A Motto For A Pandemic

Matthew Ruttan, Pastor
Richard Topping, Principal, Vancouver School of Theology

Mottos are succinct statements which give guidance to people or organizations. They are a lot like proverbs: short sayings based on long experience. They encourage us to make the most of a particular time and place. They press for action that fits a sense of the world.

Here are some examples which could be considered mottos:

  • Seize the day (Caesar getting ready for a battle)
  • Faster, higher, stronger (the Olympics)
  • Just do it (Nike trying to get us off the couch)
  • Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (the American Declaration of Independence)
  • Be the person your dog thinks you are!

Recently, some words came to mind which, after thinking about them, started to sound like a motto for a pandemic. For a time and place like this, this saying encourages people of faith to live like people of faith in the here and now. Here it is:

“Take it seriously, take it easy, take it to the Lord.”

Here’s an explanation:

First, “take it seriously”

There are real concerns, and we are naïve or careless to be naïve or careless. When we become numb or desensitized to dealing with a complicated situation it tends to get worse, not better.

There is illness. People are making great sacrifices. And there are decisions being made which are making—and will continue to make—ripple effects all around the world for a long time to come.

Our time now is a lot like Advent time, when Scripture says to be alert and to pay attention. Big moves are a foot. Don’t dissipate, which means, don’t sink into sensuality which dulls your attention to the time you are in.

Second, “take it easy”

Everything is both harder and less rewarding at the same time. Not only is there physical illness, but there is mental strain and soul fatigue. We probably need better rest, exercise, and diet practices than we’re used to.

Yes, take your work seriously; but recognize it isn’t all up to us individually. There is no shame in resting and in asking for help. We can’t be human without rest. We are made to observe the rhythm of work and rest, rest and work. Working all the time is what God liberated his people from in Egypt. God gives his people the life-giving command to remember the Sabbath and rest.

And when it comes to dealing with other people in this frazzling chapter of life, we need to extend the same grace and understanding to others that we ourselves need. In spades.

And at the end of a long day, when everything plus the kitchen sink didn’t go as planned, and when you start to beat yourself up, maybe you just need to… chill. Blessed Sabbath. That’s when we recognize that the one thing that had to be done, God did in Jesus.

God will uphold the world while we rest. We who are the best of times, and who get twitchy if we are not multitasking, can actually rest in God who upholds the universe by the power of his Word. 

Third, “take it to the Lord”

A part of the malaise we moderns experience is that we’ve become addicted to the idea of self-sufficiency. “The Lord helps those who help themselves,” we say. That’s not Jesus; that’s Benjamin Franklin. God also helps those who can’t help themselves—which is a more accurate and consistent picture of the reality each of us experience on a daily basis. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” says 1 Peter 5:7.

Are you tired, anxious, burdened, sad, angry, lost? Talk to God about it, worship him, read his word, rest in him, seek the counsel of faith-filled friends, and trust in a plan which includes you but is not created by you.

When many of our plans have been damaged or dashed, and when we feel like we don’t have control, we rest in the hand of the One who is. Or, at least we now acknowledge where we our lives have been resting all along.

The oft-underlined words of Proverbs 3:5-6 are both a comfort and a challenge at a time like this when each new day is pregnant with uncertainty: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Take it seriously, take it easy, take it to the Lord. That’s conduct befitting the household of faith in this strange and challenging time. 

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