I do not know the back story of the characters in this parable. However, key words and phrases catch me: slave (which is servant or bondsman in other translations), ten thousand talents, seizing him by the throat.

I am a descendant of enslaved persons impacted by immeasurable wounds from the United States’ history of slavery. The slavery in this parable differs from the centuries of slavery in North America. But any form of slavery cuts deep.

The enslaved man in this story owes a debt of ten thousand talents. Some scholars estimate that this debt could be translated into wages from fifteen years to multiple lifetimes. I am a descendant of share croppers—a system in which it was impossible to get out of debt. The hopelessness and harm of this scenario only built upon the scars remaining from enslavement.

“Seizing him by the throat.” I am a daughter of a political exile, a refugee who was granted asylum in the United States after he was smuggled away from his would-be killers. My father arrived bearing torture scars on his body and soul. Deeply grateful for his new life, he still unexpectedly spewed violent words and actions from unhealed traumas. These seemed contradictory to his faith ministry and his gratitude for deliverance.

Survivors of trauma manifest disease in their cells, thoughts, and behaviors. How do we outrun the demons within us? But survivors of trauma also manifest incredible resilience, light, and grace. Repair after the tangle of years and generations of damage takes far more than one act of love and forgiveness for the wounded and the wounder. We both are broken.

So perhaps the parable of non-forgiveness and punishment is the story of our woundedness. But perhaps we can repair it and be healed by the invitation in the first verses to forgive again and again: seven, seventy-seven, seventy times seven.

God of many chances, may we practice forgiveness so deep and continuing that we become repaired and repairers. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 18:21-35

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Lectionary Week
September 7–13, 2020
Scripture Overview

Again this week, Exodus tells a story about Moses that is retold in the psalm. The angel of the Lord protects the Israelites and allows them to cross the sea on dry ground, but their enemies are swept away. The psalmist recalls this glorious event. The forces of nature tremble and bow before the presence of God, and the people are delivered. Paul recognizes that there are matters of personal preference or conscience that are not hard and fast rules. Some will feel freedom in areas that others do not, and we are not to judge each other for these differences. Jesus tells a parable in Matthew that highlights the danger of hypocrisy. We who have been forgiven so generously by God have no right to judge others for minor offenses.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Exodus 14:19-31. When has the path of faith seemed risky? How have you trusted God and others’ wisdom along the way?
Read Psalm 114. How do you listen and act to repair the story of God’s love for the whole world?
Read Romans 14:1-12. When have you recognized something as more important than your being right? How has that recognition shaped your faith?
Read Matthew 18:21-35. How do you recognize your own wounds—or those you have inflicted on others—in this parable? How might this parable help you to repair these wounds or the relationships attached to the wounds?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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