It’s About Grace

20 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion,[a] he sent them into his vineyard.

“Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went.

“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’

“‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.

“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’

13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16, New International Version).

A story is told about Fiorello La Guardia, who, as mayor of New York during the Great Depression and World War II, who many New Yorkers called “the Little Flower.” He stood five foot four and always wore a carnation. He was a colorful character who rode city fire trucks, raided speakeasies with the police, take orphanages to baseball games, and when New York newspapers were on strike, he went on radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One cold night in January of 1935, he turned up at the night court serving the poorest people in the city. La Guardia dismissed the judge took over the bench himself.

It wasn’t long before an old woman appeared, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told La Guardia her daughter’s husband had left, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. The shopkeeper refused to drop the charges. “It’s a bad neighborhood, your Honor.” The man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach people around there a lesson.”

La Guardia sighed, Turned to the woman saying, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions – ten dollars or ten days in jail.” He wasn’t finished. He reached into his pocket and pulling out a bill, tossed it into his hat saying, “I remit the ten dollar fine; and furthermore I fine everyone here fifty cents for living in a town where a person steals bread to feed her grandchildren. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The following day the newspapers reported $47.50 was turned over to an old lady who stole bread to feed her grandchildren, fifty cents contributed by the grocery store owner, while seventy petty criminals, traffic offenders, and policemen, having paid fifty cents to do so, applauded the mayor.

Here is my question for you. Did the elderly lady in the story get what she deserved? Clearly the answer is, of course not. She had stolen a loaf of bread. Yes, she may have had good reason, but stealing is stealing and regardless of the reason, punishment would seem to be the order of the day.

There’s a word for what La Guardia did, grace. Grace is when one in power shows mercy to less powerful people. The mayor, rather than demanding punishment, paid the fine and helped her with the collection of the fifty-cent fines she received. It was more than she deserved. It was grace.

Our lesson is about that too. The lesson is the wonderful story of the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hired workers for his vineyard. Some he hired early, telling them that he would pay them the usual daily wage. He found more workers to hire, telling them he would pay them what was right.

At sunset it was time to pay the workers. He began with the last hired, paying the usual daily wage. Those working all day got really excited. Surely they would get more for all day.

The excitement didn’t last. Ill feelings arose when they got paid the same working all day as those only working an hour.

He heard grumbling and explained he was fair. He paid what was promised. Couldn’t he pay everyone whatever they wanted with his money?

The landowner didn’t live in our time. He also didn’t seem to know much about business. When he next hired help none would until the last hour.

The landowner did know grace. Workers at the end of the day didn’t get what they deserved they got mercy. That is grace.

In the parable the landowner is God, we are the workers, and the pay is the kingdom. Studying this parable, we see, it’s about grace.

First, the parable says grace is received, not deserved. We all should know we do not deserve grace. Nothing we do will leave us deserving grace. All we can do is receive the gift God offers.

David Seamands ends his book Healing Grace with this story. For more than 600 years the Hapsburgs exercised power in Europe. When Emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria died in 1916, his was the last extravagant imperial funeral. Dignitaries escorted the casket, draped in the black and gold. A military band played dirges and by torches light, as the party descended the stairs of the Capuchin Monastery in Vienna. At the bottom an iron door lead to the Hapsburg family crypt. There was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna.

An officer followed the ceremony. “Open!” he cried. “Who goes there?” responded the Cardinal. “We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria…” the officer listed the Emperor’s 37 titles.

“We know him not,” replied the Cardinal. “Who goes there?” The officer spoke again, this time using a less ostentatious title. “We know him not,” the Cardinal said again. “Who goes there?” The officer tried a third time, using the humblest title: “We bear the body of Franz-Josef, our brother, a sinner like us all!” The doors swung open, and Franz-Josef was admitted.

Whoever we are, whatever our titles, how much we have, it can’t open God’s grace, given freely, left for us the undeserving.

