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Keep On, Keeping On- By Pastor Tom Engel

During the late seventies and early eighties, did you stick to a shaggy beard, wearing flowers in your hair, and did you proclaim that Rock and Roll will never die, or did you pull on your cowboy boots and become an urban cowboy, or did you get a silk shirt and dance all night under a disco ball?

I have to say I like all those genres, but I will admit I spent most of those two decades as an urban cowboy. All I mean is that I owned a pair of cowboy boots. I didn’t even get close to riding a mechanical bull.

Although, especially looking back, all the styles and music were good back then.

We had everything from the Eagles to America, from Waylon Jennings to Willy Nelson, and from The Bee Gees to Donna Summer. I think John Travolta would say he liked all the genres, too, because he made Saturday Night Fever in 1977 and Urban Cowboy in 1980. In a short few years, he went from not touching his hair that was loaded with hair spray to wearing a cowboy hat that gave him hat hair-you know how the hat makes a sweaty ring on your head.

What do you have in the back of your closet?

Have you kept your platform shoes, which may be back in style, or are you still holding on to your leisure suit, which hopefully will never come back in style? But, that leisure suit is made out of polyester, the same thing that tires are made out of, so that leisure suit is still probably in good shape.

Do you have a 8 track player. Can you even get 8 tracks any longer?

Did you wear a mood ring?

8 track tapes were phased out in the eighties. Mood rings were invented in 1975, and they are still popular today. Is your ring showing a calm blue today?

I suppose we could talk for hours about those days and reminisce about where we were at and what we were doing back then in decades gone by. I choose to take a look at the seventies and eighties because they come after the turbulent sixties of political and social changes.

It seems that those decades were a time when we were able to settle in and get on with our lives.

As the 1970s moved toward the 1980s, Americans became tired of social struggle. They became tired of losing money. They had been working together for common interests. Now, many wanted to spend more time on their own personal interests. This change appeared in many parts of American society. It affected popular culture, education, and politics.

With technological improvements, just about everyone had a personal computer, and with a bright economy, Americans of the early and middle 1980s were filled with hope. Many felt there were almost no limits on the good life they could lead.

The popular television shows were Dallas and Dynasty. We wanted to get the top of that success ladder, and if we had to stomp on others on the way, that’s okay. Gotta love the drama.

How did you do in the eighties going into the nineties?

In 1989, The Washington Post had an article with the title, THE STOCK MARKET FROM THE ROARING '80S TO THE SOBER '90S.’ If we have good times, they don’t seem to last. Do they?

They say history repeats itself. Well, its not an exact repetition of events, but we could probably say the essence of events repeat themselves. Life is about how things go around and it’s ups and downs. Different wars caused in different ways, but all sides suffer. Economic problems caused in different ways, but everyone suffers, especially the poor who are already having difficulties. Different political conflicts caused in different ways, but all suffer when sides are always fighting. Different social issues caused by different ideas, but all suffer when people stop listening to each other.

It seems that we are in times of deep political and social changes.

I wonder what is going to happen next.

The past couple of years, especially, has affected our lives, economically, culturally, and socially. Life has changed in the workplace, at schools, and in our communities. Hopefully, things are going to get better, but for now, there is way too much conflict going on, making things hard, causing suffering.

But, we never really know how things are going to be, so we always have our hopes. We are not sure of what is ahead of us, and that not knowing can cause us to be anxious. Although what we may face is new, we know that whatever comes, we can be sure we can get through it. Doesn’t it make sense that if we got through all kinds of things before that we can get through whatever comes next?

Haven’t we lived long enough to know that we can make it through things?

I have to say I’m curious where we are going these days? It’s only natural to want to know what is coming ahead of us, for we make our plans, and we work to make those plans to come out. But, life doesn’t always work out for us as we like, but we still keep on, keeping on. In whatever comes, we make it through it all. Sitting here today, we are proof that we got through whatever this past week dished out at us.

And, we will probably be sitting here next week, too.

People have been sitting here in these pews to worship God for over 125 years. The school is in its 85th year of teaching students. St Philip’s members have seen the world and their lives go through wars, economic depressions and recessions, stock market highs and lows, social unrest, terrorist attacks as we remember 9/11 today, pandemics, and political upheavals. Over 2,000 students have passed through the grades at the school. As we celebrate 85 years of Christian Education this year, we will be seeing how St Philip has kept going the training children in the way they should go. By Wednesdays, I usually have an idea on what I going to preach on for that Sunday. But, I wasn’t so sure this Wednesday.

During chapel led by Mrs. Tennis, she was teaching about growth mind set, and on one of her power point slides, it said, “Keep on, keeping on.” She talked to the children about the little engine who was chugging up the mountain. It’s a children’s story with a profound lesson for us. The little engine went from thinking it could do it to actually doing it. Mrs. Tennis had on another slide, “God can, so we can.” To be sure, this doesn’t mean we can accomplish everything we want to do, for if it that was true, I would have been pitching about my 40th year for the Cubs this season, and because of my pitching, we would be looking at the playoffs. What it does mean is that we can get done all that God wants done according to His divine plan for the world and our lives.

If anything, we always get through what we are going through.

Going with the theme of the readings today about a lost son, a lost sheep, and a lost coin, we find how precious every person is to God. God wants every person to be saved, and He won’t rest until everyone who is lost has the chance to be found. As we see the chaos and wonder why things are happening as they do, we need to know two things:

God is working out His plan for all people who don’t have faith to come to faith.

Also, whatever is in God’s plan, we, as His beloved children will get through it.

God is bringing this world to an end, and before He does, He wants all people to hear His word about His grace in Jesus Christ.

Brian can give us an update on the repairs to the bell tower. I miss the bells ringing out. I think the work is almost completed, so soon we will be rededicating the bell tower, and we will be hearing the bells once again. The bells ring out on Sunday morning to let the community know that worship is starting. It’s here that we can come as we are as sinners, but we can have forgiveness of every sin, we can hear God’s Word of salvation, and we can have new life when we eat and drink the bread and wine, which is the true body and blood of Christ that gives us all things. By God’s grace, St Philip has been here, is here, and will be here by the grace of God for us and anyone to come to receive what is most important, the giving and building up of faith. It’s only faith that makes us to keep on, keeping on through all things. We can be strong that in anything we know that our help comes from the Lord, all things work out for the good, and Jesus will never leave us.

Lately, I’ve been watching reruns of the Johnny Carson Show. It’s funny to watch actors come on the show and talk about a premiere of a movie that is now a classic.

In one monologue, Johnny made a joke about gas rising to seventy cents per gallon.

Those were the good old days. What would you have replied if someone told you back then that gas would be over five dollars per gallon. We do get through no matter what the price of gas is.

On the news this weekend, we are hearing about the 9/11 attacks, and we have heard the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth said in a speech that 1992 was her worst year. Her family was falling apart with divorces, and fire damaged her Windsor Castle home. But, she got through all of her years to have lived a honorable, long life.

The best we can do is to do what we only can do; we can keep on, keeping on.

We can be confident that we can keep going because our going is by the grace of God, and God gives us an abundant amount of grace always that is in Christ Jesus.

With knowing we are here today and having all that has happened in the world and in our lives, we know we can keep on, keeping on.

Yet, with just knowing that we get through things, it still gives room for fear of what is coming next.

But, but our faith in the grace of God in Christ Jesus, we do not need to fear for God is constantly looking out for us, and in that way, we with all certainty can keep on, keeping on-not in fear but in peace with whatever is coming next.

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