September 14, 2014
Matthew 18:21-35
Romans 14:1-12
Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114


Seventy-Seven and More
Proper 19 | OT 24 | Pentecost 14


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Dean Feldmeyer

In this week’s lectionary passage from Romans, Paul -- who is capable of being extremely judgmental himself -- calls on us to avoid judging others... especially on trivial matters like whether to eat meat or to be vegetarian. He pointedly asks us: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” We’re all guilty of prematurely rushing to judgment, not just on mundane things but on matters of life and death too... which is why there are many more innocent people languishing in our prisons (especially on death row) than we’d like to admit -- a reality highlighted again last week with the release of two North Carolina brothers after spending more than 30 years behind bars when DNA evidence revealed they’d been wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl.

But how do we react when, as too often happens, we’re victims of faulty judgment? In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Dean Feldmeyer notes how remarkable it is that many people who have lost large chunks of their lives being wrongfully incarcerated emerge with feelings of gratefulness rather than seething anger. Even more striking is how forgiving they often are -- a sentiment that Henry McCollum (one of the freed brothers) powerfully expressed: “There’s not anger in my heart.... I don’t like what they done to me and my brother because they took 30 years away from me for no reason. But I don’t hate them. I don’t hate them one bit.” As Dean points out, that’s a powerful testimony to the healing power of forgiveness -- and our gospel text this week reminds us of just how limitless our forgiveness ought to be. But while it’s relatively easy to forgive those who we like or sympathize with, it’s a far trickier proposition to forgive our enemies and those we truly despise. And, as Dean reminds us, Jesus’ parable demonstrates that it’s not our place to decide who is deserving of forgiveness. Here’s a preview:

Seventy-Seven and More
by Dean Feldmeyer
Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 14:1-12

Last week, Henry McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown were released after spending more than 30 years in a North Carolina prison for the rape/murder of 11-year-old child, a crime that they did not commit. The Innocence Project presented DNA evidence that pointed to a man already in prison for a similar crime. The judge and the current prosecutor both agreed that the evidence was sufficient to vacate the convictions and release the two brothers.

As he entered the car that was to take him home and someone showed him how to use the seatbelt, McCollum told reporters that he has already forgiven those responsible for his false incarceration. He just wanted to get on with his life and try to make up for some of the things he has missed.

Henry McCollum can forgive those who three decades of his life.

If he can do that, then maybe I can forgive the clerk at the store who was abrupt with me, or the church nursery attendant who called my child “fussy,” or the church member who didn’t say hello, or the pastor who momentarily forgot my name as I went through the line to greet her after the service.

In this week’s gospel lesson Jesus reminds us that forgiveness has very little to do with how we feel about the person we are forgiving. It’s simply a decision we make.



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Immediate Word Team
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George Reed


Mary Austin


Ronald H. Love


Dean Feldmeyer


Leah Lonsbury


Chris Keating