Fourteenth Sunday in Trinity

We welcome you to this Sunday Eucharist on the Fourteenth Sunday in Trinity. Today we are led in worship by Rev. Dr. Mattijs Ploeger.

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 your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 50: 15-21
New Testament Lesson: Romans 14: 1-12

The Gospel Reading: Matthew 18: 21-35

Sermon for “Proper 19” on Sunday 13 September 2020

1. A moralistic interpretation of Christianity

Today’s readings could easily be summarised in a very moralistic way. You have to forgive others. You must be a forgiving person. To be a good Christian, you should forgive those who have treated you badly.

I call this a moralistic message, because it reduces the Christian life to a set of rules. As long as you comply with the standards, you are a good Christian.

Christianity is often interpreted in this moralistic way, both by Christians and by outsiders. As if the main object of being a Christian is behaving according to certain moral standards.

2. The gospel reading

But if we take a closer look at the gospel reading, we will see that the matter is rather different.

Jesus tells a parable about forgiveness. He compares God to a master who had a lot to claim from his slaves. But he cancelled the debts of his slaves. Now one of those slaves had, in his turn, a claim on someone else. His great debt had been cancelled by his master, but he still claimed the smaller debt from someone else.

This is what happens, says Jesus, when God forgives us, but we do not forgive our neighbours. God forgives us our sins – that is the greater debt. But we still claim the smaller debts that others owe us.

Therefore, why does it belong to the Christian way of life to forgive others? Not because it is a moralistic rule, not because we have to behave nicely. But because God has forgiven us in the first place.

3. Forgiveness – not a moralistic rule, but a religious invitation

The Christian ideal of forgiveness is not a moralistic rule, but a religious invitation. The Christian ideal of forgiveness does not start with us having to behave in a certain way. The Christian ideal of forgiveness starts with God’s behaviour. It is God who is loving and forgiving in the first place.

The trinitarian God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – did not have to create this world. God did not have to engage in a covenant with humanity. But he did, out of sheer love. The love of the Trinity – the loving bond between Father, Son and Holy Spirit – overflows in love for creation.

There must have been moments when God regretted this. In fact, the Bible recounts one of those moments, when God regretted the creation of humanity so much, that he destroyed nearly everything in the deluge, the great flood, and started more or less anew with Noah’s family and with one family of each species. But God put his rainbow into the sky, as a promise that he would never do that again. That is probably the reason why we are still here…

Throughout salvation history, throughout the Old and New Testaments, God keeps his promise, God holds on to his love for his creation. This includes forgiveness. God’s love includes God’s forgiveness of our sins. And God’s love also includes God’s acceptance of our limited capacities, God’s acceptance that we are only human…

Jesus seems to say in this parable: If God is like that, if God is so fundamentally loving, forgiving, accepting, then we humans should not want to be anything else than that. If God loves us, forgives us, accepts us, our most natural reaction is to try and love as well, to try and forgive as well, to try and accept as well.

This is not a moralistic rule – you should forgive. It is a religious invitation. It is an invitation, first of all, to accept God’s love. An invitation to receive God’s forgiveness, God’s unconditional acceptance. A Christian life begins with amazement about God’s love. A Christian life begins with receiving God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s acceptance. Everything that could and should be said about Christian morality, flows from that. Everything that we might want to do, flows from what God has done for us in the first place.

4. Living to the Lord

Our second reading, from St Paul, puts our moral behaviour exactly in this context. Paul says, “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord.”

So, all our Christian life is a life for Jesus Christ the Lord. We live in him and he lives in us. We receive his love, his forgiveness, his acceptance. And it is only in response to his gift, that we try to live our Christian life, by trying to love, forgive and accept others.

Someone might say: That is still moralistic. Because in the end we should love, forgive and accept others. But that is not exactly true. Our loving, our forgiving, our accepting are no longer our obligation or our achievement. They are Christ’s work, Christ’s life, implanted into us.

The essence of Christianity is God’s love, shown to us in Jesus Christ. From that divine love flows all our human love.



Gracious Heavenly Father we come before you again to offer thanks and praise for the many blessings we have received. Help us to reflect upon our readings for today which highlight the importance of forgiveness in our lives and the need to refrain from being judgemental. Grant that we may always remember that in his earthly life your son, our Lord Jesus, offered himself as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for relief from the present pandemic, for the victims, their families and loved ones, as well as for the medical and care professionals who treat and support them. Grant to our governments and peoples the wisdom to enact, comply and conform with such measures as may be necessary to contain the pandemic’s ongoing spread. We also pray for the development of a safe and effective vaccine to prevent and protect from the incidence of the infection.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

In the midst of so many other diversions, help us not to forget the ongoing need for cessation of armed conflicts. We pray for the victims of war and insurrection, for the displaced and the refugees. Help us not to become hardened to the daily news of fresh horrors and continuous need for victim support. Once more we pray to you for peace in our world.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Bless our sovereign heads of state, Willem Alexander and Elizabeth. Grant to them wisdom and courage to stand out as stabilising anchors in the turmoil and uncertainties of these turbulent times.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

Lord we pray for our bishops, clergy and visiting priests. We thank you for the support we have received during our interregnum and we ask your blessing on our continuing efforts to work towards the appointment of a permanent chaplain.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

We seek your mercy upon the sick and infirm amongst the members of our congregation, their families and communities. We pray to you for comfort and healing, both physical and spiritual. We ask for a strong sense of your presence underpinning care and the restoration of health.

We also commit to your eternal keeping those who have departed this life in your faith and we seek your comfort for the bereaved.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
In the peace of this sanctuary, let us take a quiet moment to bring before God our most urgent personal needs and concerns for others, as well as for ourselves.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers which we offer in the name of your Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen


The anthem for today is: View me, Lord – Richard Lloyd
The hymn for today is: NEH 393 – Lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.