I had an interesting experience with grace recently. The Sunday before Thanksgiving I went to services at my local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (ERUUF). Reverend Deb Cayer gave a thoughtful sermon on the concept of grace. She talked about grace as a spiritual gift, a blessing from the divine. Although I love the idea of grace, what fascinated me most was her description of the origin of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
John Newton was a British man who spent time in the Royal Navy, and eventually captained slave ships in the mid 1770s. During a particularly violent storm he asked for God’s mercy to see him through the night. He survived the storm and (albeit sometime later) had a change of heart. He gave up the slave trade, found a new career as a preacher, and wrote what was to become one of the most popular hymns in existence, “Amazing Grace.”
We sang “Amazing Grace” at the service that Sunday. As you probably know, it’s a song of redemption, of having faith (or perhaps finding it) through difficult times, and of the eternal nature of our existence. I went to coffee hour after service. Had some pleasant chitchat and went to my car, uplifted and enthused to get on with my day.
I turned the car on. A song began to play from my iPod. It was a song I didn’t know I had and the screen said “Unknown Artist,” but I recognized it right away. You have one guess. Yes. “Amazing Grace” began to play. I have 11, 711 songs in my music library. I could play music 24 hours a day for more than 35 days and never hear the same song twice. Amazing. Grace. Played.
What clearer sign could a person want that they are not alone in the universe? I did not know the topic of the lecture before I arrived at church. This song was not playing when I got out of my car to go to church. I was unaware that I even owned a version of “Amazing Grace,” and don’t recall ever hearing it before. I used my Shazam app (gotta love technology!) to determine that the version (which was awesome) was by the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Merriam-Webster defines grace as “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” In musing, journeying, praying and talking about this experience I was guided to share it. Grace may be a state of being, a blessing, to be bestowed by the divine; however, I believe we all embody divine energy (see title of my first book, Inner Divinity). I think we can pass along that energy, that light, be a conduit of sorts when needed. If there is the slightest possibility that by reading my experience you might feel the spark of joy, reassurance and compassion that I felt surrounding me that day, then I want to pass it along. The message had a very personal effect on me, but I don’t claim it as mine. It’s for you as well.
I don’t know exactly what to make of how “Amazing Grace” was gifted that Sunday. It may be pointing to something vaster than our comprehension allows, but I think it’s a reminder of the unseen source that flows in, around, and amongst us always. I will leave you to interpret in your own way. But as a group, if we can feel graced, reassured of our sanctified place here, our connection to one another and the sacredness of this world, then perhaps as a collective we can come closer to understanding the fuller picture, mapping the divine landscape that we walk each day.
As always, wishing you a peaceful heart,