“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light…” (Matthew 11:28-30)
During the summer months, most churches see a decline in attendance – sometimes significant. What does a decline in attendance have to do with the summer? Obviously, as people travel, they’re away from their home congregations. Sometimes, schedules can even get busier, at least in parts of the summer, if children are playing summer sports. And, of course, planting and harvest times can mean a precarious schedule for farmers here and there, especially depending on the weather.
‘Summer break’ and church attendance also have a much more important connection, though. For most people, summer still is a time when we try to find some ‘rest and relaxation.’ This usually means a break from the schedule or a trip away. But, for some reason, our mindset about ‘going to church’ seems to change over the summer months, when we have a tendency to see church as optional, at best. It’s almost as if being in church on Sunday is so connected with the school year that it mostly becomes an afterthought during the summer, like homework assignments or class projects. But, nothing changes for the Church over the summer. As one of my friends once wrote, “There’s no such thing as a vacation from receiving the gifts of God.
There’s no summer break in the Church. We’ll still be here, week in and week out, distributing the forgiveness that the Triune God so dearly desires to give you.” Yes, the Church will continue to be the Church over the summer, doing what it always does — proclaiming the Word, administering the Sacraments, and faithfully living together in the coming kingdom of God.
After Pentecost, when literally thousands of people were converted and baptized, Luke tells us, They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42, 46-47). The author of Hebrews adds, [Do not neglect] to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (10:25). Not neglecting to meet together. Just as we don’t stop feeding our bodies during the summer months, so too our minds and hearts need the nourishment of the Word of God. After all, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of Yahweh (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Summer is indeed a time of rest. The problem is that we have lost a right understanding of what rest is and where we can find it. Jesus gives us the answer at the end of Matthew 11, which you read at the top of the page. Only in Jesus do we find rest. And we find Jesus where he promises to be – in his Word and with his gifts. Jesus has gifts to give to you over the summer. Life, forgiveness, and salvation are still being offered to you by the Word, in the water, and through the body and blood. So, if you’re going on vacation, try to find a faithful, confessional, Christ-centered Lutheran church to attend while you’re there. If there absolutely isn’t one close, at least remember to bring your Bible and hymnal to do daily devotions with your family. And yes, I understand that the crops won’t plant or harvest themselves. I know that there will always be work, responsibilities, family get-togethers, and other events. But, through everything, we all need rest. And ultimately, vacations and time off work only do so much. We need Jesus – now, in the summer, and always.
“Come unto Me, ye weary, and I will give you rest.” O blessed voice of Jesus, which comes to hearts oppressed! It tells of benediction, of pardon, grace, and peace, of joy that hath no ending, of love that cannot cease.” (Come unto Me, Ye Weary”, LSB 684)
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