Saints Peter and Paul, apostles
Peter and Paul are the two great heroes of the Apostolic Age ‑ Peter for leading the first Christian communities and binding them in unity, a role that springs from his profession of faith in Caesarea Philippi, and Paul for travelling throughout the Roman Empire as the Apostle to the Gentiles, ensuring that the Gospel could be heard by all. They both ended up in Rome, the heart of the Empire, where they crowned their lives of witness by shedding their blood for Christ. As the ancient hymn for this feast day (“Decora Lux aeternitatis”) says: "Rejoice, O Rome, this day; thy walls they once did sign
With princely blood, who now their glory share with thee.
What city's vesture glows with crimson deep as thine?
What beauty else has earth that may compare with thee?”
In celebrating the death of these apostles and martyrs, we celebrate the triumph of life and death offered fully to God.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Acts 12:1‑11
Simply fix in your mind that you are telling the congregation a story about Peter; all that is important is that they follow the story and learn something about Peter's faith and character, and the power of God who saves him. As usual with these readings, you are jumping into the middle of something, and the congregation in front of you don't have the advantage of knowing the context. Be aware that they don't know what you are going to read until you start to read it. Always, if possible, try to emphasise some sort of marker near the beginning of the reading to help them switch on to it. Today (even though this sounds obvious) make sure you underline the name "Peter" when it comes on line 3. Doing this will help the congregation link reading with feast, and listen more attentively. As you tell the story, do try to hold the congregation's attention right to the end.
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6‑8.17‑18
Again the context link is important ‑only here the only chance you have to link these words with Paul is in announcing the reading. This is a wonderful and powerful reading, where Paul speaks of his journey so far, and his hopes for the end. Paul is emphatic about what he has done: “I have fought the good fight…I have run the race…I have kept the faith.” Be as emphatic as Paul is when you read. The tone of the reading Might seem to start darkly: “the time has come for me to be gone”, but when you look at it as a whole you see that the tone is in fact dictated by the last line “To him be glory for ever and ever.” Allow this tone to permeate the whole reading. Let Paul's confidence ‑ in his faithfulness to his mission, and in his expectation of what the Lord has planned for him ‑ flow through your mouth as you read. Paul's aim was to inspire his friend and protege Timothy ‑ you can use his words to inspire yourself and the congregation today.