Carl Flentge Schalk



The Cowper - Schalk Hymn

Pastor Marshall commissioned Carl F. Schalk to compose a hymn for the celebration of his 25th Anniversary of ordination, September 26, 2004.

The hymn is based on a poem by William Cowper (1731-1800) entitled, "Thankless for Favours from on High." It is a sober text about death, judgment and redemption. Cowper composed some 68 hymn texts many of which were published with John Newton in their famous collection, Olney Hymns (1779). "Thankless for Favours from on High" was composed in 1792 and appears never to have been made into a hymn before. He has one hymn in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" (No. 483).

Schalk has named his tune kierkegaard because it aspires to what Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) called the true tone of a hymn, namely, "that deeper, inward pain which in quiet sadness is reconciled with God." He goes on to say that he could no more get tired of hearing such tunes than he could grow tired of "looking at the sky in autumn's weather when the soft, gentle colors shift and change in the finest design" [Søren Kierkegaard's Journals & Papers, trans. Howard V. and Edna H. Hong, 7 vols (Indiana University Press, 1967-1978) 5:6097].

Dr. Carl F. Schalk (b. 1929) is Distinguished Professor of Music Emeritus at Concordia University, River Forest, IL.  He has composed over 80 hymn tunes.  “Now the Silence” (1968) and “God of the Sparrow” (1983) are two of his best known.  In fourteen denominational hymnals currently in use in the United States and Canada, twelve of his tunes are used thirty-five times.  Of his many fine choral works, “Before the Marvel of This Night” (1982) and "I Saw a New Heaven and a New Earth" (1997) are truly noteworthy.  Some of his choral music is recorded on Christ Be Our Seed [CPH (2000) 99-1676]. If you want to know more about Dr. Schalk's work, read his festschrift, Thine the Amen: Essays on Lutheran Church Music in Honor of Carl Schalk, ed. Carlos R. Messerli (Mpls., MN: Lutheran University Press, 2005). Note especially the accolade that Dr. Schalk is a "sign of God's ability to compose new tunes among us, hope out of despair, wonder out of fear, and life out of death" (p. 284). No wonder, then, that it is said of him that "in the annals of modern-day church music, he stands alone" [Nancy M. Raabe, Carl F. Schalk: A Life in Song (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013) p. 1].

Pastor Marshall commissioned Dr. Schalk to compose a choral setting of “Thankless for Favours from on High” for the celebration of the Kierkegaard Sesquicentennial (1855-2005) at First Lutheran Church of West Seattle, November 13, 2005.  This recording of it – which is six minutes in length – is by the Seattle ensemble, The Renaissance Singers  – Markdavin Obenza, Artistic Director, with organist Andrew J. King, Cantor of First Lutheran Church of West Seattle, playing the Fritz Noack Gallery Organ, Op. 83.  This recording was made on February 7, 2006, and produced by Orrin Doyle. 





Brorson-Schalk Hymn

I See Thee Stand, O Lamb of God






I see Thee stand, O Lamb of God,

On Zion’s mountain peak;

But oh, the path that Thou hast trod

So long, so hard, so bleak!

On Thee was laid the weight and blame

Of all our sin and shame;

How deep Thou sankest in our woe

No one can ever know.


O spotless Lamb, that on the tree

Receiv’d the cruel wound!

O boundless love! to set us free

He in our chains was bound.

He wore and broke our prison bands

With pierced feet and hands;

A Victor bold, the tomb He broke,

Gave death its mortal stroke.


Behold them stand around His throne,

Those legions snowy white;

Each eye is gleaming like the sun

At this most wond’rous sight.

The story of grim Calvary

On which He made us free,

Is still among the angels’ throng

The noblest, sweetest song.


Twelve thousand twelve are holding now

Their harps before the throne,

The Father’s name upon each brow

Marks them the Savior’s own.

As mighty, rushing billows roar,

They shout forevermore:

To Him who won us from our plight

Be glory, praise and might!


We thank Thee Father for Thy love

To Adam’s fallen race;

Thou sendest Jesus from above

To die in sinners’ place.

Praise we His name with fleeting breath,

Praise Him in life and death,

To Him who suffered on the tree,

Praise through eternity.




