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Harley Scalf ~ Then Face to Face: Remembering Ellsworth Kalas

One thing leads to another. You probably understand how this works. At first, we were just going to replace the carpet in one room. Then, the carpet in another room seemed just as bad. Since we were replacing carpet in two rooms (and now the worn flooring in the foyer area), we may as well paint. You understand.

Fast forward a bit and the flooring has been replaced, the trim is finished, the walls are painted, and things look great. However, we have no window coverings…no blinds, no curtains. So now, of course, we need new curtains. Jessica and I were looking at curtains a couple of days ago. She saw some she liked and they were really inexpensive. I mean, really inexpensive! I walked over and grabbed the fabric. It was inexpensive for a reason…the material was so thin you could see right through it. This wasn’t part of the design, it was the result of cheap materials & manufacturing.


On November 12, 2015, one of the finest preachers this world has ever borne witness to passed from this life to the next. Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas was my preaching professor. He was more than that to me, though. He was a mentor, an influencer, an inspiration, and a friend. To be sure, it wasn’t the kind of friendship where we were together every chance we got. It was the kind of friendship that answered every letter with a letter of his own. It was the kind of friendship that spoke gracious, loving words of encouragement and sometimes words of challenge.

It was the kind of friendship where a delayed flight results in our not being able to get some ice cream together and I can sense the sadness of “the dessert we didn’t get to share” (and the note that followed that meeting where he penned that reflection).

In one of his many books, “Preaching from the Soul,” Dr. Kalas offers some advice to those who are behind the “sacred desk” every week preaching: “There is only one Sunday that matters – this one – and only one sermon to be preached – this one. So fall in love with this sermon.”

That line has stuck with me – so much so that I actually wrote a reflection paper based on those words. In typical Dr. Kalas fashion, his notes on my paper caused me to feel both humbled and encouraged: “Thank you for helping me better understand what I wrote.”

The curtains were so thin you could see right through them to the other side…

Times like this give us pause. We who are left on earth realize just how thin the veil really is between earth and heaven. Even last semester, Dr. Kalas (at age 92) was teaching and traveling.

Even the best wordsmith would come up shy in an attempt to depict the vastness of his influence on the Church.


Dr. Kalas began each class with, “let’s say our prayers…”

So today, I say my prayers.

Thank you, God, for Ellsworth Kalas, who helped me better understand your calling on my life and the faith by which I live. May I never lose hope, never give up, and continue to work  for your Kingdom till I pass through that thin veil and enter the Church Triumphant.