“A Word for this Week” Pastor Bill Mugnolo: HARP Pastoral Advisor
Week of September 11-17, 2017
As I write to you this week, I’m in a time of transition. I’m finishing up my work at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Columbia Station, Ohio. Next week, I will be beginning my new Divine Call to the newly formed dual parish of St. John Lutheran Church in Elyria, Ohio and Zion Lutheran Church in Lorain, Ohio. (From this point forward “A Word for this Week” will appear on the websites of St. John and Zion).
One thing that will remain the same for me is that I will be staying in the Greater Cleveland area. As I’ve passed through Downtown Cleveland, I’ve noticed that there is a junction of Interstates 77 and 490. I’ve come to call this “forgive-ness junction”. Is it because the way people drive there makes them in need of “extra forgiveness”? That may well be true. But my real reason for this has to do with two different renderings of Matthew 18:21-22.
The ever quick to speak Peter asked the Lord, “How often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Many folks in Israel, based on their reading of the Prophet Amos, believed that three or four times was the limit. So Peter probably thought that he was being extra generous. But Jesus’ standard of forgiveness went well beyond three, or four, or even seven times. Here are the two renditions of Jesus’ words in v.22:
“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times”
“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven”
Jesus’ words do not literally say for us to stop at 77 or 490 times. These are numbers which speak to us of how we are to continually forgive one another. This certainly involves a transition in our mindsets! Paul says, in Colossians 3:13, “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must also forgive.” We forgive ever mindful of how the Lord has first forgiven us all of our sins, canceling the debt we could never pay (Matthew 18:23-27). Because he has done this at the “forgiveness junction” of the cross, we have been “transitioned” from death unto eternal life!