Sun 13/9/20

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Service, sermon, readings, prayers & hymns.

Broadcast and Live-streamed Opportunities for Worship
8.10 am  Radio 4 Sunday Worship 
10.00 am Chester Cathedral are livestreaming the Cathedral Eucharist at:
10.45 A modern-style of service will be livestreamed from Christ Church Gipsy Hill available at:
The Prayer Book Society have not updated their website to reflect that limited public worship is now taking place in some churches, but their website appears to continue to offer a wide range of services from the Book of Common Prayer available at:

Sermon for 13 September 2014
Matthew 18: 21 – 35

Shortly before her death in 1988, the novelist, broadcaster and secular humanist, Marghanita Laski, said publicly on television: What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”

Forgiveness is perhaps the greatest gift the Church has to offer to the broken world in which we live.  The need for forgiveness is universal.  As St Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  But that is not the end.  In the very next breath St Paul tells us: all are justified freely by God’s grace through Jesus Christ.  The need for forgiveness is universal and true forgiveness is only found in Jesus Christ.

It is no co-incidence that it is Peter who asks Jesus about forgiveness.  From his very first encounter with Jesus, Peter is aware of his need for forgiveness.  When Peter, first meets Jesus, he falls on his knees and says: Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.  By the time the Gospels ends, Peter will have experienced more than most the full extent of God’s love and forgiveness... but that is to jump to the end of the story.

For now, Peter has grasped his need of God’s forgiveness.  He has grasped too, that if he is forgiven by God he must also forgive others.  But how often must he forgive?  That is the burning question that he wants Jesus to answer today.

Like all good teachers, Jesus replies with a story.  It requires the enquirer to work out the answer and fixes the lesson in the mind.  And Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant is no exception to this rule.  Especially as the most obvious point is not the most main point of the story.

Uncomfortable as it may be, we need to listen carefully to Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant.  And uncomfortable it most certainly is.  As John Pridmore observes, this parable.  The Kingdom of God is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  We fidget as the king tots up figures in a dusty ledger.  We know all too well that we will be found wanting, along with the rest of the king’s servants.

We squirm too because the parable appears to contradict Jesus’ exhortation to Peter to keep on forgiving without limit –which is what Jesus means by forgiving 77 times.  But the King doesn’t give his servant multiple chances; he doesn’t even give him a second chance.  Instead he hands him over to the jailers – some versions say to be tortured – until the debt is paid in full.

We are reminded of a squalid, debtors’ prison.  How will the debt ever be paid whilst the debtor is imprisoned?  Yet we know that Jesus forgives and does not hold our debt of sin against us. What are we to make of this most uncomfortable of parables?

Commenting on the parable, John Pridmore reminds us that we should resist attributing meaning to every detail.  God is not a despot and he does not torture or torment those who come to him for forgiveness.  Like all good stories, this parable exaggerates in order to make the point.

The debt which the unmerciful servant owes is inconceivably enormous; many times larger than the life-time earnings of a Premier League footballer. The over exaggeration serves only to highlight the true extent of God’s forgiveness.  But the extent of God’s forgiveness, vast and wonderful though it is, is not the main point of this parable.

Far more important for Peter to understand; far more important for us to understand, is the intimate relationship between receiving God’s forgiveness and our readiness to forgive.

When I was a child we sang a song at school in which the words went something like: Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.  Except that the words would no longer fit the tune, the song could also have said: Forgiveness is something if you give it away, you end up having more.  Here is the main point of Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant.  Forgive others, and our experience of God’s forgiveness will continue to increase.

Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  The modern version of that prayer brings home the point of Jesus’ parable even more forcefully: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  

According to St Paul, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  There is not one of us who does not need God’s forgiveness.  Frequently when we fall short of God’s standards we sin against each other as well as God.  It is unlikely that there is anyone here who does not also need to forgive someone else.

Uncomfortable as it may be, it is in showing mercy and forgiveness to others that we receive mercy and forgiveness from God.  That is not a soft option.  I know from painful experience how difficult it is.  Yet it is in forgiving and being forgiven that we come to understand more fully the height, breadth and depth of God’s loving forgiveness to us.

And Peter?  He learned the answer to his question and discovered  the full extent of God’s forgiveness after he denied Jesus before the crucifixion and received forgiveness after the resurrection.


Prayers for 13 September 2020

The Collect for the Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

Almighty God,

whose only Son has opened for us

a new and living way into your presence:

give us pure hearts and steadfast wills

to worship you in spirit and in truth;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Post Communion Prayer for the Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

Lord God, the source of truth and love,

keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,

united in prayer and the breaking of bread,

and one in joy and simplicity of heart,

in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

In the knowledge of all God has done for us,

let us bring him our concerns

for the Church and for the world.

Thank you, Father, for the love

which forgives again and again,

and is prepared to trust us

with the care of your people

even after we have let you down many times.

Teach us to minister to lone another’s needs

with compassion, sensitivity and discipline,

so that all are affirmed and encouraged.

The Lord is full of compassion:

his love lasts forever.

Thank you, Father, for order and variety,

simplicity and complexity of this universe.

Thank you for all that humankind is able to do;

may all these gifts be used wisely and well,

for the good of all, including those as yet unborn.
The Lord is full of compassion

his love lasts forever.

Thank you, Father, for what we have been forgiven

and for the opportunities we have each day

to learn the joy of forgiving others.

Break through our self-righteousness

and keep us learning in humility at your feet.

The Lord is full of compassion:

his love lasts forever.

Thank you, Father, for all those who care for the sick,

the disturbed, the ungrateful and the difficult.

We pray for all who are on the receiving end

of hate, deceit, suspicion or abuse,

and for those who cause others pain

and distress of any kind.

We pray for your healing and transforming love.

The Lord is full of compassion:

his love lasts for ever.

Thank you, Father, for those whose living and dying

has taught us much about love.

Freed from their pain and restrictions of age or inury,

may they enjoy for ever the life of heaven.

The Lord is full of compassion:

his love lasts for ever.

Thank you, Father, for disturbing our complacency

and challenging us to move forward with you,

assured of your company and your love.

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.


All Creatures of our God and King

The Lord’s Prayer

God forgave my sins in Jesus’ name

I cannot tell why Him whom angels worship