Summary: Hearing the sweet sound of Amazing grace leads to freedom to praise God abundantly.
THE SWEET SOUND OF AMAZING GRACE
“For by grace you have been saved by faith...”
Today is “Amazing Grace” Sunday, a Sunday when hundreds of churches all over our country have elected to highlight in worship what is probably the most-loved, best-known hymn in the English-speaking world. Over 3200 recordings of Amazing Grace exist. This hymn crosses all demographic and religious boundaries in its appeal to the masses, perhaps that is one reason why we love it so much.
Here are some amazing facts about “Amazing Grace.”
· The words were written by a reformed British slave trader turned Anglican minister, John Newton.
· The tune we now associate with Amazing Grace was not matched to the words until 1835 in William Walker’s Southern Harmony. Until then, it was set to a variety of tunes.
· The final stanza, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years,” was added by Edwin Othello Excell in 1909 and was borrowed from another hymn.
· Amazing Grace was popular with both sides during the American Civil War. While on the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee were not always able to give their dead a full burial. Instead, the singing of “Amazing Grace” had to suffice.
· The first gospel recording of Amazing Grace was made in 1926 by Rev H R Tomlin.
· Arlo Guthrie opened Woodstock by singing Amazing Grace.
· Most of the recordings of Amazing Grace have been made since Judy Collins had a surprise pop hit with the song in 1971. Other artists recording this song include Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Bill and Gloria Gaither, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Mahalia Jackson, Ruben Studdard, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Rod Stewart to name a few.
· Amazing Grace has been used in many movies, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, The Last Days of Disco, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was even used in an episode of Will and Grace.
· A survey of British teenagers in the mid-1970s found that the majority of the teens thought that Amazing Grace was a love song about a girl named Grace.
Amazing Grace is a love song, though it’s not about a girl named Grace...still, it is a love song. The song is written not about an unrequited love but about an undeserved love. The hard news today is that we are unworthy of God’s love because we fall so far short of God’s plan for us. Until folks wrestle with the concept that we deserve none of the blessings we already have from God, it is unlikely that they will ever understand the omnipotent, incomprehensible impact of the gift of grace.
Grace is the one tenet of the Christian faith that separates Christianity from all other faiths. Every other world religion teaches that the believer must do something in order to be “saved,” that is, to earn their way into heaven. There is no admissions policy for heaven. You don’t have to write an essay, take a test, pay a fee, get the grades, take out a loan, or know somebody who knows somebody. The only “somebody” we need to know is Jesus Christ: and he is more than a somebody, he is the true and living Son (and Song) of God. Praise God! (Sing the words, Praise God, to the tune of “Amazing Grace.”
In one song, the Protestant doctrine of God’s Grace is explained in such a way that the world will not, CAN NOT, forget it. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
We may not fully “see it” understand it, yet we will never fully forget it. The language of grace speaks not simply in words but more deeply in sensations. The sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell of grace is far sweeter than the best of vineyard-grown grapes, the most melodious bird song, the softest touch from a lover, the widest beauty of a blue ocean, or the fullest fragrance of a meadow in bloom. Such sweetness in all senses is unforgettable.
The hymn Amazing Grace is “unforgettable”--it reaches beyond and between generations, genders, and genetics. When we had our hymn sing on New Year’s Eve morning, it was a sophomore in high school who requested “Amazing Grace.” Everyone wants to sing, Amazing Grace: it rings with the sweetest of sounds, the sound of the soul being freed from slavery to sin and reaching for the salvation of heaven.
What is the sweet sound of amazing grace? For that matter, what is grace? On the “Pithy Statements About God’s Grace” that I put in your bulletins, look at this definition: “Grace is God’s freely given, unmerited favor toward the sinful and failing; the expression of forgiving, redeeming, restoring love toward the unworthy.”