Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mace the Dog and Amazing Grace

Frank's sermon on Sunday was about Amazing Grace and it was wonderful as usual.  He started his sermon with a little story that has been with me all week and I just thought today would be a great way to end the month of June.  The story is about an old handyman who had a Heinz 57 dog named Mace. Mace was a great dog except he had one really weird habit: he liked to eat grass - not just a little bit, but in great quantities that would make a lawnmower blush. And nothing, it seemed, could cure him of it.  The old handyman tried everything, but nothing worked.  Mace continued to eat grass.  One morning the handyman got up and went to do a job.  However, when he got there he discovered that the tool he would need most on this job was not in his tool pouch.  He was quite distraught because without the tool he would not get paid and would not be able to pay his few meager bills.....or eat.  Sadly the old handman headed back home to his house.  As he neared his house he could see that his dog Mace had been eating grass again and had cleared a very large portion of it from the front yard and there it was....his wrench...laying in plain sight, glinting in the sun. Going out to get his wrench, he called the dog over to him and said, "A grazing Mace, how sweet the hound, that saved a wrench for me."  Sorry....I could not help it.  I laughed when I heard it in church and have laughed each time I have thought about it this week.  Of course this is really NOT how the song came to be....but did you know that the song Amazing Grace is a common tune and can be sung to other songs?  Go ahead, sing it to the Eagles, "Peaceful Easy Feeling", or the theme song from "Gilligan's Island", or "Greensleeves" (What Child is This).  It works. can also sing "Jesus Loves Me" to the tune of the "Flintstones."  The REAL song Amazing Grace has a  great story behind it.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...” So begins one of the most beloved hymns of all times, a staple in the hymnals of many denominations, New Britain or “45 on the top” in Sacred Harp. The author of the words was John Newton, the self-proclaimed wretch who once was lost but then was found, saved by amazing grace. Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean. When John was eleven, he went to sea with his father and made six voyages with him before the elder Newton retired. In 1744 John was impressed into service on a man-of-war, the H. M. S. Harwich. Finding conditions on board intolerable, he deserted but was soon recaptured and publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman. Finally at his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship, which took him to the coast of Sierra Leone. He then became the servant of a slave trader and was brutally abused. Early in 1748 he was rescued by a sea captain who had known John's father. John Newton ultimately became captain of his own ship, one which plied the slave trade. Although he had had some early religious instruction from his mother, who had died when he was a child, he had long since given up any religious convictions. However, on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his “great deliverance.” He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm and that grace had begun to work for him.
For the rest of his life he observed the anniversary of May 10, 1748 as the day of his conversion, a day of humiliation in which he subjected his will to a higher power. “Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’tis grace has bro’t me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” He continued in the slave trade for a time after his conversion; however, he saw to it that the slaves under his care were treated humanely. Among Newton’s contributions which are still loved and sung today are “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” and ”Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” as well as “Amazing Grace.” Composed probably between 1760 and 1770 in Olney, ”Amazing Grace” was possibly one of the hymns written for a weekly service. Through the years other writers have composed additional verses to the hymn which came to be known as “Amazing Grace” (it was not thus entitled in Olney Hymns), and possibly verses from other Newton hymns have been added. However, these are the six stanzas that appeared, with minor spelling variations, in both the first edition in 1779 and the 1808 edition, the one nearest the date of Newton’s death. It appeared under the heading Faith’s Review and Expectation, along with a reference to First Chronicles, chapter 17, verses 16 and 17.
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)

That sav’d a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears reliev’d;

How precious did that grace appear,

The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come;

’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be,

As long as life endures.

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.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who call’d me here below,

Will be forever mine.
The origin of the melody is unknown. Most hymnals attribute it to an early American folk melody. The Bill Moyers special on “Amazing Grace” speculated that it may have originated as the tune of a song the slaves sang. Whatever it is....Amazing Grace is one of my favorite hymns...with or without the words.  How about you?  Have a wonderful Thursday!

1 comment:

Mary said...

Very cute story! :D