave 1: (kneeling before the King) Oh, my King. Please don’t take everything from me. Please let my family and myself stay free. If you will grant me this forgiveness, I promise I will pay you everything that I owe you.
King: (to Slave 1) I understand that you have good intentions and that you will do your best to repay this debt. Because you are a good servant and have spoken so well, I will forgive this debt. You may go without fear of this debt any longer.
The king exits but stays within hearing range of Slave 1. Slave 1 sees Slave 2 who owes him [her] money. Slave 1 grabs Slave 2.
Slave 1: You owe me a hundred denarii! Pay what you owe me and pay me NOW!!!
Slave 2 falls to his [her] knees and bows before Slave 1.
Slave 2: Please, have mercy on me. If you only have patience with me, I will pay you everything I owe.
Slave 1: NO! I have waited for you to pay me and you have not. So, I will see that you are thrown in prison until you pay this
debt in full.
Two helpers take Slave 2 and drag him [her] off stage. The king reenters and is obviously angry.
King: (speaking to Slave 1) I saw what you have done. I forgave your debt and yet you had no mercy on your fellow slave. You put him [her] in prison! I made a mistake letting you go home without repaying your debt. You didn’t show the same mercy. You do not seem to understand what it means to forgive. God sees that you were treated fairly, but you did not extend that forgiveness to others. How do you think God views you?
King asks the question again, this time directed at the congregation:
King: How do you think God views you?
Ordinary Time (Proper 19)
Exploring the Scripture
Today’s passage in Matthew explains another teaching of Jesus on community relationships. In earlier verses (vv. 15–20) a specific process is outlined for use when one member of the community sins against another. Starting at verse 21, Peter then asks how many times he must forgive a member of the church who sins against him. One rabbinic tradition says three times. Peter was generously offering seven times. Jesus’ answer, involving the holy number seven, implies that forgiveness is beyond counting. There is no scorekeeping. Forgiveness is unlimited.
The parable of the unforgiving servant that follows (vv. 23–35) is full of hyperbole (exaggerations). It is meant to shock the listener. For example, the 10,000 talents owed by the slave represents an impossible amount; a single talent represented many years of wages for a slave. There was no possible way the servant would ever be able to repay the debt. His promise to do so is absurd. The king’s willingness to listen to the slave’s plea and then forgive the entire debt is unbelievable. Who would show such mercy?
Then the story progresses and the forgiven slave confronts another slave who owes him money (a much more reasonable amount, 100 denarii, with one denarius equivalent to one day’s wage). The servant demands payment from his fellow slave who also begs for mercy and extra time to repay the debt. The unforgiving servant refuses and has the slave thrown in prison. When the king is told of this action, he denounces the first slave and sends him to be tortured until the debt is paid. The king says, “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” (v. 33).
By sharing this parable, Jesus explains the importance of mercy and forgiveness. We are constantly experiencing God’s mercy and can never repay the debt. Nor is God asking for repayment. It’s about grace. As the body of Christ, we are called to be merciful with one another. Our ability to forgive one another is to be patterned after divine forgiveness.
This forgiveness is different from seeking justice. We might imagine that God’s forgiveness has underpinnings in justice; but in this parable, it is grounded in God’s mercy. Forgiveness is a release, not a denial of the offense. It does not necessarily mean to forget.
What is the cost of an unmerciful, unforgiving heart? One former prisoner of war asked another, “Have you forgiven your captors yet?” The second man responded, “I will never do that!” The first man replied, “Then they still have you in prison, don’t they?”
- If you are keeping score, you are not forgiving.
- God’s forgiveness is limitless.
- Following the divine pattern, the body of Christ is to be merciful with one another as sacred community, doing the hard work of forgiveness.
- God’s people are merciful.
Questions to Consider
- With whom do you identify in the parable? Why?
- We know we should forgive. What makes this so difficult?
- Is God’s forgiveness conditional?
- What has been your experience with mercy and forgiveness?
- How can those who receive God’s mercy pay it forward to their debtors?
- How might the Lord’s Prayer be illustrative of today’s passage?
- What is genuine (true) forgiveness?