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Eighteenth Day of Lent   9 comments

Stained Glass Window from the Scots’ Church, Melbourne, Australia:  The Unforgiving Servant

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Song of the Three Young Men 1-4, 11-20a, a.k.a. Daniel 3:24-27, 34-43 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And they [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, a.k.a. Azariah] walked about in the midst of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord.  Then Azariah stood up and offered this prayer; in the midst of the fire he opened his mouth and said:

Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our fathers, and worthy of praise;

and your name is glorified for ever.

For you are just in all that you have done to us,

and all your works are true and your ways right,

and all your judgments are truth.

For your name’s sake do not give us up utterly,

and do not break your covenant,

and do not withdraw your mercy from us,

for the sake of Abraham your beloved

and for the sake of Isaac your servant

and Israel your holy one,

to whom you promised

to make their descendants as many as the stars of heaven

and as the sand of the shore of the sea.

For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any nation,

and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins.

And at this time there in no prince, or prophet, or leader,

no place to make an offering before you or to find mercy.

Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted,

as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls,

and with tens of thousands of fat lambs;

such may our sacrifice be in your sight this day,

and may we wholly follow you,

for there will be no shame for those who trust in you.

And now with all our heart we follow you,

we fear you and seek your face.

Do not put us to shame,

but deal with us in your forbearance

and in your abundant mercy.

Deliver us in accordance with your marvelous works,

and give glory to your name, O Lord!

Psalm 25:4-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Make your ways known, O LORD;

teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth, and teach me;

for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Be mindful of your compassion, O LORD, and of your mindful love,

for they have been from of old.

Remember not the sins of my youth, or my transgressions;

according to your mercy remember me,

for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

Good and upright is the LORD;

therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

He leads the humble in what is right,

and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the LORD are mercy and faithfulness,

for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

For your name’s sake, O LORD,

pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Matthew 18:21-35 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then Peter came up and said to him [Jesus],

Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?

Jesus said to him,

I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents, and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’   And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison till he could pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord what had taken place.  Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all the debt because you pleaded with me, and should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ‘ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he could pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’

The Collect:

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear us, and grant that we, to whom you have given a fervent desire to pray, may, by your mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


This day’s readings concern judgment and mercy.

The Book of Daniel dates to the second century B.C.E., during the reign of the Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes.  The book, set in exile of a few centuries past, tells  stories about how pious Jews triumph over their enemies by practicing their religion and receiving divine aid.  The Song of the Three Young Men is a Greek addition to the Book of Daniel, set inside Chapter 3, during the famous furnace scene.

The theology of the Song of the Three Young Men is that sin led to exile, so repentance will lead to restoration.  God will forgive the penitent.

In the reading from Matthew the first servant owes a debt he can never repay.  He pleads for mercy and receives complete debt forgiveness from his lord.  Shortly thereafter this servant refuses to forgive the smaller yet relatively difficult to pay debt of a second servant.  The angry lord punishes the first servant the same way the first servant punished the second servant.  This reminds me of Matthew 7:1-2 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Judge not, that you not be judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

The great theologian Samuel Clemens, who wrote as Mark Twain, stated that the Bible verses which troubled him most were those he understood best.  This is straight-forward material.   We must forgive others if we expect reasonably that God will forgive us.  And forgiveness is difficult–possible only with grace.  So, do we want to forgive.  If yes, why–because it is the proper and healthy option or out of self-interest?

These implications strike home with me, as I have written in this series already.  They trouble me, and that is good news, for I feel the need to address this issue in my life.  That need would not exist if not for grace.  Thanks be to God.


Written on February 27, 2010