Text study on Zechariah 9:9-12, Psalm 145:8-14, Romans 7:15-25a and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Lectionary text for July 3, 2011
It’s the Sunday before the Fourth of July, the day right before the highest point of summer vacation. Other than the Sunday after Christmas, is there a Sunday with fewer people in the pews? Many in our congregations will be getting away to see family, be at the beach or the lake, or staking out the best spot for viewing fireworks.
What will be going on in our places of worship on this weekend? Who will hear the word from Zechariah, Romans and Matthew? It seems like this is a week that may be better suited for a medley of patriotic music — you know, something that would really fill the seats.
Most of my Fourth of July celebrations over the past several years have been spent at Camp Lutheridge in Arden, N.C., where the theme of the week was constructed around the Fourth of July and our freedom in Christ — a theme that resonates in all the readings. The Spirit is moving in ways that celebrate freedom and bring the world rushing to our doors.
Prisoners set free
Zechariah reads, “I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” And from the pits of slavery, hunger and poverty those who are held prisoner are rushing to take the spaces left empty by those soaking in the early summer sun.
The psalmist writes, “The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.” And those bowed under forces in their culture and society are raised up to speak among those whose absence is due to the yearly chili cook-off.
In the Gospel reading, Christ proclaims, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” And those that can find no rest in their lives are taking that invitation seriously, longing for Sabbath in the place often held by those finding rest floating on an inner tube in the middle of a lake.
This weekend, while many may be away from our pews taking well-deserved time with family and faithful celebrations of the freedoms afforded us, let the scriptures speak loud and clear as God works to fill every open space of the church. Let us celebrate the Spirit who makes it possible for us to welcome all and who leads us to the rest that only Christ can give.
How do you celebrate the freedom from sin, death and hopelessness given by God in Christ?
How is the Holy Spirit calling you to be re-created this summer?
How does your congregation welcome those who seek the freedom of the gospel?
Chandler Carriker is congregational resources specialist for Lutheran World Relief. An associate in ministry in the ELCA, Chandler has been an assistant program director at Camp Lutheridge in Arden, N.C., adjunct professor of religion at Thiel College in Greenville, Pa., director of theological education with youth at both Gettysburg and Philadelphia seminaries of the ELCA and a guitarist/songwriter for the band “boywonder.”