Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Night Reflections

During an early 7 a.m. morning mass in a small church high in the mountains, the sun began to rise and shine over the mountains as the organist played the song Amazing Grace. Whether Christian or not, most everyone knows the words to this song. Played at funerals and services that invite us to reflect, few of us know the story behind the song.
In 1725 John Newton was born, his father the commander of a merchant ship. His mother died when he was seven and soon his father took him along on voyages. Once his father retired, John was pressed into duty on a man-of-war ship. Finding the conditions intolerable, he deserted only to be found and publicly flogged. Finally, at his request, John was exchanged into service on a slave ship. The ship took him to Sierra Leone where he was captured and became the servant of a slave trader. Brutally abused, John was finally rescued by a sea captain who had known his father. Ultimately, John became the captain of his own ship which supplied slaves to the trade. While at sea during a very violent storm, John cried out, "Lord have mercy on us." After the storm had passed and John had time to reflect on the event, he made the decision to change his life.
Self taught, John Newton ultimately became an ordained minister. A very popular minister, the church had to be enlarged to hold the ever growing congregation. In 1767 John Newton and the poet William Cowper met and became close friends. Together they collaborated on over three hundred songs of which Amazing Grace is to this day the most popular. John Newton influenced many, one of which was William Wilberforce who became the driving force behind the abolition of slavery in England.
We know that John Newton wrote the words to the song Amazing Grace, the origin of the melody is unknown but is thought to sound like a West African sorrow chant. A song that at one time meant one thing to me now holds a very different meaning. When I hear the melody, I think of the slaves and the fear and desperation they must have felt as they were forced to leave their homes and families. As I hear the words, I hear the great sorrow that John Newton felt for what he did. This is a song of redemption, a life forever changed.
The words, "I was blind, but now I see," are very powerful. It's easy to judge another life and even ask how someone who caused so much pain to other lives could not only find redemption, but be granted redemption. Yes, it is easy to look at another, but difficult to turn the mirror and look at myself. When have I been blind to the pain of others? More often than I would like to believe I'm afraid.
Amazing Grace also reminds us that we are all the same, each with a special purpose to fulfill in this life and hopefully leave this world a better place.
A beautiful video that gives even deeper meaning to the song can be watched here. Enjoy.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this moving post. It is just what I needed to hear at this time in my life.