THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’ FROM THE REVEREND STEPHEN GUISE, PRIEST IN CHARGE – THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 28 JUNE


16th-century Russian icon of The Nativity of John the Baptist, Hermitage Museum


This Sunday, the third after Trinity, falls just after the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, which is celebrated by the Church on 24 June. Throughout the Gospels, we have indications of the way in which people at the time speculated about the respective roles and ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus – not least in the Gospel passage (Matthew 11:16-19 and 25-end) which is due to be read next Sunday, the fourth after Trinity. In that passage, Jesus shows that he is aware of the way in which he was being compared to his cousin, and, of course, many of the comments and criticisms were misplaced. Just as today anyone who puts his or her head above the parapet is likely to be misunderstood, either wilfully or through ignorance, so John the Baptist was accused of being possessed by demons because of his ascetic lifestyle, whereas Jesus was assumed to be a ‘glutton and drunkard’ because he was prepared to enjoy a meal with both ‘friends and sinners’ alike! You can’t win!

The Gospel ends, however, with words of comfort and reassurance, as Jesus exclaims that the mysteries of the Kingdom are being revealed to ‘little children’ – i.e. those who trust that God’s purposes are being worked out in the person of Jesus himself - who are contrasted with the ‘learned and the clever’ – i.e. the Jewish religious leaders who were rejecting all God’s advances, whether made through the stern penance of John or through the courtesy of Jesus. For those who accept the gentle mastery of Jesus, there is the great promise that he will give them rest: ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’ The original context of this saying is probably to be found in ideas associated with the burden of the Law and the additional Pharisaic observances – the ‘yoke of the Law’ was a familiar metaphor in use at the time – but Jesus’ words have continued to resonate through the centuries as his followers find that he offers us rest and hope, and a place where we can lay down our burdens, whatever they may be.

Fr. Stephen



Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.


Acts 12.1-11 (Click for audio)

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

About that time

King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.

He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.

After he saw that it pleased the Jews,
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
(This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)

When he had seized him, he put him in prison
and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him,
intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.

While Peter was kept in prison,
the church prayed fervently to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out,
Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers,
while guards in front of the door were keeping watch
over the prison.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and woke him,
saying, "Get up quickly."
And the chains fell off his wrists.

The angel said to him,
"Fasten your belt and put on your sandals."
He did so. Then he said to him,
"Wrap your cloak around you and follow me."

Peter went out and followed him;
he did not realise
that what was happening with the angel's help was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.

After they had passed the first and the second guard,
they came before the iron gate leading into the city.
It opened for them of its own accord,
and they went outside and walked along a lane,
when suddenly the angel left him.

Then Peter came to himself and said,
"Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel
and rescued me from the hands of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."


Gospel Matthew 16.13-19 (Click for audio)

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Chris according to Matthew.

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi,
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

And they said, "Some say John the Baptist,
but others Elijah,
and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Simon Peter answered,
"You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

And Jesus answered him,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but my Father in heaven.

And I tell you, you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."