Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Thanksgiving Through the Decades

Thanksgiving Eve
Wednesday, November 24, 1999
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

"Blessings Through The Decades"

For the last hundred years, American Thanksgivings have come and gone. We as citizens of this nation have much to be thankful; as a nation, as a parish, as a people of God. This present house of worship is nearing 100 years. Just think of all of the Thanksgiving services, which have been celebrated at this particular house of worship. {96 to be exact!}

This year will mark the last Thanksgiving service of a decade and of a century. Each decade has been important to us in its own unique sense. With each passing decade we recall significant milestones in our life as those important aspect of our life take shape. Through the passing of time we were born, went to school, were confirmed, married, had our children, focused on our career and entered into retirement, each in a particular decade. True, your events may differ from mine, but this century truly has been a very unique one in all of life’s aspects. Over the last hundred years, what have we celebrated in saying thank you?

1900-1909- America was on the move. This was the decade of the exploration of air travel; the birth of aviation happens in the same year that this church building was dedicated. This decade witnessed the birth of the airplane, the telephone, refrigeration, railroad expansion, as well as coast to coast modernization.

1910-1919- America witnessed the suffering of the First World War. Labeled as "the war to end all wars" it was only the first of other wars that were yet to come. Perhaps this decade’s best achievement was the advancement of medicine, which handled various ailments that we often felt incurable. Just wander through the infant row of our church cemetery and you will find many a child that died during this ten year span.

Twenty years into a new century many Americans were witnessing longer and healthier lives due to newfound advances in medicine.

1920-1929- Next came "The roaring 20’s". In this decade we witnessed Woman’s suffrage and the advance of radio. The Lutheran Hour "Bringing Christ to the Nations – and the Nations to the Church" became the first evangelistic radio program and is thus the longest running religious radio outreach to our nation and beyond. Our Synod became known as a voice on the cutting edge of media evangelism. This was the decade in which mainline churches began evangelism outreach. We also entered a stage in which America took greater strides to be a leader in a New World.

1930-1939- Prohibition. The 30’s saw an increase in many of the "isms"; Fascism, Nazism, Communism…the church became more English in worship language and less European. In this parish we held on to our cultural roots retaining German in worship services although English services were begun. In many areas of the Synod German-Lutheranism became "Americanized" during the ‘30’s.

1940-1949- Another war-World War II. America emerged as a world power to be recognized. As the world was on the verge of total annihilation the church responded with a vision of offering hope to a world gone mad. The church was on the dawn of witnessing its greatest growth any time in the history of America. This was the decade in which Lutherans in America began to develop their own identity. The German language took a second place to the English language and city churches soon began the flight to the suburbs.

1950-1959- Our Synod saw a need for more clergy. Synod schools, colleges, and seminaries were at an all time high; graduates from our Synodical institutions of the 50’s are now entering retirement and the clergy and teacher shortages for the next ten years will have to be dealt with seriously.

In the 50’s our parishes began to "reach out" and say thank you for this nation. It was a time in which the "cold war" was in full gear. Consequently the church family began to worship together as never before; programs were at an all-time high remember -the Walther league? Televisions began to appear in nearly every home. As a result of peace time dividends more and more students began to realize the dream of a college education. We became modernized as a nation.

1960-1969- In my opinion, the decade of the sixties was a watershed decade. When this century is studied in the history books of the future, the 60’s will be remembered as what dramatically shaped our culture just as the Civil War helped define the 19th. Century. Consider the impact of these ten years. We landed on the moon and witnessed the British Invasion. The 60's was the decade of Vietnam, the Cuban crisis, free love and Woodstock. The 50’s were long gone; Ozzie and Harriet, Donna Reed- they became a thing of the past. Laugh In became big and so were communes among Christians. A President, Senator, and an Advocate preacher all died by assassination. The summer night of ‘68 were filled with the shrill sounds of sirens, broken glass, and of riots as the cry "burn baby burn" was heard in nearly every corner of the nation, and "YOUTH" was voted man of the year. In the church the question was asked "do we have a direction in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod? A split was already developing in our church body yet no one was ready for it.

1970-1979- The decade of Watergate, the end of Vietnam, and the leisure suit. Speculation is made that family union may become a thing of the past. Loyalty to country is now being questioned.

The church, in the meantime becomes active in community projects. Steel Mills close, factories and mines are shut down. Gas prices go up. The free flow of oil into American interests becomes the fuel that runs the engine of the free world. The family farm is in trouble as government regulations increase while commodity prices decrease. There is disharmony in the heartland as a new paradigm in American agriculture is introduced with much resistance. Nixon resigns while The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod splits apart {1974-1976}. New service formats begin, while traditional churches become suspect.

1980-1989- Pride in the nation returns. Reaganomics, the fall of Communism and a split in Lutheran circles. Aids shows up in the gay community while churches claim that the devil is alive and well upon this earth and we are still twenty years away from the year 2000!

1990-1999- This decade has begun like the other previous nine decades. We have advanced in so many ways- in medicine, in computer technology; there has been an explosion of information in just the past five years…every sermon, every Bible class, every minuet of a church meeting conducted over the past 161 years of Friedheim’s history; all of the church records and so much more is currently housed in six file cabinets. That information now can be "burned" into two CD’s! The Lord has open a window to the world for us. Immigrants from China, Africa, and Eastern Europe are flooding into our area because America still remains the land of plenty. The heartland is no exception. We no longer need to do mission work traveling across the ocean there are peoples from every conceivable culture in our own back yard. When an Anglo-Saxon dies in America one takes his place due to birth or immigration. When a black man dies three take his place due to birth or immigration. When a Hispanic dies five take his place due to birth or immigration. When an Asian dies ten take his place due to birth or immigration! The face of America is changing yet the need for others to hear the Gospel has not changed!

In the 90’s we have witnessed prosperity, growth, and also national disgrace. The church is still split and people talk of near Armageddon.

What do we say to all these things? St. Paul reminds us that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself not counting our sins against us and He has given us this message of reconciliation". As time marches on we must remember with the Psalmist "My times are in Thy hands" The little children sing "He’s got the whole world in His hands" and so He does!

We make it the habit of marking time. It helps us remain connected to what has happened in the past and it gives us some sort of mark by which to predict the future. Yet, we worship a Savior who is timeless, Who has prepared for us a place where there is no time. As we recall the changes and changes of this ever-churning world may we recall that in Him we live and move and have our being.

He will direct us. He will sustain us. For His mercy, which endures to this present day, may we thank, and praise, serve and obey Him. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. And yes, A Blessed Thanksgiving!

+ Soli Deo Gloria +