Second, God’s grace is about mercy, not fairness. Fair would be to pay the later workers less than those working longer. That would be fair. Grace isn’t fair. It is merciful. God loves us and gives us more than we deserve.

Christian financial consultant Larry Burkett tells in Business by the Book about going the extra mile, beyond fairness. In 1984 he leased an office that was a nightmare. The foundation was faulty and was singing several inches a year. After more than three years of problems, including power failures and weeks without water, Burkett moved his business.

Soon the former landlord called demanding Burkett remodel and repaint his former office space. Burkett said no. He had already been more than fair with the landlord. The demands continued. Burkett got an attorney who agreed Burkett fulfilled his responsibility and need not do anything more.

Burkett saud his son offered him different counsel reminding Burkett of the landlord’s family, who had lost their only child a few years before. The still suffered. Burkett had commented he would wanted to help them. The son said this was an opportunity to do more than what was fair, but merciful. Burkett considered and agreed. He spent several thousand dollars to restoring a virtually unusable building. That goes past fair, to merciful. It is what grace is about.

Third, God’s grace is for the last and the first. It’s easy to say we deserve more. We’ve been faithful. God doesn’t work that way. God wants a relationship with all of us, those hired early and those who worked an hour. That is Grace.

A woman was abused by her father when she was a small child. She grew up, overcame the damage, became a Christian, then married. Years later, her children grown, she received a letter from her father saying he was a Christian and asked God for forgiveness. He realized he had sinned against her and wrote asking her to forgive.

Feelings surfaced. It wasn’t fair! He should pay. This was easy. Now he was part of God’s family! Her home church was killing the fatted calf and she was invited to the party! She was angry, hurt, resentful.

Then she had a dream. Her father stood on an empty stage. The hands of God held a white robe. She recognized it, she was wearing one. As the robe descended toward her father, she awoke crying , “It isn’t fair! What about me?”

She moved past it by realizing her earthly father was now like her, the same in God’s sight. Grace was his as it was hers. With that, she was able to forgive her father.

God’s grace is a free gift and available to all. It’s a free and more than we deserve. Grace is about mercy, not fairness. Grace is for the last and the first. Thankfully, it is about grace.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

Opening Blind Eyes

by Keith Broyles

From time to time I get on writing.com. You can find different things to help with writing,com, including writing prompts and writing challenges and contests. But I always feel challenged there. Writing from the tags for the Though I have never won’t any of the few I seen there, I still enjoy doing it.

Today’s poem and future song lyrics began as a writing challenge on

Blind eyes fail to see creation’s slow death.
The stench of the air, leaves us without breath
Empty ears ignore the earth’s groans and cries
Still, God who made us, wipes tears from blind eyes

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

God creates humans for more than we know.
Fun with no joy pulls us from where we grow.
Our hearts are empty, no strength from above
Empty hearts lack peace, Lord send us a dove.

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

Empty hearts can’t see, God’s blessings for me
Empty souls cry out, yearning to be free.
The soul may be empty, the spirit dry,
God still loves us, let love show in our eyes.

My Blind Eyes bring Empty Hearts
Empty Hearts bring Empty Souls
Empty Souls bring Empty lives
Empty lives bring More Blind eyes

Let love’s light shine, in this dark world.
Let my blind eyes, be blind no more.
My eyes can see, the world alive.
In grace and love, God’s call with thrive.

No blind eyes mean loving hearts
loving hearts mean loving souls
loving souls mean loving lives
loving lives mean, love for You.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Seared Into My Memory

By Jerome Brimmage

I went to seminary with Jerome Brimmage. Jerome was a year ahead of me but we did have opportunities for conversation and fellowship. I can’t remember the churches in Jerome’s early career but in the more recent years he has served in Mineola Texas and Cypress Texas. He currently is pastor at First United Methodist Church in Lufkin, Texas. Yes, we are neighbors these days.

