by Kelly Pontsler, Major –
I have been trying to remember the moment I first met Ernie but I honestly don’t know when that occurred. Not that it wasn’t significant; it was just such a long time ago!
My family lived in San Francisco twice while I was in school. During both of those stays, we attended the SF Citadel Corps. In the earlier days the corps was hearty and healthy, full of committed uniformed Salvationists making their presence felt in the city. Time passed and the corps evolved, people moved on, and by the time we returned to the city things were different. But there was always a band, and there was Ernie! He was always there!
When I returned to the city after some 27 years away, I wondered who—if anyone—would still be around from those earlier days. Imagine my surprise walking into the SF Lighthouse Corps, to be greeted at the door by…Ernie! Over the course of the past 18 months, it has been a privilege to catch up again.
Our conversations revolved mostly around music or stories of events and people remembered from the past. Ernie graciously let me play the piano on my Sunday visits and always let me know that I had done well!
While I really cannot remember the first time I met Ernie Callan, I will never forget the last time I saw him. Just a few Sundays ago, sitting in the back row on the right side. He was pale and clearly not well, but he was there, faithfully present among God’s people.
Thinking about Ernie, two words have lodged in my mind: quiet confidence. What would make a man commit to a lifetime of service in God’s Army? (He was a soldier over 65 years!) What would lead him to choose to show up every time? Quiet confidence. It’s not so much about volume (he was a soft-spoken gentleman); it’s about certainty and conviction that doesn’t require shouting! Certainty and conviction about what?
At Ernie’s memorial service, we read Scripture from Matthew 5. I like these verses! Jesus was conversing with a crowd of people. His message was new to many of them. He used words and word pictures that they could wrap their heads around.
Those who have great spiritual needs? They are blessed because the kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. Those are sad? They are blessed because God will comfort them. Those who are humble? The earth will belong to them. Those who want to do right more than anything else? God will fully satisfy them. Those who show mercy to others? God will show mercy to them. Those who are pure in their thinking? They will be with God. Those who work to bring peace? God will call them his children. People will insult you and hurt you, do all kinds of things to you…but keep following me (Jesus said), there is a great reward waiting for you in heaven!
That is a hefty set of promises! Live for God…and God will help you to live! Do well for others…and God will do well for you. CONFIDENCE. CERTAINTY AND CONVICTION.
But Jesus continues, with the illustrations of salt and light. Be salt—the thing that brings out the good flavor in the meal. Be light—stand there and shine. Salt impacts most when it is mixed in well with the rest of the food, integrated into the whole meal. Light impacts most when it is uncovered and bright, shining on the situation from the outside. As I prepared the message for Ernie’s service, it occurred to me that neither one—salt or light— makes any noise, but you know when they’re there and when they’re not. QUIET. BUT OBVIOUS.
Ernie Callan (for me) was a model of quiet confidence. He lived for God—and God helped him to live. His impact on those around him was accomplished in a quiet volume, but like salt and light, you knew he was there! Ernie knew the God he trusted with all his heart— and he lived his life in such as way as to point others to him, too.
Quiet confidence. Certainty and conviction. Quiet. But obvious. A man of God.
Ernie leaves behind a hole—a place that can be filled by no one else—and he is missed! But I have an absolute certainty that Ernie is rejoicing in the presence of his heavenly Father! Because that’s the promise…Rejoice and be glad, because you will have a great reward waiting for you in heaven.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like deep billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Thank you, Father, for the example of a life lived well…may we learn the lesson of quiet confidence…grant us today an understanding of your Word and the courage to live it out. Amen.