This Sunday, I will begin a summer sermon series that will take us through some of your favorite hymns and praise songs. I’ve often wondered, why does a particular song become a “favorite?” For some of us, it is as simple as liking the melody or the rhythm - especially true of some favorite gospel hymns! For others, a song may bring up precious memories of a special time or a special person.
We will begin this musical journey with the song that received the most votes, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone). Interestingly, the hymn Amazing Grace is named in many surveys as the #1 favorite hymn. But, you picked the praise song version of it. What is it about this newer version that caught our attention?
In 2006, a film was produced that told the story of William Wilberforce, the abolitionist who helped end the slave trade in Britain. The film was called Amazing Grace, based on the John Newton poem by the same name. Newton wrote this poem as he was wrestling with his role as a slave ship captain. Convicted of the evil of the slave trade, he left that job and became a preacher. He often spoke of being rescued from his past. His epitaph says it best:
John Newton, clerk,
once an infidel and libertine,
a servant of slaves in Africa,
was by the rich mercy of
our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
preserved, restored, pardoned,
and appointed to preach the faith he had long
labored to destroy.
As a part of the soundtrack of the movie, composer and recording artist, Chris Tomlin was asked to write an “addition” to the beloved hymn Amazing Grace. The words to My Chains Are Gone was the result. He tells the story of wrestling with the image of slaves chained to the ship. But in his writing, he went beyond the chains of a slave ship to the chains of sin that bind us all. The words of promise ring out….
My chains are gone. I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior, has ransomed me.
And like a flood his mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace
I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we talk further about the Amazing Grace that is promised to us all.