THE 23RD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.  And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
 "Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
 "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction."
2 Thes. 3:6-13
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,  nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.  For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said,  "As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down."  And they asked him, "Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?"  And he said, "See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is at hand!' Do not go after them.  And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once."
 Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.  But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake.  This will be your opportunity to bear witness.  Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer,  for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.  You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.  You will be hated by all for my name's sake.  But not a hair of your head will perish.  By your endurance you will gain your lives.
 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it,  for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.  Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.  They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
 "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves,  people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Keep calm and carry on is a slogan that could be found on many a poster, cup and t-shirt a few years ago. The slogan comes from a British World War II poster. It wasn’t used much at the time, but since its rediscovery several years ago it went “viral,” as they say. It’s all over the place.
The slogan was meant to keep up British morale in World War II in the case of mass bombings or gas attacks. The idea was to appeal to the British stiff upper lip, that wouldn’t let Mr. Hitler know that he was getting the best of them, even if he was. They were going to soldier on and in the words of Mr. Churchill, “Never surrender.”
There’s plenty to be freaking out about in our world these days, as there can be in each of our own personal lives as well. Yes, in this fallen world there are plenty of worries that can leave us each “freaking out” in our own ways, or at least a bit downhearted anyway. If you don’t have any, I’ve got a few that I could share with you, personal and pastoral ones, but somehow, I don’t think that you’ll need me to help you out in the “things to be concerned about” department.
Keep calm and carry on in a very real way is our Lord’s word for us this morning, not in the British stiff upper lip kind of way, but in a “Your redemption is drawing near” kind of way. As the Lord maps out the unfolding of history before His disciples, starting with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, going through the troubled life of the early Church, through to the very shaking of the earth’s foundations as this present age comes to a close, He calls them to a calm that carries on in faith and trust in Him.
The things the Lord Jesus describes are enough to terrify anyone. Truth be told, they’re so frightening, that really going there in our minds, could leave us all with post traumatic stress disorder at what it could all mean for us. But much of what Jesus describes did happen, especially when it comes to the destruction of Jerusalem and the life of the early Church, as it is happening right now in many places in the world, as it could happen right here. The world can change in an instant. We want to live as though it can’t, but it can, and as the Lord tells us this morning, it will.
Everyone will be freaking out the Lord Jesus says, fainting with fear, as the world literally falls apart around them, but not you, no, not you, you are to keep calm and carry on - straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Live each day as God gives it to you. Serve Him in your neighbour. Live out your callings whatever they may be, even if the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket around you. Be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have in Christ. Be ready to defend the truth. But keep calm and carry on.
Keep calm and carry on? The signs were never used by the British in World War II. The story goes, that they were holding off using them until they were really needed. If they weren’t needed during the Blitz on London, when the city was bombed for 57 days straight, I don’t know when they would have needed them. The truth could be, that the slogan might not have cut it when you had hellfire reigning down on you, since all that stood behind it was a stiff upper lip, that was quivering as it took cover in the Underground.
I’m not questioning the courage of the British, but if all you have is courage, it’s hard to “carry on,” when you’re looking at your bombed out house or your child lying dead in the rubble. We need to understand the Lord rightly this morning, when He calls us to keep calm and carry on as His people, even though we are hated and persecuted … even though people turn on us and betray us … even though our numbers shrink and many fall away. It’s why we need to understand Him rightly, when the world, and even our own lives are falling apart around us.
If, however, all that’s going to keep us calm and carrying on is our courage, then I can guarantee you that we won’t last long. The things Jesus describes are enough to make the courage of any fail. But there’s much more than human courage behind the Lord’s Word for us this morning. There is His cross. There is His empty tomb. There is His victory. As the Lord lays out history for us this morning He ends with the truth that He will be returning in a cloud with great power and glory. He ends with the truth that He will return with our redemption in hand.
Our Lord’s word to keep calm and carry on, even if everyone is freaking out around you, is founded on the truth of who He is and what He has done for you. I know how hard it can be to keep your heart and mind on that, when everything seems to be falling apart. I am ashamed to say how often my heart fails within me - how little trust and faith there seems to be in this poor sinner’s chest. But the Lord Jesus speaks to us in the Gospel today to focus my eyes and your eyes back on Him. It’s the only way that we’re going to get through what lies ahead for us in this life, whatever that might be.
This is in no small part why the Lord Jesus comes to us in His body and blood this morning. He comes to renew us in the truth of our Baptism … to renew us in His Word of promise that He is with us … to renew us in His Word of promise that no matter what comes against us not a hair of our heads will perish … that no matter what lies ahead for us our redemption is already in His hand.
“Come.” He says at the altar, “Receive my forgiveness. Receive my life. Come, let me fix your eyes back on who I am and what I have done for you, that I might calm you in my peace, so that you might carry on in faith. For I am coming. I have promised it. I am trustworthy and true. And I will save you, because I already have.” Amen.