It was the summer leading into my senior year of high school.  One of my good friends called and asked me to meet him in the park as he needed to talk. We had gotten to know each other over the previous six years. We had played baseball together, coached a little league team, and gone to school together. He took one of his college days to ride with me to Stephen F. Austin State University. He had no plans to go off to college, but he wanted out of school and he was willing to go with me to see what the future could hold. 

It was late at night on that hot summer night. I did not think twice about driving to the park in our small town. My friend and I pulled up in different cars and parked near a picnic table. We got out and sat on the bench and began to talk. To this day, I do not remember the conversation topic. What I do remember is the police officer that pulled up. He got out of his vehicle and began to aggressively interrogate my friend. He asked for his driver’s license; what was his purpose of being in the park so late; and more. I tried to explain that we were simply talking. The police officer did not want to hear from me and never asked me a question. 

I was nervous and not sure what to do or how to respond. I was taught to respect police officers and do as asked. When the officer discovered nothing out of the normal gab session was happening, he got in his police cruiser and departed. 

I looked at my friend and explained my nervousness. I said something about the way my friend was the one being interrogated. My friend said, “Jerome, this happens all the time in our world. We get stopped and questioned about stuff all the time.” 

You see, my friend was Hispanic. He and his family were U.S. citizens of Hispanic background. 

My friend says, “this happens all the time.” As if he was profiled. We were teens, and he knew racism and discrimination in ways that I didn’t know then and, frankly, have not experienced in my lifetime. 

If  (when) I get pulled over, it’s because I was speeding or something, I know I have done. I have not experienced interrogation for any reason or no reason at all. 

As the news came out about a police officer putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck until he died, I had a flashback to that hot summer night. How can it be? It has been nearly 40 years, and this seared memory of my friend in the park rises again. 

My friend was interrogated and not murdered. Yet, systemic racism is alive. That breaks my heart and I am sure it breaks the heart of God. 

As a pastor, at each baptism, I ask the Methodist liturgical questions: 

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your own sin?

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Each person at their baptism or confirmation responds: “I do” to these questions. 

In the safety of the church, surrounded by the body of Christ that is there to support you, it is easy to say, “I do.” Yet, when the time comes, and we see again or perhaps for the first time the racism, do we recognize it as a spiritual force of wickedness? An evil power of this world?

God gives us the freedom and power to resist this evil, injustice, and oppression. The question is: will we exercise that power? 

Please note I do not believe all police officers are racist. I do not believe that all white people are racist. 

I do believe systemic racism is real and alive. This is not of God and not why Jesus was sent to redeem the people of this world.  

We are all children of God. Paul says it like this: 

26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now, if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29

As people who are baptized in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, I have the privilege to be made in the image of God. Paul says, “Now if you belong to Christ,… then indeed you are heirs of the promise.” This means we belong to one another. 

I will not lose hope! I believe God is still writing the story of faith and hope in this world. 

I will repent for my silence when I should have spoken up.

I will ask for forgiveness for no action when action was needed.

I will seek the face of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit to help be the light of Christ in a dark and hurting world.

I believe, with God’s help, there are better days ahead. 

Come Holy Spirit Come!

Now You Hear It, Now You Don’t

By: Keith Broyles

It is time once again for the Sunday Sermon. Because I am not preaching this week I went searching through some old sermon manuscripts and pulled this one out. Unfortunately, there is only the manuscript. I wrote and preached this sermon back in 2007 when I was pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Santa Fe, Texas. I hope you enjoy the read.

13 That day Jesus went out of the house and sat down beside the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he climbed into a boat and sat down. The whole crowd was standing on the shore.

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.” (Matthew 13:1-9, Common English Bible)

Most of you know, Cindy, Christopher, and I spent Fourth of July weekend with my parents. My father has some hearing difficulty, but his greatest hearing difficulty is convenient hearing and not paying attention to what is being said around him. That can be said of many of us.

