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Seventy Times Seven

For the 14th Sunday after Pentecost or Proper 19

(Lectionary 24) From “Saving the Ants”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Matt. 18:21-22  “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No!” Jesus replied to Peter, “Seventy times seven!” (NLT)

Preparation: Bring a large pad of paper and a fat marker.

Have you ever hurt another person? If you’ve either accidentally or purposefully stepped on someone’s foot, or pushed someone, or called your sister or brother a mean name, or made someone feel bad, raise your hand.

It happens to everyone, doesn’t it? And if we do something wrong to someone else, what should you say to that person? How do you apologize? (Let children respond.) Right, you say, “I’m sorry.” And hopefully, what does the other person say? (Wait for an answer.) Good. The person says, “I forgive you.” Those are very important words. Let’s all try saying “I forgive you.” Ready? All together . . . “I forgive you.”

Of course it feels bad when someone else hurts you, but how do you feel if you hurt someone else? That feels bad too, doesn’t it? And when you say, “I’m sorry,” and you really mean it, and the answer comes back, “You’re forgiven,” it’s so good to hear those words!

How many times do you think we should forgive someone? (Let children suggest numbers.) Peter asked Jesus this very question. In Matthew, chapter 18, it says that Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No!” Jesus replied to Peter, “Seventy times seven!” (vv. 21-22 NLT). How many times is that? Does anyone know? (An older child may figure this out.) 7 X 7 = 49, so 70 X 7 = 490! (Write equation on the paper pad.) That’s a lot, isn’t it?

If every one of you stepped on my toes and you said, “I’m sorry,” and I said, “I forgive you,” would I even come close to that number? No. This isn’t an experiment that I want to try. But the point is that Jesus wanted to make sure that we keep on forgiving others. We need to forgive so many times that we lose count! It’s something we need to be good at, so let’s practice. When I say, “I’m sorry,” you say “I forgive you.” Okay, let’s try it. (Practice call and response. You can even encourage children to try saying “I’m sorry” to the congregation and have them respond accordingly.)

You’re all getting very good at this. Now the next time you need to use those words, it will be easier, because you’ve practiced so much.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for forgiving us so many times. Help us to be always forgiving to others.

2 comments to Seventy Times Seven

  • Holly

    This would be complete if it were tied in to Christ’s forgiveness on the cross and how many times we sin against him. That is the whole reason for why we need to forgive others…like Ephesians 4:32 says, “even as God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven you…”

    • ruth

      Yes, Holly, that is the complete message. I only touch on it in the closing prayer. The pastor giving the children’s message could add this, of course. I try to keep each children’s sermon short and focused on one aspect, but if time allows, the message can be extended to include more content. This sermon focuses more on the direct question asked of Jesus… “How often should I forgive someone who sins against me?” Thanks for the comment! Blessings in your ministry.
      – Ruth

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