Address – Elder G. H. Falkenstein, Philadelphia
The Unfinished Task
I heard persons say at the close of the series of addresses or sermons that it is likely to do one or two things; it either empties a man that he hasn’t anything to say or fills him so full that he can’t talk.
This was a great day. Don’t forget, it was the jubilee. As we go out of this house tonight we step upon the threshold of the next jubilee. Some of you may be here when that celebration comes, some of us won’t.
A few years ago I stood at the threshold of the old school. It was 50 years since we had gone out of this school. We had never returned to meet as a class in the 50 years. That was a jubilee. It yeas a great day.
I am going to read a text as a foundation for my topic which I have selected, the “Unfinished Task.” I suppose it is very easy for you to diagnose somewhat the case and perhaps be able to catch the line of thought which is in my mind. I am going to read a very familiar text. I am going to read from the wonderful chapter of faith. Now for fear you might get uneasy, I am not going to preach on faith. Brother Schlosser said some fine things on that subject too. I want to read the closing verses of the 11th Chapter of Hebrews and the last verse is the foundation of my text.
This last verse is the foundation of my text. I want to stop a minute and speak about this music, this Men’s Chorus. I like a Men’s Chorus because there is a certain tremendous power of voice that is always impressive to me. Some of the finer things are not so well suited to a Men’s Chorus. I wonder if you understand what is meant by the Lower Lights. I am going to give you a little incident in my life. Many years ago, I was to visit in a lighthouse on Cape Horn, down at the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific Coast. I was to be a guest of a tender of the lighthouse, a friend whom I had met. He said, “Now I am not on duty until 12 o’clock midnight. I have promised to make a call across the Bay and we will be back in time and you shall go with me to the lighthouse, one of the largest lighthouses on any of the U. S. coasts.” I accepted. “You sit at the wheel.” We went across the Bay to visit the friends that he had spoken of. While we were there one of those sudden storms arose on the Bay of the mouth of the Columbia. When we set out to the Bay to get our little row boat, he said, “There is a big storm on Bay. If I had known that there would be such a Storm I wouldn’t have ventured but I will promise you one thing. If you do what I tell you we will get across safely. If you will guide the boat, I will row it across the Bay.” The waves were high, the wind was washing a wave across the Bay high on the rocks. “You see those lights along the shore?” I said, “Yes sir, I see them.” “Never mind about the lighthouse on top the rock on Cape Horn, steer straight for the lighthouse on the shore.” “You know there are many light houses way up high. Lots of those along the shore. Head straight for those lights along the shore and I will promise you that we will get across safety. Be sure that your boat is always at right angles to the waves that strike.” Then we started out. I supposed he knew what he was talking about and I trusted him. He was familiar with the conditions. We started out. I tried to do what he told me. I had in mind the lower lights and we arrived safely on the other side. You and I are the little lighthouses along the shore. I want you to sing that after this with the understanding that the little lighthouses are the things that count along the coast line, along the great coasts along the country; and that beautiful singing of the family of the seven sisters. I knew their great-grandfather intimately and his descendants are now in the 6th generation.
We have been looking back today, and as we stand here on the threshold of a new jubilee I would like to speak a little of the Unfinished Task tonight. To me this is a wonderful looking back. Paul spoke of the wonderful faith and I know that not one of us can read that faith chapter without being impressed with a heart’s desire that we might be among the list of that kind. In Paul’s times their work was not perfect, it was not complete, it needed the time on the part of the apostles in which Paul lived to complete the work of the embodiment of the faithful. As we stand here tonight I want you to look back. Many of you today are the descendants of those who have sometime or other lived in this territory of the old Codorus congregation. Sometime during the period of 175 years.
I wish you would think along the line of your inheritance for I want to think very briefly first then of the things we have inherited in these church relations. I am not going to speak directly now upon our inheritance in Christ Jesus but simply these Church relations and I wish we might just enlarge on that and see whether that kind of inheritance that we have received means anything to us. As we enter into the new era, as we go forward into the years that are before, does it mean anything, is it any challenge to us in the inheritance that we received, does it put us under some obligation, is more expected of you and of me because of the fact that we have received these things, some of us for more than a century for almost a century and a half? There are persons teday in this territory of the Codorus congregation that do go back in their ancestry to the very first membership that was organized in 1759. Some of them in the Codorus congregation in the Codorus territory. Does it mean anything to you, does it mean anything to you that we have back of us this inheritance? I trust with the thought that because of this inheritance there is to you tonight a tremendous challenge.
