Bloom with Expansiveness: The Limit Does Not Exist
Before coming to Divinity School and following my call to Ordained Ministry, I was a mathlete. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, a mathlete engages in competitions of mathematical and logical speed and agility against other nerds. I loved Mathletics competitions because of the ways they forced me to reason quickly, to follow my gut, to think outside the box. Being a mathlete was a massive piece of my identity throughout middle and high school.
Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered Mean Girls, the movie. Never before had I seen a mathlete on screen, and Cady Heron, who was both popular and nerdy, imperfect and loved, and a phenomenal dancer, was one of the first times I saw myself clearly reflected on the screen.
In the movie’s climax, as the Mathletics team faces their archrivals, Cady is the one on the stand for the last question – a question about the limit of a certain function. Her opponent guesses but gets it wrong. It’s on her to answer, and you watch as the thought crosses her mind and she mutters excitedly, “the limit does not exist,” before shouting into her microphone, “The limit does not exist!” Her team wins, and they leave the match and return to their prom, still in their Varsity Mathlete jackets in all their nerdy glory.
I imagine the same thought process that Cady experienced when she made her realization may have also crossed through the disciples when they heard the parable in our scripture today. Asked about forgiveness, Jesus answers in a challenging illustration. Let’s read together from the Gospel of Matthew:
21 Peter came up and asked Jesus, “When a sister or brother wrongs me, how many times must I forgive? Seven times?”
22 “No,” Jesus replied, “not seven times; I tell you seventy times seven. 23 And here’s why.
“The kindom of heaven is like a ruler who decided to settle accounts with the royal officials. 24 When the audit was begun, one was brought in who owed tens of millions of dollars. 25 As the debtor had no way of paying, the ruler ordered this official to be sold, along with family and property, in payment of the debt.
26 “At this, the official bowed down in homage and said, ‘I beg you, your highness, be patient with me and I will pay you back in full!’ 27 Moved with pity, the ruler let the official go and wrote off the debt.
28 “Then that same official went out and met a colleague who owed the official twenty dollars. The official seized and throttled this debtor with the demand, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’
29 “The debtor dropped to the ground and began to plead, ‘Just give me time and I will pay you back in full!’ 30 But the official would hear none of it, and instead had the colleague put in debtor’s prison until the money was paid.
31 “When the other officials saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and went to the ruler, reporting the entire incident. 32 The ruler sent for the official and said, ‘You worthless wretch! I cancelled your entire debt when you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have dealt mercifully with your colleague, as I dealt with you?’ 34 Then in anger, the ruler handed the official over to be tortured until the debt had been paid in full.
35 “My Abba in heaven will treat you exactly the same way unless you truly forgive your sisters and brothers from your hearts.”
[Matthew 18:21-35 (ILB)/ Mateo 18:21-35 (NVI)]
In this passage, Peter asks Jesus how many times one must forgive someone who has wronged them, Jesus responds with seven times seventy times, or said more colloquially in our times, “The Limit Does Not Exist.” Jesus backs up this limitless forgiveness with the story of a ruler who forgives someone tens of millions of dollars in debt. When the ruler heard this person’s plea, they forgave all, forgave an amount so huge most of us cannot even fathom it. This forgiveness extended to infinity – The limit did not exist.
I can imagine this thought passing its way through the disciples as they murmur quietly, “so, the limit does not exist…” before Peter, who asked the question, responds stunned “The limit does not exist?”
Beloved, we are called by God to forgive one another, to extend the same limitless grace God extends to us to one another but notice the prerequisites. Before the ruler forgives the official their debt, the official makes a genuine apology. The official repents from their heart, and this stirs the ruler to forgiveness. Then, when the official’s colleague makes the same heartfelt repentance, the official fails to extend the same grace. This is where the breakdown occurs.
We must forgive those who repent. For those who repent, our grace must be limitless. For those who forgive others and repent, God’s grace is limitless. We must apologize for our missteps and forgive the wrongs of others for there is no end to the grace and forgiveness of God. Or, to quote Cady Heron, how many times must we forgive our siblings who wrong us? “The limit does not exist.”
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
Last Sunday, our children’s ministries were rather quiet. A contemplative group, we read and reflected silently. In our 10:30 group, we read “The Lost Sheep” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible and spent time praying for the health of our loved ones, our families and our Church. We prayed, sang, and left with a prayer and blessing. We are looking forward to the coming week.
This Sunday, our older students will meet at 10 AM for fellowship and to read Matthew 18:21-35. Continuing from last week’s conversation, we’ll discuss the importance of forgiveness as it relates to interpersonal conflict and God’s grace. Then, at 10:30 AM, our younger children will read “Forgiveness” in our Tiny Truths: Wonder & Wisdom. We will discuss forgiving others and being forgiven, the importance of saying we’re sorry and of having boundaries. We will, as always, pray, sing, and say goodbye with a blessing.
It was such a gift to see a few of you Monday Evening! I am so grateful for this community and its ministries.
May your week be filled with God-moments and deep gratitude.
(The illustration used here is from page57 of Tiny Truths Wonder & Wisdom)
Grief is a tough thing to navigate, please do be kind to yourself this week and reach out to your pastors if you are in need of grief support. ___________________________________
Suzanne Jean Webb
1947 - 2021
Suzanne Jean Webb peacefully transitioned from her physical life, Friday, August 13th, 2021, at 11:42 p.m. in St. Louis, Missouri, after a lengthy illness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis with Frontotemporal Dementia (ALS-FTD). She was 74 years old. Her obituary is available here.
Next month, trial begins against the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups who organized the attack on Charlottesville. The Park is proud to partner with Integrity First for America -- the organization backing the brave Charlottesville community members in their lawsuit against the violent racists who invaded their city to spread violence and terror. The Rev. Kaji Douša will be speaking.
Join us on September 30 for a virtual rally in support of IFA's groundbreaking legal battle for justice and accountability.
Pandemic of Love is a mutual aid community of care that was started in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. It humbly began on March 14th, 2020 by one person and was intended to help her own local community. But, like an epidemic, the act of love and kindness spread quickly and is now a beautiful movement helping those in need throughout the world.
What is a mutual aid community? It connects people in need with patrons who can help with that need. This is a tangible way for people to give to each other, quickly, discretely and directly.
What’s the catch? There is none. Kind people are introduced to kind people which results in an act of kindness and human connection.