Most of you know, we spent Fourth of July weekend with my parents. My father has some hearing difficulty. Four years of running around the boiler room and the engine room on an old ship. He went from the Navy to working construction. His best argument for not getting his hearing checked was expense. But his greatest hearing difficulty is convenient hearing and not paying attention to what is being said around him. That can be said of many of us.

Sunday afternoon he and I were watching baseball games on television. When the Astro’s game was over we turned on the Ranger’s game. Kenny Rogers was pitching. For those few people who are totally oblivious to the sports world, Kenny Rogers went after two television photographers a week and a half ago, jerking the camera from one’s shoulder and then kicking it several times. I don’t know if the camera was damaged or not. Following this tirade, Major League Baseball suspended him for 20 games and fined him $50,000.

When we turned the Ranger’s game on, who was pitching, but Kenny Rogers. We talked about how Rogers had appealed his suspension and was allowed to play until the appeal was heard. My Dad even said that he hoped Rogers would be picked to the All-Star team so that he wouldn’t be able to play.

As the game went on, one at a time, Cindy, my mother, my brother-in-law, my sister, and then Christopher and his girl friend walked into the room. As each came in and saw Rogers on the mound they said, “I thought he was suspended. How can he be playing?” And, each time patiently at first, not so patiently toward the end I explained that Major League Baseball rules allow a player to appeal his suspension and keep playing until his appeal is heard. So Rogers was allowed to play.

Monday morning my dad hears on television that Rogers had pitched the day before and exclaims, “I thought he was suspended, how could he have pitched.” My question is, how could he have not heard it any of the six times I explained it and even worse, he watched almost he entire game, how could he have not seen Kenny Rogers pitching the day before? He was even the one who had turned the game on.

II I guess my words to my dad were like seeds scattered on a path that the birds came and ate. I don’t think that they could be seeds scattered on the rocky places that sprung up but were scorched by the sun. I don’t think that they were like the seeds scattered among the thorns and were choked out by the other plants. That would mean that he at least heard a little bit and probably chose to ignore it. He certainly wasn’t the seed scattered on good soil because he just didn’t get it at all.

I have learned over the years that such is all too true. And, it isn’t just true with my father. There are many of us with hearing that is convenient at best. I know, and I understand that there are those without hearing and even those with hearing loss. I am one who has some moderate hearing loss. And, I know my dad is too. Still, if we are honest with ourselves and with each other, at least for many of us our greatest hearing problem isn’t a physical problem. For many of us anyway, we hear much of what we want to hear. Many things that are said to us or around us, we tune out or we don’t pay attention to. Such was the case during the Rangers game last Sunday afternoon.

III We live in a society that just doesn’t want to listen or maybe has lost much of ability to listen. Perhaps it is selective hearing on many of our parts. Perhaps it is too much noise going on around us, distracting us from what others may be saying. Maybe we think that we don’t have time to listen.

The lesson we read a few minutes ago closes with Jesus saying, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Yet all too often, we just don’t want to listen or we don’t have the ability to listen to one another. And, it seems to me that such inability would also inhibit our ability or desire to hear when God is speaking to us.

This morning we continue our series, “Principles from Parables” as we look at “The Parable of the Sower.” In this lesson Jesus says that a farmer went out in the field to sow his seeds. Think for just a minute about someone who goes out, and by hand, broadcasts seeds onto a field or even a yard. As you scatter the seeds they can go everywhere. Some go to where you want, but others go to places that you don’t, even places that have no real possibility of growing anything. Jesus said that some went on the path where the birds ate them up. Some went to rocky areas, places where there wasn’t much soil and the plants couldn’t get much in the way of a root system. When the heat came they burned up and died. Some fell in the thorny places and were chocked out by the other plants around them. But, some fell on good soil, and produced a good crop, many times the amount of seed that was planted.

