Friday, February 1, 2013

AMAZING GRACE....hymn story

John Newton, 1725-1807
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.

Aging baby boomers have claimed "Amazing Grace" as their unofficial anthem. This favor is a recent phenomenon. A 1950 hymnology textbook, for instance, gave six pages to the life and work of hymn writer John Newton but never mentioned his autobiographical "Amazing Grace." In 1975 Joan Baez urged her audience to join her as she sang the "traditional" song; to make things easy, she lined out the verses, giving the words phrase by phrase, even for the first verse. These days that's no longer necessary; on tour, Judy Collins ends her concerts with this very song—knowing full well that her audience will join in without needing cues from the stage. The hymn was even featured at President Clinton's second inaugural ceremony.
Why has a song about the conversion of a "wretch like me"-—about being lost then found, blind then sighted—'Captured the heart of a generation that deems itself too enlightened to use the word sin? (One congregation asks God to forgive them their "negativity")
Part of the song's enchantment is its oft-told history. Folksingers, Christian musicians, evangelists, even Bill Moyers on public television-—-all have sketched Newton's dramatic spiritual transformation: God plucked a young degenerate slave-ship captain from a profane profession and set him on an exemplary path.
In midlife Newton was ordained an Anglican priest; he was an acclaimed hymn writer, and in his older years he influenced the political movement that would abolish the slave trade in the British Empire. It's the story cryptically told in "Amazing Grace," published when Newton was fifty-four:
'Tis 'grace that brought me safe thus Jar, And grace will lead me home.
Newton's testimony kindles promise in aging idealists. If Newton could be transformed, there's hope for us. Not that we see ourselves, as wretched as he (few of us admit the depths of our own depravity), but then we haven't ever been able to locate and "get ourselves back to the garden." On the whole, the negativity remains. At middle age we can see that even our best intentions have caused harm, been skewed, gone awry. We're in trouble—still—-and we need help.
As a generational group we sense our need for grace-— sustaining if not saving—and yet we are very grateful for the lot of it we've preveniently received. We never really believed that crawling under a school desk would protect us from any manner of missile. We hardly dared hope we'd ever be grandparents. But here we are, survivors—thanks to the amazing grace that has seen us through these many dangers, toils, and snares.
Previous generations have claimed other hymns as period anthems, notably songs challenging people to fight for a cause: "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" for Union sympathizers in the Civil War; "Onward Christian Soldiers" for Theodore Roosevelt campaign supporters and Allied soldiers in World War I.
And today, with a tentative truce in a long Cold War, a generation looks for a spiritual truce, a grace and peace that will carry them across a millennial divide. As they sing for grace, may they find John Newton's life-changing God.
At age eighty-two, facing life's greatest transition, Newton
was still singing his graceful theme; just months before he died,
he said, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two
things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Sav

And maybe in time—-who knows?-—-baby boomers will grasp these same two things.
He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures.

From the book "Spiritual Moments with the Great Hymns" by Evelyn Bence

There  is  the  movie  "Amazing Grace"  that goes through 

the life story of one of  the greatest men  in  British  history.  

As  one  man  says  near  the  end,  many  men  go  down  in  

history  as  famous  in  wars.....Napoleon,  AND THE LIKE,

  all in  the  context  of  war;  but  Mr WILLIAM














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