John 9:15. NRSV
Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”
National Public Radio has been doing stories on hymns lately. Today I listened to a story about the efforts of Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina to make the hymn “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” the national hymn. Not like a new national anthem, but a hymn that speaks to all persons. It was written in 1899 to speak to the suffering of Blacks in the decades following the Civil War. Since 1919 it has been the official hymn of the NAACP, leading to it becoming known as the Black National Anthem. Today, Rep. Clyburn says, the words could help to bring the country together without taking anything away from “The Star Spangled Banner.” I love that hymn. The first time I heard it was at that first MLK parade I attended - the one where I saw sororities and fraternities Stepping for the first time.
They are also doing a longer report on the hymn “Amazing Grace.” I haven’t heard the whole report yet, but just thinking about that song always soothes my soul. Singing it brings tears to my eyes, every time.
I didn’t learn hymns in church. We did sing a few pieces of music now and then, but they were in Latin and were an integral part of the mass. I learned hymns at Bluegrass Festivals. Sunday mornings were always dedicated to Gospel music and hymns like this one. I loved this music and started learning the songs, singing along with the likes of Mother Maybelle Carter on record albums. When the little Country band I was part of started playing in a bar that catered to truckers and bikers, our last set - by popular request! - was always Gospel Music and ended with Amazing Grace.
Then - I quit drinking and drugging. For anyone who has not done this, it’s hard. Physically hard at first, but as time goes by the difficulty is more spiritual than physical. Trying to overcome the obsession in the hours when I couldn’t be at a meeting or with other people in recovery or at work was really hard especially when I was alone. I started singing Amazing Grace while driving my car. The words spoke directly to my heart. They spoke my Truth. They removed the obsession, at least for a little while.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.
In the years since then have learned lots of different ways to sing Amazing Grace using different tunes and different tempos. But the original version is still the one I sing when I am alone, when things are hard. And it still makes me cry tears of gratitude for that grace.
Loving God, thank you for the grace you have poured out upon me. It truly is amazing that you care about every person on the planet, every person who has ever lived or ever will live, even me. Help me continue to see, just as Jesus helped the blind man. Amen.