Sunday’s sermon: Fighting with My Husband: Pent-Up to Peace-Filled


Text used – Matthew 18:21-35



  • Do you remember those Magic Eye pictures that were so popular back in the 1990s? They were in many of the most popular kids’ magazines. There were a number of Magic Eye books (which actually spent 73 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list!). There were Magic Eye pictures on cereal boxes and notebook covers, postcards, calendars, even neckties! And there were all sorts of Magic Eye posters all over my elementary school.[1]
    • 3D picture within a picture images → larger, main image hidden within repeating smaller images
      • How to see 3D (from the Magic Eye website): Hold the center of the printed image right up to your nose. It should be blurry. Focus as though you are looking through the image into the distance. Very slowly move the image away from your face. Hold the page still and the hidden image will magically appear. Once you perceive the hidden image and depth, you can look around the entire 3D image. The longer you look, the clearer the illusion becomes. The farther away you hold the page, the deeper it becomes. Good Luck! → Magic Eye images are all about looking through what’s right in front of you to seeing what’s hidden underneath – the bigger picture.
    • Throughout the summer, we’ve been working our way through Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life[2], and this week, we’re tackling a very particular chapter – chapter 6: “Fighting with My Husband: Passing the Peace and the Everyday Work of Shalom.”
      • Chapter about recognizing our role in the conflict and brokenness in the world around us
      • Chapter about forgiveness
      • Chapter about peace
      • (Like the Magic Eye images) Chapter about looking through the little things that are right in front of our eyes – the distractions, the minor irritations, the small frustrations – to the bigger issue that hides in the midst of them: our need for forgiveness and our need to seek grace from God and one another
        • Warren’s description of random fight with her husband: Most often what we’re arguing about – in this case a decision about our daughter’s schooling – isn’t really what we’re arguing about. What we are actually arguing about is our fears, anxieties, identities, and hopes, … how a pattern of criticism, comment by passing comment, bumps up against my own patterns of sin, woundedness, and self-defensiveness.[3] → It’s not an easy chapter, friends, but it is an important one. So let’s dig a little deeper.
  • We’re actually going to begin this morning by jumping back a bit, though. A few weeks ago, we talked about the importance of confession in our faith. Warren frames that chapter in the context of losing her keys.
    • Warren (about confession): The practice of confession and absolution must find its way into the small moments of sinfulness in my day. When it does, the gospel – grace itself – seeps into my day, and these moments are transformed.[4] → This is a crucial point to recognize because it speaks to the heart of why we seek the forgiveness and peace that we’re talking about today: because we’ve messed up.
      • We cannot seek forgiveness without first naming and claiming the reason for that forgiveness in the first place
        • Naming the ways we have hurt our loved ones
        • Naming the ways we have hurt our neighbors
        • Naming the ways we have hurt even ourselves
        • Naming the ways we have hurt God
        • Interesting phenomenon = sometimes it’s a lot easier to ask forgiveness from someone who’s more removed from you – someone distant, someone with whom you have a less personal relationship – than it is to ask forgiveness from someone you love
      • Warren: I can get caught up in the big ideas of justice and truth and neglect the small opportunities around me to extend kindness, forgiveness, and grace.[5]
  • See this played out in a very clear, dramatic way in our gospel reading this morning → “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant”
    • Certain king is settling up his accounts with his servants
    • King’s attendants “brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold (“talents” in many other translations)”[6] but servant “didn’t have enough to pay it back”[7] → Let’s pause for a minute, all, because we need to appreciate just how much money we’re talking about – how large this debt truly is. Yes, we can acknowledge that 10,000 of anything is a sizeable number, but this goes far beyond that.
      • Scholar: Ten thousand talents does not mean just ten thousand talents, since both “ten thousand” and “talent” serve in Greek as the largest possible number. The amount is so striking that some early Greek manuscripts reduced the number. However, the absurdity of the amount is crucial to the story.[8] → Remember that a talent was worth more than just a dollar. In the ancient world, a single talent was worth years of work (some estimates place it at 15 years per talent) for a servant like the one in this parable, so a sum of 10,000 talents is wholly unattainable. This is no way that this servant can possibly repay this debt. It is utterly impossible.
    • Instead of selling the servant and his family to make up even a portion of this astronomical sum, after the servant literally throws himself at the king’s feet and begs for mercy, the king chose to forgive the man’s debt – to wipe it clean
    • Servant turned around and found another servant who owed him a much, much smaller amount and accosted him – text: When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, “Pay me back what you owe me.” Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.” But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.[9] → Again we need to understand the amounts that we’re talking about here because the Greek words are different. The first servant’s debt was expressed in talents, in years of work. But the second servant’s debt is expressed in denarii – in coins. A denarii was roughly a day’s wage for a servant. So while the first servant owed the king multiple lifetime’s worth of pay, this second servant only owed his fellow servant a few month’s worth of work. And despite the overwhelming compassion that the first servant was shown when the king forgave his debt, he cannot find it within himself to bestow even a miniscule fraction of that forgiveness on another, even when the 2nd servant uses the exact same words that the 1st servant used with the king: “Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.”
    • Result: other servants were appalled by the first servant’s actions and went to the king → furious king revoked his initial forgiveness of the first servant’s debt and “handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners until he had paid the whole debt”[10]
      • Scholar: The text demands that we forgive others and that we forgive ourselves. It demands not simply that Jesus’ disciples be forgiving people, but that they constitute a community of forgiveness. The deeper demand of the text is to forgive others as our acceptance of God’s forgiveness. It is not so much that God’s forgiveness is contingent upon our forgiving others as that our forgiveness of others performs our acceptance of God’s forgiveness. Without that performance, how can we enjoy the gift we have been given? Enjoying a gift as truly gift means sharing that gift with others.[11] → “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” right?
  • Rhythm of confession and forgiveness in our regular worship service
    • Joining in Prayer: a prayer that we say out loud together, a prayer that includes words of repentance and confession
    • Hear God’s Promise of Grace (declare God’s mercy and forgiveness)
    • (That moment that I know many of us miss most desperately right now) Passing the Peace of Christ with one another → I love how long this action takes in this congregation. I love when we have new people here, and I get to say, “Fair warning, folx, this is going to take a while.” I love that in this congregation, everyone makes an effort to pass that peace to everyone else. We get up. We move around. There are kids running around. There is always, always laughter ringing. There are hugs. There are handshakes. There are fist bumps. It’s not a quiet, contemplative, subdued kind of peace! It’s a boisterous, overflowing, loving kind of peace … which I’m fairly certain is as close to God’s peace as we can possibly get.


