I have thought about this day for four and a half years. I waited until my last semester of seminary to take Dr. Ellsworth Kalas’s Theology and Practice of Preaching course. As I sat under this man, I knew I was interacting with someone who would have a lifelong impact on me spiritually, personally, and as an exemplar in the vocation to which I was called. Dr. Kalas was 88 at the time I was his student. He taught me to preach “from the soul” and that being a preacher is not just about being a student of the Bible; it’s also about being a student of life and humanity.
While every day of life is an uncertain gift (which Dr. Kalas reminded us every time he preached), his age made me especially appreciative that my ability to learn from him, study with him, and correspond with him even after graduation was a precious gift. I have thought about this day and knew it would come. Today, he has joined the “great cloud of witnesses” that now cheer us on from glory. I thank God for the gift of sadness sometimes. It lets us know we have felt, loved, been thankful, and in fact are human. For if we did not mourn, how would God comfort us? If we did not feel sorrow, how would we find great hope in the Resurrection? And if we did not know the blessings and how precious and sometimes time-sensitive they are, how would we give thanks? Today, I grieve with those who grieve, especially Dr. Kalas’s family. I am sad as the world feels different now that one more saint has gone on. But I rejoice and give thanks, because the earth is forever better for having had Ellsworth Kalas. Thanks be to God.