11 September 2011

Amazing Grace

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Amazing Grace.
Have you seen the movie? {there's a movie you know...}
No? Oh well, have you heard the song?
Its quite well known.
The most widely-recognised hymn in the world for the past 250 years.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found was blind but now I see.
Did you know that the man who wrote that hymn, John Newton, was at one time a slave trader?
The preacher who spoke about Amazing Grace at church this Sunday said, John Newton didn't write that song because he had an album coming out and needed another track for it...


This song was written out of this man's experience, his need and desperation... and his life-changing realisation that Grace is indeed, amazing enough to embrace someone like him.


The song still stirs hearts when its sung. It moves people.
It strikes a chord of recognition 250 years after it was written.


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As the preacher went on to tell the story of the Prodigal Son, I found myself at first thinking of others who needed to hear this message, but then with tears pricking at my own eyelids I caught a glimpse of Amazing Grace myself.


Not ordinary grace, the preacher said, AMAZING Grace.


The prodigal, who had broken his father's heart and squandered his money, found himself in dire straits and finally came to his senses. The best he could hope for as he sat in the pig pen was ordinary grace.


"I will go to my father," he said to himself, "I will say, Father forgive me; I am not worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired men...."


Even ordinary grace was a lot to ask considering what this son had done to his father. 
But he was prepared to grovel, and to spend the rest of his life working to earn his way back to being even a second class citizen in his father's house, a servant. 


The son in this story {like so many of us when we realise our shortcomings} saw himself as unworthy.
Jesus deliberately puts this in his story of the prodigal to show that he understands our human tendency to feel unworthy and think we have to work for forgiveness.
But he also depicts the father in such a way to show us God's heart of Amazing Grace towards us, his Prodigals.
Nothing ordinary about it.


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The son returns home, probably rehearsing what he would say to his father, wondering whether his father would give him an audience, would hear him out, would give him a chance to earn back his favour...
but what happens?
The father is out by the gate. Looking. Hoping.


"And when he was still a long way off his father saw him and ran to him."


There he was covered in pig muck.
His father didn't care. Embraced him.
Ordered the Best robe, restoring his dignity. 
A ring - restoring his place in the family... 
Shoes for his feet - only a servant went barefoot and this father did not receive his son as a servant. 
He did not have to earn his forgiveness. This was not ordinary grace.


It is Amazing Grace.


This story, told this way, so resonated with me.
I'm a person who has always identified with Martha.
You know, the one who ran around doing while her sister Mary got to enjoy herself sitting at Jesus' feet?


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For so many years I tried to earn Grace, and I didn't even realise I was doing it.
It started off with good intentions, of course. Serving God, helping people. I had all the right words...
But deep down I was fighting off the feelings of being unworthy.
Of being not enough.
Like the son who came to his senses, the best I could imagine was that my father would let me be a servant in his House. That somehow I could make myself worthy by doing.


Anyone out there identify?
Amazing Grace is a radical concept, even to one like me, who is very long in the {Christian} tooth.


T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved.  How precious did that Grace appear  The hour I first believed.


Amazing Grace. Its a message we need to hear again and again.
Grace, God's Grace is really and truly Amazing.
Its not Ordinary. Its not what we expect.
And its far beyond what we humans are usually be able to give.


John Newton met Amazing Grace in a storm. His slave ship drifted for weeks, crippled, storm tossed. they were all to be lost at sea. 


As this uncouth, ill-mannered slaver trader hit rock bottom, he called out to God for mercy.
And mercy found him. Miraculously the ship was saved and made it to land.
John Newton spent the rest of his life fighting to see the slave trade abolished. 
And he wrote a song with a haunting, heart rending tune... that is based on the Sorrow Chants the slaves would hum in their chains.  Isn't that Amazing?




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Sometimes we can't comprehend Amazing Grace until we hit rock bottom.
Sometimes its only when we come to the end of ourselves that we realise Amazing Grace is not earned.