I understand that idea. When we moved to Lovelady, we moved into a brand new house. With a brand new house comes a brand new yard. Before we moved in a member of the church came by to plant grass seed. He broadcast the seed. I am sure that some went onto the sidewalk and the birds came and ate it. There weren’t any rocky places so that wasn’t a problem, but there were flowerbeds and some of the seed went there. Do you know what grass is when it is in a flowerbed? It is a weed, but we will deal with “The Parable of the Weeds” next Sunday. The point is, when you scatter seed, some of it goes where you want, but some of it goes into and maybe even takes root in places that you don’t want.

This parable would be difficult at best to understand if it stopped where I stopped reading this morning’s lesson. Without question, it would be cryptic. At times, it is difficult to get the real point that Jesus is trying to make when he used parables. That would have particularly been the case here except that after verse 17, verses 10 through 17 deal with the disciples asking why Jesus speaks in parables and Jesus’ response to them. But, then, in verses 18 through 23 Jesus explains “The Parable of the Sower.” Read 18-23.

With this explanation we now have a much clearer picture of what Jesus was saying to the disciples and others who were gathered to hear him. All of the seeds that went to the places the sower never intended, are people who use their selective hearing or ignore all together what God may be saying. We may hear about the Kingdom of God, and yet we don’t hear. The seeds may be planted within us but they never really take root deeply in our hearts.

On the other hand, there are also the seeds that are scattered on the good soil of the heart. They are seeds that take firm hold because we are not only attentive when the Word of God is spoken; we use what we hear to help cultivate the faith that is growing inside of us. God is speaking. Are we listening?

V I think that when Jesus says, “He who has ears let him hear” he is saying to us; “You have the ability to hear the voice of God calling you into a relationship. Take the time; stop what you are doing and listen. God may be speaking to you.”

When we live with the idea of now you hear it, now you don’t, our faith becomes the seeds that fall in places where it is difficult to impossible for it to survive. Yet when we open our ears and we listen to the word of God, the seeds of faith are planted in good soil. We hear the word of God when we read the words of Scripture, when we pray, from the things that we see in nature and the world around us. We hear it sometimes by God speaking to us from the words of others that share our world. We can even hear it through the still small voice of our conscience. But, we have to be listening or we might miss it.

Now you hear it, now you don’t is selective hearing and if we heard at all, before long it is gone away. What we really need is “Now I hear it… Yeah I still hear it.” Then the seeds of faith are growing in the richest soil of our lives.

I understand that idea. When we moved to Lovelady, we moved into a brand new house. With a brand new house comes a brand new yard. Before we moved in a member of the church came by to plant grass seed. He broadcast the seed. I am sure that some went onto the sidewalk and the birds came and ate it. There weren’t any rocky places so that wasn’t a problem, but there were flowerbeds and some of the seed went there. Do you know what grass is when it is in a flowerbed? It is a weed, but we will deal with “The Parable of the Weeds” next Sunday. The point is, when you scatter seed, some of it goes where you want, but some of it goes into and maybe even takes root in places that you don’t want.

This parable would be difficult at best to understand if it stopped where I stopped reading this morning’s lesson. Without question, it would be cryptic. At times, it is difficult to get the real point that Jesus is trying to make when he used parables. That would have particularly been the case here except that after verse 17, verses 10 through 17 deal with the disciples asking why Jesus speaks in parables and Jesus’ response to them. But, then, in verses 18 through 23 Jesus explains “The Parable of the Sower.” Read 18-23.

With this explanation we now have a much clearer picture of what Jesus was saying to the disciples and others who were gathered to hear him. All of the seeds that went to the places the sower never intended, are people who use their selective hearing or ignore all together what God may be saying. We may hear about the Kingdom of God, and yet we don’t hear. The seeds may be planted within us but they never really take root deeply in our hearts.

On the other hand, there are also the seeds that are scattered on the good soil of the heart. They are seeds that take firm hold because we are not only attentive when the Word of God is spoken; we use what we hear to help cultivate the faith that is growing inside of us. God is speaking. Are we listening?

