Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Forgiveness and the Kingdom of God"

Van was out of town this morning, and Session asked me to preach.  This is a rare event for me.

Here is my script.  The Scripture passage was Matthew 18: 23-35, the "Parable of the Unforgiving Servant."

Only one person in the congregation made substantive comments on my sermon.  They were from Steve, our Roman Catholic music director.  With a smile, he mentioned the unforgiving servant losing the grace that the King had given him.  "I'm glad you preached on a Catholic parable, Paul!"  He also compared the unforgiving servant to Bank of America and the American banking industry, which the federal government apparently saved with its interventions over the last four years.  The foreclosures the banks brought against individual homeowners seem to him to describe the conduct of the unforgiving servant toward the second servant.

I have friends who sought shelter under one of the government's loan forgiveness programs, when their home was foreclosed.  The bank involved in that case seemed to do everything it could to put obstacles in my friends' way.  After getting help from Senator Bill Nelson's office, they finally managed a successful "short sale," a remedy provided under the government program.  In that case, the bank takes the home, but the debt is forgiven to the extent that the loan balance exceeds the value of the home at foreclosure.  My friends are in their mid-seventies.  There would be no way they could ever pay a deficiency judgment.  But the bank made it very difficult to achieve the benefit that the government's ameliorative rules gave them, the forgiveness of that part of their debt.  (They have since moved out of the home, free of deficiency debt.  The bank now has the home.  The housing market is recovering, albeit slowly.)  This is the same bank that the government let off the hook on much greater debt.

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