Readings: Genesis 28:10-22; Psalm 90; Matthew 9:18-26
There is the great sanctuary of Beth-El, the 'house of God'. How did it come by its name? How did it get its importance? The first reading tells us. At a shrine already established Jacob rested one night and had a dream. His dream, as often in the Bible, is a vision and a revelation from God. The covenant already made with Abraham and re-affirmed for Isaac the son of Sarah (remember those readings recently about Ishmael and Hagar) is now once again renewed, for Abraham's grandson Jacob. The promise is the same: a people, a land, a special relationship with God.
But Jacob is, it seems, an inveterate businessman. Here are the terms of the contract he is prepared to make with God: keep me safe, give me bread and clothes, return me safely to my father, then the Lord will be my God and I will give him back ten per cent of what he gives me. God is, it seems, happy with the arrangement. (Though, as we will see, God has other things in store for Jacob.)
In the gospel reading we see Jesus as the place in which 'commerce' between God and the people is taking place. There are no deals here, however. The official and the woman simply state their needs - 'come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved', 'if I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again'. There is the trust and confidence of faith, an atmosphere of frankness and love - and in this the two miracles happen. (We might be tempted to say 'in this the two miracles can happen'.)
A Christian reading the Old Testament sees Jacob's dream as referring forwards, and ultimately, to Christ. It is what is called a 'type' of what was to come, a sign pointing forward, an echo before the event. In fact it is Jesus himself, speaking to Nathanael in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, who tells us to understand it this way. The providential care of God, made known to Jacob, is fulfilled in the Son of Man standing under the angels.
So where is the 'house of God'? The place of contact with God, where the special relationship is experienced, is now Jesus. Here now is the point of commerce between God and human beings. It is not the commerce of business (though we must still be simply frank and straightforward in telling God what we need) but more than that, a place of shared life, of love, of faith.