The last entry in his pocket diary was on Saturday, June 21. His rotary desk calendar was set for the last time to Saturday, June 28. His last checks were drawn July 17, just a week before his death, and the check book balance tallied to the penny.
Most of the old, familiar things are still here—the escritoire at which he sat conning his Greek New Testament or the Hebrew Old Testament; the Glove-Wernicke sectional bookpresses handy; the Nestle and the Polyglot Bible and his various lexica within easy reach; the copper etched plaque on the wall over his desk with a windmill and a stream on it, and, beneath, the motto:
“All my thoughts go blithely home,
All my hopes are centered there,
Though the scenes through which I roam
Oft are splendid, often fair.
Yet my fancies fondly stray
Back along the homeward way.”
The chair is now empty. Instead, on the desk, there stands a miniature brass frame with his photograph in color. The cuckoo has just called from his vine-clad house, the big colonial grandfather clock has boomed out the hour, and the old clocks tick away the minutes that have passed since father slipped into the realm where there is no longer time—on the early morning of July 24, last year.
He had lived here with mother and me for the eight years of his retirement, and it is difficult to realize that he is not here now. Coming back from the funeral parlor after viewing his body, I wanted to tell him about the woman from the city where he had been pastor for so many years—a woman who, standing at the casket, had told me how he had cheered her during her long convalescence.
Father had a passion for knowledge, and his quest for facts remained keen to the end. What he didn’t know he was determined to learn. So often, it was more convenient to ask him than to consult a work of reference. If he didn’t know, he would look it up, and if he didn’t have the answer immediately I would usually have it within a few minutes.
Not being up on the fine points of Greek grammar, I would inquire, for example, “Why does Scripture say pasa graphe theopneustos? The genders don’t seem to agree.” But now he is not here. I felt his absence keenly one evening, when, having forgotten his reply to this philological inquiry, I stayed up until the early hours one morning searching out the answer before I finally found it right under my nose. Arndt and Gingrich had provided clues, and so did Thayer, but I missed the point. Finally, after much leafing through New Testament grammars I found it in an elementary text: “Some adjectives, especially compounds, have only two endings, the masc. and fem. having the same forms.” But what an advantage it had been to have a father who solved such riddles for me in a trice.
Now there is no opportunity to share with him the theological and other reading matter that comes to my desk—the big old roll-top which he had inherited from his father and given to me upon his retirement.
Such a change is hard to get accustomed to. Especially do I miss his ripe judgment in the practical affairs of the ministry. He had been in pastorates for 49 years, and was a district official part of that time. His father had also been a pastor and an administrator, and so there was little in the line of professional problems to which my father did not have a prompt solution in a few, well-chosen words, the distilled experience of two generations in the ministry.
Pastoral problems never rode him. It often seemed to me that he could turn his mind off and on at will. He knew his call was from God, and he depended upon the Almighty to sustain him. Had not the Lord said, “Thou art my servant. I have chosen thee and not cast thee away. Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee. I will help thee. Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness”? True, he had had all the usual problems of the ministry, plus some unusual ones, but he could commend them to the Lord and go to sleep after the most trying days.
Father was, above all, an all-around pastor. He did not aim, as so many nowadays do, to be a hard-driving administrator who can get the people into the church and get the money and work out of them. He had no use for miscellaneous activities that did not help forward the work of the Kingdom. The modern approach to church work I am sure he regarded as shallow in its essence, not prompted by the Spirit, and in some cases even treasonable to the divine call.
Nor did father specialize in homiletics. He would write his sermon in an hour or two on Friday evening in Gabelsberger shorthand, and then commit it to memory in twenty minutes. Saturdays, when it was feasible, he would relax and putter around in the house. Sunday morning he would awake with joy, eager to proclaim God’s word.
Lutheran pastors have more classes to teach than most ministers, and they have evening Lenten services at the low ebb tide of the year when sickness is rife and funerals prevalent. But while his strength held out, he never shunned effort. For years he preached three times on Sunday mornings—twice in English and once in German, and the services were in two different places. When he preached only twice, he had a Bible class between services.
Yet he found the time and energy to take an active part, as an official, in the work of the church at large, and to serve other congregations besides his own. For a considerable time he preached regularly on Sunday afternoons in a church 30 miles away while he straightened out the affairs of that and a neighboring congregation from which it had split. For one whole year he had charge of a large city church in addition to his own moderate-sized one.
Father took all such things in his stride, and when others became flustered or harried under pressure he remained calm.
Father was painstaking even beyond what I have indicated, conscientious almost to a fault, a Puritan, perhaps, in the minds of many, or a Spartan, or an ascetic; but always was he genial, a real shepherd of souls, one who knew what the Lord called him to do and endeavored to do that and nothing else.
But “the old order changeth, giving place to new.” There are not too many pastors left, I suppose, who are not entangled in so many secondary activities that they preclude the proper exercise of being real Seelsorger, curates of souls, fathers in Christ.
“If a man earnestly ponders God’s Word in his heart, believes it and falls asleep or dies over it, he sinks away and journeys forth before he is aware of death.” Thus wrote Dr. Martin Luther. And so it was with father.
From an old commonplace book I read, in his handwriting, this from Thomas Moore’s “Lalla Rookh”:
“Joy, Joy forever! My task is done.
The gates are passed, and heaven is won.”
Father is home at last.
Eldor Paul Schulze is Pastor of the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Peekskill, New York. The above tribute was written as a memorial to his minister-father, Gustave Albert Schulze, who passed on to his heavenly reward, July 24, 1958.
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