What is the measure of one life? What does a man or woman leave behind? How can I live my life, knowing that one day I will no longer be here, with my wife/children/grandchildren/friends?
These and many more existential questions rise to the surface when someone we dearly love dies. In October of this year (2018) a friend/brother/fellow pioneer – Marc Chopinsky – went to his eternal reward. I am struck by the rich legacy he left behind. The songs Marc composed from Scripture quickly became classics throughout the Messianic movement and beyond. He had an uncanny ability to express deep emotion and spirituality through melodies that don’t go away. Marc’s songs carry an unwavering faith, an optimism, a devotion to Yeshua, an eager expectation of His return, the thrill of Israel’s restoration and a warm gratitude to the God of our salvation.
Before meeting Messiah, Marc was an itinerant rock guitarist, playing pubs and clubs in the Washington, D.C. area. He had not written a single tune. He even stopped playing in public as a new believer, convinced that his craft needed cleansing before being used to glorify God. Thereafter, a fountain of music was released in the still new genre of Messianic praise. Those songs became the central repertoire of Israel’s Hope, the legendary trio of Marc, Rene Bloch, and Paul Wilbur.
With courage and much faith, Marc, Leah, and their ten year old son, Eli, arrived in Israel in 1996 – just in time. I was our first praise and worship leader at Tents of Mercy, doing my best to lead our fledgling congregation in Hebrew, Russian, and English (sometimes all three during the same song). Having served with Marc during the blessed decade of the 1980s at Beth Messiah Congregation (in Rockville, Maryland), I well knew his gift of bringing God’s people into His presence. I was delighted and relieved when he took over that role within the community, to establish an enduring pillar in our spiritual foundation. In fact generations of worship teams have flourished because of his fathering.
Leading worship in our situation was not a simple calling. The vast majority of our congregation was from the former Soviet Union. Russian was the first language not only of the congregants, but also his worship team. One sister, giving tribute to Marc at the memorial service said, “The way Marc accepted us with patience and respect touched me so deeply. We were from very different cultures, and were barely able to understand one another. He always began our rehearsals with sincere prayer. We became a real family, caring for each other.”
Of course Marc’s legacy is not limited to the music he composed. In fact, his character eclipsed what he created. My friend simply gave himself to the Lord, loving Him with his whole heart and helping whomever he met. You could always count on Marc. His consistent upbeat presence gave a backbone to our entire community. Without pretense, guile, flashiness or self-promotion this gentle spiritual giant went about the business of serving God year after year. Through numerous health struggles over the years I never heard him complain once. He never spoke ill of anyone and fully expected God to show up in response to prayer.
I began this tribute with several basic questions. For me, the sense of our immeasurable loss is outweighed by the answers Marc’s life provides to those questions. The measure of a person’s life is who they are, how they live. We leave behind what we invest in the lives of others, how we make use of the talents and abilities God gives us. Our legacy is a tapestry of our life in God, our impact on those around us, and what we give away of that which our Creator/Redeemer has entrusted to us.