I am often asked by friends, both "churched" and "non-churched", how these ancient documents we study and worship could possibly be relevant to today's world. And I many times will ask them to look at the pericope from Matthew we have today in response to their challenge.
Jesus is pointing out a flaw in our human nature: one having to do with gripes and retained sore-feelings over against forgiveness. We all get resentful, have our feelings hurt, are treated badly by someone or some group. Those feelings many times can become longstanding resentments where forgiveness finds it hard to put down any roots. These feelings and our human nature, are the same as those disciples, represented by Peter today. We haven't much changed from those folks who walked around with Jesus 2000 years ago.
As an example of that: I live in a large, multi-unit condo building and I was down in the laundry room early this morning (around 6 AM). I was there before anyone else in the building was awake or active enough to get their laundry down to the basement. I did not meet anyone when I went down initially or when I went to move the clothes from the washers to the dryers. When I got back down there to take the clothes out of the dryers (well before the time had expired on the machines) there was a woman there who had already put clothes in the other unused dryers and was impatiently waiting for me to come down (even though my machines had yet to finish their drying cycles). She was obviously in a very bad mood and completely unresponsive to my greeting or attempt at light conversation. That kind of rudeness just pisses me off and although I felt like giving her a lecture I chose to stay quiet, calmly (and perhaps a bit more slowly than necessary) getting my clothes out of the dryers, and left the laundry room. I was more annoyed than I should have been, and thought about today's Gospel reading on the elevator ride back upstairs.
By the time I reached my apartment door I had found a place to forgive her and forget the incident. Part of the elevator self-conversation I had was debating going back and giving this rude individual a piece of my mind weighed against holding a grudge and being snippy to her next time I ran into her in the complex, or praying for her and letting my base instincts be just that, base and to be recognized as that.
By these simple, every day, human interactions is how these holy Scriptures are still applicable today. They point us to a better world, a kingdom proclaimed and modeled for us in the life and teachings of Jesus.
Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.