By Curtis Shelburne: Local columnist
Some of the most beautiful truths of the Christian faith can be found in our great hymns, the treasures held mostly in common by Christians of all flavors. We may be divided over lots of molehills made mountains, but, thank the Lord, even behind the walls we’ve built to separate us and block our view, pretty much all of us sing “The Old Rugged Cross” across the walls.
Still, I’m occasionally surprised to learn that some of the songs I grew up singing are brand new to folks from other traditions.
In sermon study recently I ran across the fine words of a hymn I’d never heard. A little study revealed that the hymn is sung to the same tune as “Rise Up, O Men of God.” To help the congregation get a feel for the hymn, I mentioned that fact.
But as I looked out over our folks, I realized that I’d probably just muddied the water further. I was looking at a fairly diverse group of Christians. Our church has its roots in the little “NBC Network” of Churches of Christ. (That’s a term of smiling affection, and it’s a different story for later.) But also among our number are folks from the “mainstream” Churches of Christ, alongside folks from Methodist, Baptist, and Christian churches. We’re all family in Christ, but I suddenly realized that “Rise Up, O Men of God” might not quite be in the same class as “The Old Rugged Cross” and familiar to us all. And, more important, I was reminded that even in our little church, our backgrounds aren’t exactly the same, and that’s significant.
It’s also a very good thing. Folks from each of those traditions bring with them to His table and our “mix” some of what is the very best in each tradition, and we’re all richer for it.
C. S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, was discussing “friendship” love as he told of a sad but important discovery he’d made at the death of a friend. He and that friend were part of a group of friends that had met together for years. Lewis suddenly realized that not only had he lost his friend, he had also lost what that friend’s personality brought out uniquely in the other friends. A terrible loss.
I wonder. Is there any way to imagine the real severity of the loss we Christians impose on ourselves when we shut ourselves off behind our own sad walls and cut ourselves off from other children the Father loves? We not only dishonor and sadden our Father, we not only lose precious contact with others in the family from whom we would learn something, we also lose the amazing and unique blessings contact with each other would bring out in all of us.
Vanilla has its place. But the dessert is a lot tastier when you toss in some chocolate, strawberry, raspberry,…
Our Father hates division, but he loves flavors, and when his children of varied “flavors” praise him together, that’s a taste he loves.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org