On the Hymn


I commissioned Dr. Schalk (see Nancy M. Raabe, Carl F. Schalk: A Life in Song, 2013) to compose a new tune for the Hans A. Brorson (1674–1764) hymn, Jeg ser dig, søde Lam, at staa (“I See Thee Stand, O Lamb of God,” Hymnal For Church and Home, Revised and Enlarged, Blair, Nebraska, 1942), in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of my ordination in 2019. This wonderful Schalk tune is called AN DEINE STAT (Luther’s Works 22:167 – for “the substitute” or the one who stands “in our place”). This tune clearly compliments this magnificent Brorson text. The hymn is about how the death of Jesus saves us from our sins. Since Christ’s crucifixion has been the focus of my ministry (1 Corinthians 2:2; Romans 5:9), I wanted to give this old hymn a new tune. The hymn goes on for five verses exploring for our edification feature after feature of Christ’s cross. [1] The first verse goes to the heart of the matter by saying that “the weight and blame of all our sin and shame” was laid on Christ, nailed to the Cross. [2] In the second verse we hear that death is defeated by his death – which is how the crucifixion saves all who believe in Christ. [3] In the third verse we learn how his death frees us – which is praised by the heavenly “angels’ throng.” [4] In the fourth verse we see that Jesus “won us from our plight” – by his costly suffering and death. [5] And in the last verse we have the summary that Jesus died “in sinners’ place” – graciously suffering what we deserved. For more on Brorson, listen to some of his other hymns on the recording, The Treasure of Faith (Kontrapunkt, 1995). Finally my prayer is that this Brorson-Schalk hymn will bolster your faith in the one thing needful. On this see Luke 10:42 and Appendix Four and the Preface in my Kierkegaard in the Pulpit, 2016 – as well as Luther’s Works 76:17 – “it is necessary above all things that we have [the] one in our place who took on Himself all the punishment we had deserved.”


Blessed Bible, Book of Gold


Blessed Bible, Book of Gold,

Precious truth thy pages hold,

Truths to lead me day by day

All along my pilgrim way.



          Blessed Bible, pure and true,

          Guide me all my journey through,

          Heav’nly light within me shine,

          Help me make thy precepts mine.


Lamp of faith, my feet to lead,

Bread of heav’n my soul to feed,

Living water, pure and free,

Book of books thou art to me.




Word of God, Thy love impart,

Fire my zeal and cleanse my heart;

Keep me earnest, keep me true,

Every day my strength renew.




Sola Scriptura

A New Hymn on the Bible by Crosby & Schalk


The Rev. Ronald F. Marshall

December 2019



On the occasion of my fortieth anniversary of ordination, I commissioned Carl F. Schalk (1929– ) to write a new tune for the Fanny Crosby (1820–1915) text, Blessed Bible, Book of Gold (1898). The tune name, sola scriptura, is Latin for “Word alone.” This hymn holds that we do not come to worship “to shape it to serve our ends. Rather, worship shapes and molds us to God’s ends and God’s purpose” (Carl F. Schalk and Paul Westermeyer, A Large Catechism: Understanding Church Music in the Lutheran Tradition, 2017, p. 10). We first sang this hymn on December 29, 2019 ‒ and then for the first time with the descant on March 8, 2020.

     Sola scriptura is a Lutheran slogan that has been very important to me over my forty years of ministry. It stands for the Holy Bible being the “only judge, rule, and norm according to which… all doctrines should and must be understood and judged as good or evil, right or wrong” [The Book of Concord (1580) ed. T. Tapert (1959) p. 465]. I have defended this embattled view in my booklet –- Making a New World: How Lutherans Read the Bible (2003, 2015).

     Sola scriptura was Luther’s “watchword” –- and he would “admit no other criterion, even as a corollary.” Sola scriptura says that we “must not rely on man [but rather] learn to adhere solely to the Word of God [since it alone is] the fountain of all wisdom.” For Luther “the priority of Scripture over the Church is everywhere stressed.” Therefore you “must plant yourself upon the clear, transparent, strong statements of Scripture, by which you will then be enabled to hold your ground.” The Bible didn’t “grow on earth [but came] from God.” So “to hear the Scriptures is nothing else than to hear God Himself” –- making every word of Scripture “precious since it comes from the mouth of God.” Therefore the Bible is “divine” –- making it “impossible that Scripture should contradict itself.” This is so even though “there is no outward attraction [to the Bible –- looking like] a worm and no book” at all. Even so, “this simple basket of reeds, patched with clay, pitch, and such things [still holds the] beautiful living… Christ… who makes the Book unique to faith” (A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word: Martin Luther, Doctor of Sacred Scripture, 1969, pp. 120, 122, 123, 135, 139, 140, 142, 143, 151, 178).

     This hymn rests on five strong words about the Bible –- “Lamp of faith my feet to lead” (Psalm 119:105); “Bread of heav’n my soul to feed” (John 6:51); “Living water, pure and free” (John 4:14); “Fire my zeal” (Jeremiah 23:29); and “Cleanse my heart” (Hebrews 4:12). They –- along with this wonderful Schalk tune –- are what exalts this Bible hymn. And that is why I have refurbished it on my anniversary.


[reprinted from The Messenger,

December 2019, revised]