my miscellany

Pentecost 14, 2020 — 6 Sep 20

Pentecost 14, 2020

RCL Year A, Proper 14
Psalm 119:33-40, Ezekiel 33:7-11, Saint Matthew 18:15-20

The Lessons today paint a fairly clear and realistic picture of human beings. Human beings, all human beings, do bad things and commit sins.

Earlier this summer, I read Shakespeare’s Hamlet again, and Hamlet describes human nature this way: “Use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping?”[1] Every man, every woman, is guilty of doing wrong. When justice is distributed, every man, woman, and child have something coming.

Hamlet is not alone in this belief. This belief is part of the traditional Christian understanding of human nature. In our own Prayer Book, in the Catechism, in the section on Human Nature, we read: “From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choices.”[2]

But all is not lost. There is good news. Ezekiel tells us this morning that God will send prophets to remind us that “our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us.”[3] And Jesus tells us that members of the church, too, will tell us when we have sinned.

Each of us has in the others of us a warning system to remind us where we stand and where we have fallen, and every sinner is free to repent. Our human agency has the freedom and the ability to ask for forgiveness.

It is hard for me to imagine a community of people of whatever size, where people do not ask for forgiveness and where people do not forgive. Those things, asking for forgiveness and forgiving, are absolutely essential to maintain relationships and to maintain community. Without them we suffer extraordinarily; without them relationships and community simply break down, as we can easily and frequently see.

I think we have been reminded today that we need forgiveness, we need to ask for it, and we need to forgive those who ask for it. All of these things are blessings. They enrich and ennoble our lives. God not only forgives. God expects us to forgive. When we do these things, we become part of God’s own life. Isn’t that what we’re here for?

[1] Hamlet, II.ii.516-517.

[2] BCP, page 845.

[3] Ezekiel 33:11.

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