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No More Dying Only Light

January 25, 2021

“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'” Revelation 5:13

Carl Schalk died yesterday. I count myself as one of the many (many!) people blessed by his life and ministry. Carl had a clear sense of the gospel; his work as a musician and composer always reflected this. This morning, I picked up my copy of his collection of essays and occasional writings, Singing the Church’s Song. Every page is a treasure; Carl valued words and employed them with care, all for the sake of the gospel.

Of the church’s song he wrote, “But the song which truly touches the heart and reaches to the depths of our human condition, offering the word of hope and comfort, is always the song that speaks the good news of the Gospel clearly and directly. It is the song that rehearses the story of what God has done and who we are as a redeemed community.” And, “When that song, sung to God, to each other, and to the world, is centered in God’s saving act at the cross and at the empty tomb, it is the only song that touches the heart.”

I last saw Carl on Friday afternoon. We read scripture and prayed. We shared Holy Communion, the meal of the crucified and risen Christ. We did what the church does, receiving the gifts of Jesus. I am thankful that I had the chance to thank him one more time for helping us sing the gospel. Carl’s life of faith prepared him for these moments. He knew well the God to whom he was soon going.

Carl often said goodbye to me with the admonition to “Write when you find honest work.” His wry wit was always at play! But his devotion to the work of the church was unflagging, and I’m grateful for the conversations we shared, which were always to my benefit. He always had a suggestion or two, and he was always right. I am a better pastor because of Carl.

Carl wrote an inscription to me in the book quoted above. It begins, “To my pastor.” I’d been his pastor for all of fifteen minutes when he wrote those words. They are signs of his care for the church and the ministry shared between clergy and musicians. It was a blessing to be one of the many pastors who were “his.”

Thank you, Carl, for helping us to sing Christ’s praise. Thank you for the blessing your life was to Grace, and to the church throughout the world. And thanks be to God, in whose eternal presence you now live.

Thine the amen!

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of life, we thank you for Carl, and for all the saints who have gone before us. Help us continue to sing praise in the midst of this broken world until we, too, are gathered around the throne of the Lamb. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: The Ghent Altarpiece, Jan van Eyck, between 1425 and 1429 (public domain).

From → COVID-19

One Comment
  1. Tim Schalk permalink

    Pastor Lyle, Thank you so much for your loving words. I give thanks to God for the example dad was to our family and the church. The life he led, a life of humility and centered in Christ, always pointed to the Gospel message of the saving acts of God through Christ. So many of his writings ended with a phrase emphasizing this – Soli Deo Gloria!

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