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  • Writer's pictureDiana Wright

Big Fat Pink Rubber Erasers

15a Pentecost 17 SEP 2017

When I was in grade school I remember our pencil as being fat and green in color. After printing on what in my memory was something like lined newsprint we would take our work to the teacher and she (it was always a she) would correct it. Then back to your seat and repeat. I recall erasing a lot of mistakes and with my big fat pink rubber eraser. You can still buy those big fat pink erasers, now made in China and made of what I do not know. I don’t recall ever using up a big fat pink rubber eraser. Eventually they would get hard and not work anymore. Since I never threw anything away, I would find a petrified eraser in my pencil box sometime later. The pencils I would use and sharpen in the old crank pencil sharpener until it was so small that I could not hold it any more. I loved my pencils and erasers. They were much better than pens because you could erase your mistakes. I bet most of us also had the kind of pencil with a built in small eraser. They were handy since you wouldn’t misplace your eraser but I made enough mistakes that I always ran out of eraser or I chewed off the eraser for who knows what reason. However even that problem was solved by buying erasers that you added to the end of the pencil. Adults used pens, as did older students. The problem was that once you put the pen to the paper that was it. No erasing!! At some point erasable ink was invented but that was a problem for legal purposes. Some things, it seems, cannot be erased. Of course some people NEVER make mistakes, or so they think, so they can always write with ink. Now I write most things on my computer. Of course I seldom have to correct minor things as the computer spells much better than I do, but it cannot compose a sentence that would please EB White. I try to keep a journal and it is full of cross outs since I never seem to say anything right and I certainly struggle with spelling. Sometimes I hand write a homily or notes for a homily and that takes several go arounds before it is legible. Lots of mistakes. Maybe we should resort to the pencils and the pink erasers, or at least pencils with erasers added on to the ends. Maybe we should all at least carry an eraser with us to remind us we both make mistakes and are in need of forgiveness and that we should forgive others and erase the debts they owe us. Peter, good old Peter, thinks that seven times is enough. But actually it did not mean that on the eighth time you could say, “I have had enough; I will not forgive you this time. You have had your seven chances.” Peter knew that seven was a number that meant complete, or whole. If something came in seven it met that it was complete or holy, so for Peter to say ask if he should forgive someone seven times he was asking if he should always forgive or practice perfect for-giveness. This is where Jesus’s answer comes as a shock: not only must you forgive perfectly, you must forgive in a way that is beyond per-fect, you must forgive absolutely!!! There are no lines as to who for-gives whom or for what. In turn you must be forgiven absolutely and perfectly. However, this does not mean that those who are victims are obligated to forgive those who are abusers and perpetrators. For them, for-giveness is about not allowing the perpetrator to control their lives long after the victimization occurs. That is a needed form of forgiveness, but it is not what Jesus is addressing with Peter and the other disciples. In the parable he tells, the first slave is in debt to the master or king for “ten thousand talents” which was a way of saying an untold and unpay-able amount of debt. But when the servant asked for mercy, mercy was granted. The version of Matthew we read uses the word “pity” which does not for most of us mean compassion, using other transla-tions where “have compassion” or “moved to compassion” or “have mercy” are better terms. So the servant was forgiven a debt that he could never pay by a sovereign who showed mercy and compassion. Yet that very servant becomes an oppressor who will not forgive even a small debt. Forgiveness and mercy; power and oppression. Jesus is very clear how things are to be handled in the world that God intends. Jesus says it again in the Lord’s prayer: we ask forgiveness and we in turn forgive others. I suspect that when we say the worlds “Christ will come again” we do not associate them with our own behavior. But what if we did? What if what Jesus was talking about was his return being contingent on what we are doing now, in our own lives, to live up to the conditions he sets out for those who want to be part of the world that God is mak-ing. Do you think you can do it? Have you ever done something for which you felt you could never be forgiven? Have you racked up a really be debt in the wrong doing department? Most of us have; maybe not one biggie, but many, many little sins that we commit each day. Or maybe we did pull one of those megablunders, those sins that left a trail of hurt humanity in its wake. Maybe we do not know what we have done that is wrong and hurtful. Jesus is saying two very important things to us today. First, we need to recognize we have over used the credit card and we have caused great pain to other people. We need to ask forgiveness. But we also need to be forgivers of those who have wronged us. It is not for us to collect on the debts, the sins, that have been committed against us. If we bring harm to those who “owe” us we have totally missed the radical nature of the world of God, a world that demands complete forgiveness, regardless of who or what the sin against us has been. We must not be the oppressor. I don’t know if you have pencil and paper with you, but if you do per-haps you could write a note to God asking for forgiveness for your wrongdoing and/or a note forgiving someone for a wrong committed against you. You do not need to be specific. Put it in the offering plate and let us bring our prayers to God in that way. Likewise, I have an eraser for each one of you. Put It on a pencil and use it liberally. We all have need of erasers. Amen

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