Below are the readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity — the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost — November 3, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two choices for the First Reading and Psalm. I have differentiated these by using blue in the headings for the alternative option.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Some readers might recognise the following passage, which was an alternative reading nearly one month ago for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah’s. He, too, warned that the Chaldeans, God’s chosen instruments of judgement, would conquer Jerusalem. Habakkuk’s prophecy dates from 600 BC. In the first part of today’s reading, the prophet laments what he sees as evil winning over good, but, in the second half, the Lord answers Habakkuk by saying that He ends trials at the appointed time, therefore, we are not to lose heart in our suffering.

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

1:1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.

1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

1:3 Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.

1:4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous– therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

2:2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.

2:3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

Psalm

We have more from Psalm 119, earlier verses from which were read two weeks ago on the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity. David intended for this lengthy Psalm to be memorised. It is said that each verse of it can either warm or censure our hearts.

Psalm 119:137-144

119:137 You are righteous, O LORD, and your judgments are right.

119:138 You have appointed your decrees in righteousness and in all faithfulness.

119:139 My zeal consumes me because my foes forget your words.

119:140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.

119:141 I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.

119:142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is the truth.

119:143 Trouble and anguish have come upon me, but your commandments are my delight.

119:144 Your decrees are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

First reading – alternate

Isaiah communicates what was given to him during a divine vision. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that it was customary for prophets to post their sermons on the door of the temple or another public place, as the Lord instructed Habakkuk to do (see the first reading above). How I wish the Lectionary compilers had not reworded the first part of verse 18, which reads much better in more traditional translations:

Come now, let us reason[a] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

The Lord despised the hypocrisy of His people’s sacrifices, performed with false piety as they were in deep sin. Even so, with their hearty repentance, He would forgive them (verses 16-18):

Isaiah 1:10-18

1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

1:11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

1:12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more;

1:13 bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation– I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

1:14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.

1:15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,

1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

1:18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Psalm – alternate

This is another teaching Psalm, a maschil. Matthew Henry says that, although it does not speak of Christ in the same way as other Psalms, it has many Gospel messages upon which to meditate.

Psalm 32:1-7

32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

32:2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

32:3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

32:4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

32:6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.

32:7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

Epistle

For the next three Sundays, readings are from 2 Thessalonians. Paul is deeply grateful for the faithfulness of the congregation. He and his companions in ministry offer continuing prayers for them. Note the mention of Timothy.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:3 We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.

1:4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

1:11 To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith,

1:12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel

This is the splendid story of Zacchaeus, a wealthy and despised tax collector, whom Jesus publicly calls upon to be His host. Interestingly, Jesus chose to pass through Jericho, and, by virtue of His presence, took away the lingering curse from that city. Although Jesus had earlier said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man enter Heaven, here we see that Zacchaeus became a believer that very day.

Luke 19:1-10

19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it.

19:2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.

19:3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.

19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.

19:5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

19:6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

19:7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

19:9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.

19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Matthew Henry points out that Zacchaeus pledged to give far more to the poor than Jewish law prescribed: one-half instead of one-fifth.

Also, even though Zacchaeus was a Jew, he had become a heathen in people’s eyes because of his profession. Hence, Jesus’s announcement that he was also ‘a son of Abraham’.

In conclusion, Jesus seeks the lost without their knowing it beforehand. If today, we hear His voice, may we harden not our hearts.