Sunday reflection – Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Dear all

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” St Matthew 11: 28 – end.

“He felt “feeble” and “lopsided”. It had shown him that vulnerability was part of it and not separate.” The writer Rhidian Brook, quoting Michael Rosen.

As a trained singer, I have often performed the solos from Handel’s “Messiah” – sometimes, with mum playing the accompaniment! – of which these words from Jesus form a part. Whenever I read them, I’m reminded not only of that glorious oratorio, but also of my father telling me how a yoke could be easy. With dad growing up in Abercannaid and mum being evacuated to a farm as a young child, both of my parents could remember milkmaids carrying full, heavy pails on a yoke made specifically for them. I remember Dad explaining that not a drop was lost because it fitted their shoulders so well that they could carry the load easily whilst other milkmaids had an ill-fitting yoke which gave them sores or made them lopsided. They were unable to bear the burden so well and so some of the precious milk was lost.

Jesus urges those who will listen to him to take his yoke, telling them that it is easy and they will find their burden light. That doesn’t mean that what they carry IS light – just that a well-fitting yoke will enable a greater weight to be safely carried. Jesus’ whole life showed that, although even he found the burden too much to bear and fell under the weight of what he was made to carry to the cross. Even Jesus needed a helping hand and Simon of Cyrene provided it, albeit reluctantly. Describing himself in St Matthew’s words as “gentle and humble in heart”, Jesus nevertheless faced and endured terrible suffering at the hands of those who opposed him – yet that gentleness proved to be invincible! For Jesus, vulnerability was part of his strength and not a weakness.

Today, vulnerability can still sometimes be seen as a weakness and those people described as such have been asked to shield themselves by staying at home during the ongoing pandemic. It’s also been a factor for those coming off ventilators, as in the case of the children’s writer Michael Rosen who had been dependent on one for seven weeks. It was feared that he wouldn’t survive at all but the intervention and skill of the NHS staff caring for him meant that he was put into an induced coma so that their treatment and support could help his body bear what he was facing. Although the after effects of Covid-19 have left him feeling feeble, lopsided and vulnerable, Michael Rosen is still alive where so many are not, although he still faces many challenges ahead – as do we all.

For its 60th birthday, Rosen had written a poem called ‘These are the hands’ which celebrated the hard work and team effort of all those who work in the NHS. He could not have known then that, 12 years later, he would be in such need of it himself and his poem was reissued in a musical version while he, the medical staff and his family were fighting for his life in May. That can be found on YouTube but the original follows, as a tribute to the NHS staff, carers and key workers as well as all those who help others bear whatever burdens they face or who have much to handle today.

Today – virtually, or from a social distance! – can you give or receive a helping hand, so that a burden can be eased and hope renewed?

With my prayers,


These are the hands

These are the hands

That touch us first

Feel your head

Find the pulse

And make your bed.

These are the hands

That tap your back

Test the skin

Hold your arm

Wheel the bin

Change the bulb

Fix the drip

Pour the jug

Replace your hip.

These are the hands

That fill the bath

Mop the floor

Flick the switch

Soothe the sore

Burn the swabs

Give us a jab

Throw out sharps

Design the lab.

And these are the hands

That stop the leaks

Empty the pan

Wipe the pipes

Carry the can

Clamp the veins

Make the cast

Log the dose

And touch us last.

Michael Rosen.

The Diocesan Prayer for the week

Ever-present God;

In all the difficulties we encounter, the joys we experience, or the pains we bear,

show us how we can learn and grow through every situation.

We pray that we may not lose heart,

nor forget the treasures we can find even in the hardest times.

For this world that we pass through is the one you love;

and in your love, nothing is lost or wasted. Amen.

(Canon Carol Wardman)