To go further into this future. As we stand on the threshold of a new epoch you shall never be able to go back to the years that have gone by with the thought that you are not specially responsible because of this inheritance. You are entering upon a new epoch, upon a new era. The challenges before you to take it up upon the responsibility that you are called upon to complete the work of an ancestry that for generations has given you a godly exaanple.
Many years ago I stood facing a magnificent masterpiece of bronze statuary. I say bronze. It was bronze. The original of course was in marble, represented a heart’s desire of an artist. He had in one hand his mallet and other his chisel representing him to work on the marble carving the statuary which wins to be his masterpiece. As he was standing there with the representation of the masterpiece before him with mallet in one hand, I say, and chisel in the other, there seemed to be a touch to his shoulder. He looked back and there was the representation of an angel that touched him. Beneath the statue, beneath the bronze, was the word “Unfinished.” When that architect was carving his masterpiece in marble the angel of death came and his masterpiece was unfinished.
It is the history of the world. It is the history in all channels. It is the history of your ancestry and mine. They left an unfinished work. They did well in their day but the fields of conquest are only partly covered. Think of the great task that from generation to generation has continued in some form or other but each successive generation left its work unfinished and so tonight friends, Brethren and Sisters, it is before you and before me, the, “Unfinished Task.” As I look back into the years; my experience is not like yours. I have in this span of human endeavor for the cause of God in Christ Jesus, four generations that preceded me in this great task and each succeeding generation of that ancestry has left its work unfinished. The appeal to me tonight is tremendous when I think of the challenge. I sometimes have felt that if God saw fit, if He would give me strength, if he would give me strength of body and mind, I would like to live a hundred years to meet the challenge of the Unfinished Task that is before us; that is before you and me.
In this picture that I have presented to you I have been again and again wonderfully impressed as we read of those faithful ones in all that catalogue of history. I know they did well. They completed their work but there was something more than just a matter of exercising faith; and the apostle says it requires us in our day, in our time, it requires us to complete and perfect their work. Wouldn’t you like to contribute something, finishing the work of your father, of your grandfather and of your great grandfather, and your great, great, grandfather? Some of you have that obligation resting on you tonight, just as well as I have, I am impressed with a thought, you will pardon me if I confess it just a moment. We have heard a lot about the father and grandfather and great grandfather and great-great-grandfather. We have heard a lot today about the men, about the Brethren in particular. You know we are sometimes impressed almost as much because of the things that are not said as the things that are said. You know we have not heard much about mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers. When I was about to start out on this trip I said to my wife, “I wish you could go along too” Usually she las to stay at home when I go, not so much now as she used to. Many years ago she stayed home a lot while I traveled about, holding a series of evangelistic meetings from the Atlantic to the Pacific and who took care of the things at home, the stock and the children and the work of the Church beside? My wife did. When I said I wish she could go along, she said, “I wouldn’t be important if I went along. They expect you to do the work.” “Yes,” I said, “I have done a lot of work in my life that I was able to do because you stayed at home and kept the home while I was out in the field doing my little bit that I wouldn’t have been able to do if you had not been at home” As we think of the tremendous challenge, don’t forget that a part of the great work for the future, in completing the work of the last 50 years and 175 years, much of the work has always depended upon the wives and mothers who did the work that was not so noticeable.
I wonder how much I would have been able to do if it would have not been for my wife. I speak very candidly, I speak very honest. Go away and leave the children at home and the farm and business? No, I wouldn’t have gone, that’s all. I’d have stayed at home, I would have had to. I tell you, in the completing and perfecting of this work for the future, don’t forget the wives and the mothers and the grandmothers. They stay at home and work while you go out in the field. Take care of the children, many of them do, and a lot of other things. Yes, prayer. While you are out in the great tasks and struggles of life, they are at home praying for you and that helps. I wonder what you would have done sometimes with, yes without, the prayer of faithful wives and mothers.
The challenge. Yes, it fits the needs. This is very simple. It is the Unfinished Task that is considered tonight and I appeal to you in the more impressive thought to our day and age as you face it. I want you to consider your inheritance. You are under greater obligations because of your inheritance and just as the truth is declared in God’s work, Paul said, “I am debtor.” You never paid your debts. It doesn’t make any difference how long you live you will never be able to discharge all your duties and pay your debts in Christ Jesus and because of your inheritance, because of your responsibility, because of that the challenge. But I challenge you tonight as you stand on the threshold of a new era, a new epoch, a new jubilee, that you go forth as never before to meet the responsibility that now rests upon you that you are to finish the task that is tonight unfinished.
God bless you, is my prayer in Jesus Christ. Amen.