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V I think that when Jesus says, “He who has ears let him hear” he is saying to us; “You have the ability to hear the voice of God calling you into a relationship. Take the time; stop what you are doing and listen. God may be speaking to you.”

When we live with the idea of now you hear it, now you don’t, our faith becomes the seeds that fall in places where it is difficult to impossible for it to survive. Yet when we open our ears and we listen to the word of God, the seeds of faith are planted in good soil. We hear the word of God when we read the words of Scripture, when we pray, from the things that we see in nature and the world around us. We hear it sometimes by God speaking to us from the words of others that share our world. We can even hear it through the still small voice of our conscience. But, we have to be listening or we might miss it.

Now you hear it, now you don’t is selective hearing and if we heard at all, before long it is gone away. What we really need is “Now I hear it… Yeah I still hear it.” Then the seeds of faith are growing in the richest soil of our lives.

Be Blessed

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

How Sweet the Sound

By Keith Broyles

Well, it is another Song Style Saturday. I have several songs I could put on here, but I really felt led to talk about “Amazing Grace.” The hymn is arguably the best known and favorite hymn of Christians everywhere. I don’t know that is THE favorite hymn, but it is A favorite. It isn’t my favorite, really it isn’t even close. I personally believe it isn’t the greatest interpretation of Scripture and at best is weak theology, at least a line of the first verse fall into that.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” Wretch? Really? How do we reconcile being a “wretch” with this.

26 Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”

27 God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. 30 To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. 31 God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. (Genesis 1:26-31, Common English Bible).

A “wretch” like me but we are talking about the same creature that when God made that creature and said, “IT WAS SUPREMELY GOOD.” How can something be both a wretch and be supremely good?” I understand we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. I get that. My thought is, I was created supremely good, but I don’t live in the divine, supreme goodness.

Some of the things I do are wretched. God doesn’t make bad but I do bad.

We have a self-esteem issue in our society. We have plenty of people who already see themselves as worthless. We need to show people of their preciousness and value in the eyes of God. I don’t expect that many of you will agree. That is OK. I also believe in the thoughts of retired Bishop Richard B. Wilkie, our disagreements bother us more than they bother God.

For those who don’t know the story, John Newton was a sea going man, a captain. The two worked on cruise together. On one of the cruises he was on later, he got impressed into the British Navy. It was the taking of someone off the street, as it were, and forcing them to work the ship. From the British ship, Newton was sold to an African tribe. He went from trading slaves to being one and one sold freely.

Newton managed to escape with the help of a crew member who knew is father. He got back to England, got a ship and went back into the slave trade. He went from trading slaves, being a slave and back to trading in slaves again.

Newton gave up the slave trade but not before he penned the lyrics to Amazing Grace. The tune, according to Phipps sounded like an African sorrow chant. Phipps would like to think that all of the hymn came into being by what Newton where little else happened besides the tears, talking, and singing.

Several years ago, while serving in Lovelady, TX, we had finished a Bible study and it was going to be a few weeks before we would begin the next study. I looked around until I found a very short-term study on “Amazing Grace.” Those in my study group were very excited about studying. We learned from this study that no one actually knows the number of verses that people have written over the years.

I have known for years that there were verses written by people other than John Newton, some appearing in hymnals and some have never shown up in a hymnal. They have written them, and the verses remained local, never published. Others may get published but in hymnals outside the mainline denominations. We are going to take a look at the verses written by Newton but also some of the verses written by others.

Verse 1
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.

Verse 2
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Verse 3
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home!

Verse 4
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Verse 5
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease.
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace!

Verse 6
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine.
But God who called me here below
Shall be forever mine!

Verse 7
In evil long I took delight
Unawed by shame or fear.
‘til a new object met my sight,
And stopped my wild career.

Verse 8
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood.
Who fixed His languid eyes on me
As near His cross I stood.

