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Monday, March 28, 2016

Keep Calm and Carry On

When I went to do my lectionary reading, this morning; honestly I was a little bit confused.

Isaiah 7:10-13, "Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 'Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.'  But Ahaz said, 'I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.'  Then Isaiah said, 'Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?'" (NIV).

I don't want to try the patience of humans.  I sure don't want to try the patience of God.  The whole, "ask for a sign," thing has always been a bit baffling to me.  Have I mentioned that this is a confusing passage to follow the Easter narrative? 

I decided that I needed to go back and read the whole chapter, because context matters.  Here's what's happening in Isaiah chapter 7 that brings us to this point...

Ahaz, king of Judah, is about to be overtaken by a powerful army.  Except, it doesn't work out, so that army aligns themselves with some more powerful allies.  And Ahaz gets scared.  Scripture says, his heart was shaken.  The hearts of his people were shaken.  A lot (v.2). 

But God sends Isaiah to tell them, "Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid.  Do not lose heart" (v.4).  "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all" (v.9).

Frankly, I'm not sure what they have to lose.  They already think they are going to fall, so it probably makes sense to make a last ditch effort... faith.  Oh, wait.  That's not really supposed to be the last thing we try, is it?

Now, we get to the part where Isaiah instructs Ahaz to go ahead and ask for a sign. 

And Ahaz is like, "Nope.  Not gonna ask."  And, let's be real, that seems like the faith filled thing to say and do, right?  Except, this sign for which Ahaz is supposed to ask isn't some superficial magic omen.  The sign to which Isaiah is referring is the coming of Christ, the birth of Jesus, God incarnate.


I think, maybe, it's kind of like Pentecost...

Now I'm connecting the dots...

So...  true story...  I am not a "Whovian", and as you may know, I am also not amazingly awesome at pop culture references.  However, in recent years, the whole "Keep calm and (fill in the blank)" thing has sort of swept the world (even I have a keep calm t-shirt), and somehow it was my understanding that this phrase came from Dr. Who.  I was going to make mention of this, but I wanted to get my facts straight first.  As it turns out, the original "keep calm" was printed as a World War II propaganda poster, "Keep Calm and Carry On," to be used in crisis, to bolster resolve.  As it also turns out, it was never used. 

But what if we used it now?  What if, instead of panic, distress, and violence, we chose to ask for the Holy Spirit, to wait patiently, and to trust that God will do what God says God will do?  What if we did not allow our hearts to be shaken but to be filled?  What if we actually kept calm and carried on?

Luke 1:37, "For no word from God will ever fail" (NIV).

Jesus...  the word...


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