By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist
The tones ascend in the sanctuary, winged praises launched heavenward by the band of assembled worshipers.
“When my love to Christ grows weak, / When for deeper faith I seek, / Then in thought I go to thee, / Garden of Gethsemane!”
J. R. Wreford’s familiar words lead them in praise, recalling the scenes of that dark evening in Gethsemane when the salvation of the world hung in the balance awaiting the decision of one weary figure.
Through the shades of Gethsemane, past its gnarled olive trees, the thoughts of the worshipers proceed until the eye of faith rests on one man suffering, weeping, praying alone.
The notes of the hymn lead the worshipers up the hill of Calvary to stand at the foot of the cross with Mary and John and the soldiers, a small band of people, a microcosm of humanity, some crying, some gambling, some taunting while the author of life tastes death.
But as he pronounces Heaven’s verdict concerning the work of our redemption—“It is finished ”— and dies, the melody leads the celebrants from death back to life.
“Then to life I turn again, / Learning all the worth of pain, / Learning all the might that lies / In a full self-sacrifice.”
“The worth of pain, the worth of pain . . .”
The words echo through the sanctuary and reverberate in the hearts of those present. They are more than empty words to the widow whose life has been so changed by the unwelcome hand of death. Those words are full of meaning to the middle-aged lady whose marriage has died a death just as painful as any physical demise. They mean something to the father who sings them and thinks of the pain of his drug addict son—and his own pain.
None of those singing are strangers to pain. Even the little ones understand skinned knees. Most of the older ones are well-decorated with unseen purple hearts bought by the deeper wounds of life.
On they sing of “the worth of pain,” with the assurance of Heaven itself that, for those whose faith is placed in the Christ of Calvary, no pain need be meaningless.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org