Verse 9
Sure, never ’til my latest breath,
Can I forget that look?
It seemed to charge me with His death
Though not a word He spoke.

Verse 10
My conscience owned and felt the guilt,
And plunged me in despair.
I saw my sins His blood had shed,
And helped to nail Him there.

Verse 11
Alas, I knew not what I did,
But all my tears were vain.
Where could my trembling soul be hid,
For I the Lord had slain!

Verse 12
Because he died upon the cross,
He paid the price for me.
He bought my soul for his glory,
And now he’s set me free.

Verse 13
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun!

Verse 14
Jesus remember me, he said,
The sinner’s heart felt plea.
The promise made, the story spread
I know He died for me.

Verse 4 is considered by some in the music world to be the “Forgotten verse. I am not sure I agree. I went through several hymnals looking specifically for this verse. The only hymnal I didn’t find it in was the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal. It has verses 1, 2, 3, and 13. The United Methodist Hymnal has six verses, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 13. The only reason I can see that verse 4 would be “forgotten,” we tend in many settings, to sing a limited number of verses. In this case, we might sing 1, 2, 3, and 6. In my congregations we usually sing all six verses in the hymnal. My wife loves the “forgotten” verse 4 and if we don’t sing it, she will want to know why.

This next verse following was sent to me recently. The gospelweb reader who sent it said it was written by Daniel Mitchell, a 15-year-old boy in San Francisco, California. I have not tried to sing it, but it seems to fit well — here it is!

Verse “13” was apparently added by an American, many years ago to the old original version written by John Newton. It is one of my favorites to end this wonderful old song, whatever number of verses you may sing, but fits particularly well either just before the verse beginning, “The earth shall soon dissolve . . . .” and is often used as the ending verse of the song.

There are hymnals with as few as three verses if Amazing Grace. There are others with as many as six. I am most familiar with The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal and The United Methodist Hymnal as they are the hymnals used most in my denomination. The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal has four verses. The United Methodist Hymnal has six.

Verse 14 above, you will not see in a hymnal. It is my contribution to the hymn. While I said I am not a fan of the hymn, it is really just the first line of the first verse we could leave out.

People often have strange and inaccurate ideas about different songs. One webpage I looked at while searching for other information called “Amazing Grace” the quintessential American Song of Redemption.” That Americans love this hymn is beyond question. However, John Newton was a priest in the Anglican Church. He was British. Amazing Grace, in its original form is a British song.
Beyond the traditional tune that contemporary singer Whitney Phipps identifies as a “West African Sorrow Chant” that Newton may have heard coming from the belly of his slave transport ship. People have sung the lyrics of Newton and others to these tunes. These include:

“Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles. When this tune is used, the chorus of the actual Eagles song with one minor change. The Eagles song just says at the end of the chorus, “…on the ground.” With Amazing Grace those last three words become four words, in one of two versions, “…on solid ground” or “…on Holy ground.”

“The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. Nothing changes in this version except the tune. Some find this version offensive because “House of the Rising Sun” is a song about a house of prostitution in New Orleans. Others see it as the redemption of “House of the Rising Sun.” They find it appropriate because that is what “Amazing Grace” is all about.

“The Theme from Gilligan’s Island – This version has popularity in some circles, others see it as just silly.

“The Theme from the Mickey Mouse Club” – What was said above about Gilligan’s Island is echoed with “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

One of the most popular settings is for funerals, particularly those serving in uniform, has the song played on bagpipes. There is a truly haunting sound in the melody when played on that instrument.

This song has also made its way into film and television. It appears in both The Simpsons and The Mickey Mouse Club. The movie credits for “Amazing Grace include Alice’s Restaurant, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Silkwood. Amazing Grace, Newton’s Grace, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

There is so much information about Amazing Grace entire books have surrounded the one song. It is a rich song performed by many, many artists over the years. It is the most recorded song in history, and it has a special place in the history of hymns and other Christian songs.

Be blessed.

In Search of the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved