Note: This week’s readings are for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, which if you’ve been paying attention, isn’t mathematically correct. In years when Michaelmas is celebrated, we skip some of the Trinity Sundays, so if you’ve been counting, the discrepancy is due to the “Michaelmas skip”. That way we will still make it to the 27th and last Sunday after Trinity, which will transition us into Advent.
In the readings this week, we hear God repeating the promises He made to Abraham to Abraham’s grandson Jacob. God will be with him and bless all the people on earth through his family. In the gospel, we see God’s promise coming true, as Jesus forgives the sin of the paralyzed man who had faith. He asks the teachers of the law
Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
Perhaps either is pretty easy to say if your words are empty – but which is easier to say truthfully? with authority? And so, by the visible healing of the paralyzed man, Jesus stabs to the heart of their doubts and shows the authority with which He speaks. He does not ask the question simply to humiliate them, but in mercy to give them yet another chance to believe in Him and be saved. Which of Jesus’ gifts to the paralyzed man was the greater?
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Genesis, chapter 28, verses 10-17:
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
The Epistle lesson is from Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 22-28:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
The Gospel for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity is from Matthew, chapter 9, verses 1-8:
Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
Jacob’s Dream, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo [Public domain]