Lenten Hymns: Go to Dark Gethsemane
As a lifelong Presbyterian, hymns have always been a part of my faith journey. They float into my mind, and I find myself humming them to either praise a beautiful example of God’s handiwork or to bring peace to my anxious soul. Hymns have been a meaningful part of my life and the tunes are embedded. Just like when I reread a scripture and find a fresh word for my life, hymns also bring a new and deep connection with God’s word for me.
Go to Dark Gethsemane is a Lenten hymn that invites us to join Jesus in his final journey to the cross. Written by James Montgomery in 1820, this hymn is one of 400 original compositions. The son of missionaries, Montgomery was left behind in England when his parents went on the mission field where they died. Montgomery was sent to seminary at age seven and became an apprentice at 16. He ultimately landed in publishing and edited a paper that included his poems and hymns.
Go to Dark Gethsemane begins by asking us to go with Jesus to the garden and witness the power of temptation and conflict as he struggles. From this we learn from Christ how to pray and turn to God when we find ourselves in a place of conflict that challenges our faith. As Jesus prayed in the garden for the strength to endure, so can we turn to God and pray for strength to walk our difficult journeys.
We see in the second verse how Jesus suffered judgment, shame, and loss; how he must have endured the painful feeling of being accused and totally alone. There have been times in my life that I have wondered where to turn. Who do I talk to about the injustice I have had to endure or the pain a loved one suffers through no fault of their own? How many times have I thought to myself, “it’s just not fair!” We’re challenged to learn from Christ how to bear the cross… those crosses in our lives that while difficult can draw us closer to God.
The power in this hymn builds as we are with Christ at the cross where he died sacrificially for us. How can we care for others with a love that reflects God without sacrificing our selfish needs? Caring for loved ones, our neighbors, the poor and hungry are many times not “reciprocated.” Yet that is what we are called to do.
I feel like shouting the last verse. We run to the tomb and he is not there! “Christ is risen! He meets our eyes. Savior, teach us so to rise.”
Christ overcame the grave and can teach us to rise from the depths of ours. Through Christ we can live a life of love for others and have the power to live it well. This is a hymn that we claim anytime…not just during Lent.
Thanks be to God!
Kathy McCarron is Director of Children & Family Ministries at NorthPark. Kathy has been involved in children’s ministry over 30 years as a volunteer, church staff member, and ministry consultant. She is passionate about encouraging parents and congregations as they nurture the spiritual formation of children.