Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thursday 30 June – Holy Communion

First Reading Genesis 22.1 - 19

Abraham Tested

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, Abraham! Here I am, he replied.

2 Then God said, Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.

4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.

5 He said to his servants, Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together,

7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, Father? Yes, my son? Abraham replied. The fire and wood are here, Isaac said, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?

8 Abraham answered, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son. And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, Abraham! Abraham! Here I am, he replied.

12 Do not lay a hand on the boy, he said. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.

15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time

16 and said, I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,

17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,

18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.  

Gospel Matthew 9. 1 - 8

When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.

2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.

3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, This fellow is blaspheming!

4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?

5 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?

6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . . Then he said to the paralytic, Get up, take your mat and go home.

7 And the man got up and went home.

8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Near sacrifice of Isaac same reading as Sunday. Quite a shocking incident, prompting us to ask whether God could possibly ask Abraham to kill his first born son – one he had waited for until old age, and the son in whom the promise given to Abraham he would be the father of many was to be fulfilled.

In the end, God provided the alternative in the form of a ram – an alternative that was not made available at the crucifixion – but the difference was that Isaac was an unwilling potential victim whereas Jesus was not.

The gospel reading however comes from just after the Sermon on the Mount. There are several miracle stories – cleansing of a leper, healing centurion’s servant, and stilling of the storm. Now Jesus leaves the neighbourhood of Gadara where he healed the man possessed of demons which entered a herd of swine, and crossed in a boat to his own town.

This is Capernaum – and the boat crossed the sea of Galilee from Gentile territory (hence the pigs). Immediately he sees a man suffering from paralysis being carried on a litter by friends of his. Presumably they are seeking out Jesus in the hope of a cure for their friend.

Jesus does not just heal the man, but pronounces forgiveness of his sins, to the consternation of the religious leaders who accuse him of blasphemy. To the scribes, Jesus has tried to do what only belongs to God.

Jesus does not at first tell the paralysed man to get up and walk. Does this mean he ascribes the cause of his infirmity to sin rather than any physical origin? It seems to indicate the suffering has a spiritual cause. We do not know, but after absolution, there is an exchange with the scribes where Jesus indicates it is as easy for him to forgive sins as to heal the man in any more conventional or expected manner.

Why does he say this? Not, I think, only because he is God incarnate and has God’s power to forgive. But more simply Jesus is saying that if he pronounces healing and the man gets up and walks, the result is easily verified. Everyone can see for themselves, and so this is a hard thing to do. Pronouncing forgiveness of sins is easy, because no one can tell whether the absolution is effective or not.

The story does remind us, though, that despite all our modern scientific knowledge, sickness is not just physical, but can have a complex web of causes and influences. Sin itself is a sickness from which we all need to be healed, and confessing our sins as we do at each and every church service is necessary and good for our souls, just as it is effective when we have wronged one another and offer contrition and restitution to them for the hurt we have caused.

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