      • Warren’s beautiful description of this: A friend of mine, a Presbyterian pastor, once remarked to me that each week when my four-year-old passes the peace, she is being formed in a particular worldview. She is practicing the truth that the extension of peace is vital to worship, that worshiping God is inextricably tied with seeking God’s kingdom of shalom by making peace with her neighbors. Through her church community, my daughter is being trained as a peacemaker.[12]
    • Speaks to the crucial, soul-changing concept of shalom in the Bible
      • Shalom = almost always translated as “peace” in Scripture … but it’s so much deeper than that!
      • Rev. Dr. Matthew Schlimm (UDTS professor and my Hebrew professor) in his book 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know[13]: Shalom refers to a peace of body, mind, spirit, and relationship. A person who feels shalom is complete and whole. … The presence of shalom means not only the absence of swords and wild beasts but also the presence of worry-free rest.[14]
        • The extravagant peace and wholeness that the king initially gave to that first servant
        • The extravagant peace and wholeness that Jesus speaks to Peter about at the beginning of our Scripture reading – text: Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.”[15]
        • Warren: It is not simply “peace” that we pass to each other. It is the peace of Christ, the peace of our peacemaker. Christ’s peace is never a cheap peace. It is never a peace that skims the surface or papers over the wrong that’s been done. It is not a peace that plays nicey-nice, denies hurt, or avoids conflict. It is never a peace that is insincere or ignores injustice. It’s a peace that is honest and hard-won, that speaks truth and seeks justice, that costs something, and that takes time. It is a peace that offers reconciliation.[16] → And so, my treasured friends, may the peace of Christ be with you. Amen.


[2] Tish Harrison Warren. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 2016.

[3] Warren, 74, 75.

[4] Warren, 59.

[5] Warren, 76-77.

[6] Mt 18:24.

[7] Mt 18:25.

[8] Lewis R. Donelson. “Proper 19 (Sunday between September 11 and September 17 inclusive) – Matthew 18:21-35, Exegetical Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 4. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 71.

[9] Mt 18:28-30.

[10] Mt 18:34.

[11] Nathan Jennings. “Matthew 18:25-35, Homiletical Perspective” in Feasting on the Gospels – Matthew, vol. 2. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), 103.

[12] Warren, 79.

[13] Matthew Richard Schlimm. 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press), 2018.

[14] Schlimm, 120.

[15] Mt 18:21-22.

[16] Warren, 86.

2 responses to “Sunday’s sermon: Fighting with My Husband: Pent-Up to Peace-Filled

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Sitting in Traffic: Unexpected, Unhurried, Unavoidable God | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

  2. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Sleeping: Holiness in Rest | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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