Only when I was broken, at the end of myself and unable to "serve" did I begin to glimpse and see that God, in fact, is more interested in my heart than my good works.
That he wants me for me
When I am broken, hurting, depressed and at the end of myself - he still runs to meet me.
There is no condemnation in his eyes. No reproach in his voice.
That's some pretty Amazing kind of Grace.
Through many dangers, toils and snares  I have already come;  'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far  and Grace will lead me home.

Amazing Grace can't be earned.
We can't make ourselves worthy enough to receive it.
It just simply... Amazing. 






{PS: The explanations about The prodigal, Amazing Grace and John Newton in this post come from the message I heard today at church by Allan Meyer, a guest speaker from Australia. His words really touched me and I wanted to share them with you; I've just tried to record what he said. Any pats on the back for the insights really belong to him.}


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16 comments:

ju said...

Such an awesome post I live when inspiration pops up, it comes so powerfully and unexpectedly, you've changed my mood in this 4am wake up call!! Amazing grace!! Oh and thanks for finding my blog, that gave me a real buzz yesterday!!! Hope you slept well!!

Remaliah said...

Thanks for sharing this, Simone. It really touches me. I want to think more on the reality of the amazing grace - but wanted to say thanks in the meantime.

PaisleyJade said...

LOVE!

jacksta said...

great post Simone...and all so true. Ive been inspired recently about showing grace to others too. Something I have not been doing so well at in recent years.
Thanks God for your AMAZING grace!

kezharry said...

Amen, Amen, Amen. Love Our Daddy's Grace... check out this rendition of that powerful song its beautiful.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYMLMj-SibU

Renee said...

A song that marks the most memorable moments of my life - my grandmothers singing and life lessons, the song I walked down the aisle to on my wedding day, the song we lowered my brothers coffin into the ground to two weeks ago. It gives me goosebumps, brings tears to my eyes and reminds me of the real meaning of life, what is important, and my place in it all. Thanks for sharing such a special insight - I am off to do some more research into the story behind Amazing Grace.

Jen said...

we read the book about John Newton, know the song well and saw the movie for homeschooling

thanks especially for your last paragraph I needed that
I keep asking why I had to have my accident
I had this year all planned out with my walking and volunteering seems God had other plans

Gail said...

Always love these posts from you Simone. Your insight to God's love for us all and His amazing grace is always SO PROFOUND - write more!!

Meghan at MNM's said...

Wonderful post Simone - and some of the truths remind me of the awesome book by Philip Yancey about Amazing Grace - have you read it?

The Blonde Duck said...

Popped in from SITS to say hi!

Pam said...

Wonderful post--I'm so glad I found you on SITS. I learned about Grace way too far into my Christian life and would have lived better had I learned it sooner. I still struggle with giving it. Thanks for writing this.

Leah, aka, Far From Perfect MaMMa said...

whenever I read about grace, or sing the song Amazing Grace I am brought to tears. I don't think that you cannot NOT be emotional if you don't get the concept and purpose of God's grace. If it doesn't get you in your gut every time then there is something you are missing. Great post (and sermon!)

Cat said...

awesome
beautiful
powerful

just like you my dear friend!

it is the truth...not grace...but AMAZING GRACE!!!!

and all we need to do is live that truth!
Love and Light

kendylsPlace said...

All so true! And what a beautiful rendition of the song... So moving.

unsolicitedious said...

Love it: love the reference to John Newton - not many people understand where Amazing Grace came from. Especially the picture that says grace is a way to live. Wish there was more of it in the world. :)

Natasha in Oz said...

I'm so glad you linked this up to my Pinning & Singing Party Simoney. It really is an incredible hymn but I had no idea of its history. Thank you for sharing that info and of course for sharing your thoughts on Grace. I really loved that quote you found about Grace not just being used before a meal too-great choice!

Best wishes to you all and I hope that you have safe and fabulous trip! Take care.

Blessings,
Natasha.

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