Unsung Saints Advent 2020

Thursday after Epiphany, January 7

Revelation 2:1-7

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

Carl, Old Testament professor

My late seminary advisor, Robert Harry, wrote a very nice “In memoriam” piece for his colleague Carl when cancer took him at the age of 59. After the demise of our seminary, most of the remaining faculty were “deployed” to other seminaries that would have them. Bob, Carl, George (Fr. Peter’s dad), and Ev became members of the faculty at Pacific Lutheran Seminary in Berkeley CA in the fall of 1983. Our late visitation pastor, Dale, a second career pastor, took classes from the four of them.

I remember Carl from Hebrew week in late August 1976. First-year students without Hebrew courses in undergrad school had a six day immersion in Hebrew. Carl and another prof gave us a foundation that was followed up with 75 minute Hebrew classes each week that fall. Carl was 47 at the time. We thought of him as old. He had earned his doctorate at Harvard when a degree from there meant more than that you had paid a lot of money to be indoctrinated by socialists who hate America. Carl had a passion for archaeology and regularly took students to participate in digs. Carl was a pastor’s kid, and he cared whether his students loved the Lord and were passionate about pastoral ministry.

After I had taken off the fall semester of my second year to fight with a girlfriend, I returned to the fold. There were new friends to make in the class I ended up walking the stage with and a new guitar-playing buddy everyone called RB. His claim to fame was having played guitar with Johnny Cash at a Lutheran Youth Gathering in New Orleans. RB on the guitar and I at the piano often did duets at fellowship events. We were asked by the graduating seniors to provide entertainment in a downtown hotel ballroom at the big banquet sponsored by Aid Association for Lutherans. The seniors specifically asked for a popular anthem by Ray Wiley Hubbard. We acquiesced, then added another by Charlie Daniels, and closed with “Amazing Grace.” The crowd sang along, wildly applauded, but not everyone was delighted.

The following Monday after chapel, Carl and Casey, another OT prof, took me aside and gave me a talk about the inappropriate first two numbers at the banquet. He said, “The Lord has given you good musical gifts and the ability to engage an audience in singing. I don’t think He approved of your musical selections, and right now I am not sure you should be a pastor.” Well, that was a sobering, terrifying moment after having just given up a five-year romance and a couple of years of my life to seminary classes and preaching monthly. Blessedly, the spring semester was over, on to a summer chaplaincy course at Deaconess Hospital, and then to vicarage four hours away in Kirksville. By the time, I got back on campus in the fall of 1979, I was no longer on Carl’s and Casey’s naughty list. Thanks be to God!

Carl was a very pious man, who would always don a black clerical collar and suit when he was the presiding minister for Wednesday Eucharist in the seminary chapel. The rest of the time he wore the tie and sport coat with elbow patches uniform favored by university professors of that era. Our seminary was known for producing solidly competent parish pastors, and Carl was on a mission to see that his students were pious believers and faithful pastors. There were guys in every class who were already on the professorial track, and Carl inspired them as he had once been inspired by one of the emeritus profs in Carl’s seminary days. That was the icing on the cake for Carl. He loved God’s Word and wanted his students to love the Word that endures forever.

Carl lasted in Berkeley for six years before his death at the age of 59. I suspect he loved the weather and the research resources available at the Graduate Theological Union there. He may well have loved the opportunity to teach more academically-gifted students on account of the cross-registration between the various seminaries and divinity schools there. But Carl was a social conservative with a strongly pietistic streak, and I wonder if that turned out to be a good move for Carl. I will ask him when I see him.

When it was time for vicarage placement, I was assigned to a town-gown parish, meaning a church that served a college campus. My supervisor was seminary prof material. I suspect Carl lobbied for it.

Dear Father, thank you for Carl, who formed seminarians for parish ministry. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Place forty pennies, nickels, or dimes into a bowl or box out of love for neighbors in need.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, NC

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.