Summary: Sermon for Amazing Grace Sunday focusing on the connection between grace and justice.
Today we are celebrating Amazing Grace Sunday which is being observed by approx. 3000 churches around the country. The date was picked to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave trade in Great Britain. The leader of this abolition movement was a British politician – Wm. Wilberforce.
The connection to Amazing Grace is was that one of Wilberforce’s mentors was former slave trader turned minister, John Newton, who also penned the words to the most popular hymn of all time -- Amazing Grace.
>>> VIDEO – The Story of Amazing Grace <<<
Sometime around 1770, Newton penned the poem, Faith’s Review and Expectation. Later, music was added and it became known for the first line of the poem, “Amazing Grace”. Through the years others have changed verses, including the well-known 5th verse that begins “when we’ve been there ten thousand years” which was not original to Newton. His original last verse had been forgotten for years, but has recently been “rediscovered” and has found a bit of a revival. It says:
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.
The poem / song “Amazing Grace” is one man’s heart-cry of thankfulness for how God had ransomed and rescued him from a life of personal slavery. Newton recognized that as much as he had enslaved others, his own heart was enslaved to sin. As we sing, let this be your prayer and heart-cry to God.
>>> BAND – Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) <<<
Amazing Grace Trivia:
* Sung a Woodstock
* Over 1100 albums > diverse as Elvis / Janis Joplin / Rod Stewart / Nearly every C&W artist
* 972 arrangements
* Can be sung to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island”
What is it about Amazing Grace that draws us? Why has it been sung by everyone from Willie Nelson to Bono? I think it’s because it represents hope. Without God’s grace we have no hope. Without his grace we are lost and blind. But because of his grace we are found – because of his grace now we can see.
That rings true for each of us. We all know and recognize what hopelessness feels like. We understand what it’s like to be trapped. And while we may have never physically been slaves to another human being, each of us can identify with what it means to be enslaved to sin. Paul illustrates it in Romans 7 when he describes knowing what he should do and not doing it and doing those things he doesn’t want to do. He says that “in the sinful nature [I am] a slave to the law of sin.”
But when God’s grace reaches out to us, new life is breathed into us. His grace brings us not only salvation, but hope and faith and love and purpose and forgiveness. It teaches us to live righteous and godly lives.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your life or what you’ve done, God’s grace is so amazing that it can reach you no matter how far you’ve gone.
John Newton was responsible for the deaths of countless people that he transported on his slave ship, yet he found hope and forgiveness through the grace of God. It is by God’s amazing grace that each of us can find new life when we follow Christ.
“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” ~ Eugene O’Neill
We should be nothing but overwhelmingly grateful for God’s amazing grace in our lives. Pouring his love and mercy out through Christ on our behalf can change the hardest heart. It can mend the most broken life. It can rescue the most lost soul. But to stop at what it can do in your life and my life is to limit it.
2 Cor 5:20 tells us that we are God’s ambassadors – that we represent Him to the world we live in. So, if he is a God of grace then we are to be people of grace. We are to radiate grace to a world in desperate need of the love and mercy of God.
As we radiate the grace of God to our world, we are to radiate all that grace entails – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We are to exude justice, mercy, and hope.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (NLT)