Film Friday: Amazing Grace

Back in 1972 Aretha Franklin returned to the church of her upbringing and recorded a gospel album – Amazing Grace. It went on to be her biggest selling album. On the back cover there was a note informing folks of the accompanying movie. A film which never got released. That is, until this year. There had been insurmountable issues relating to hours of movie footage with no clapperboard markings for linking sound and visuals, and the job had been beyond the previous director, Sydney Pollack. The years passed and film-making technology moved on, and a guy called Alan Elliott (who had been a mere wee 7-year-old back when the film had been originally shot) heard about the footage and set to work on the mammoth task of putting it together. The result is shown in the clip here…

When we showed this film in Lynton cinema, where I work once a week, it was interesting to see how people were moved and inspired by watching this concert. Clearly it has a power to affect folks. Before I ever saw the film I heard a reviewer on the radio talking about the response of a man next to him in the cinema. The reviewer realised part way through the film that the man beside him was crying, and saying, ‘It’s too much, it’s too much.’

Grace is not only amazing, it’s unboxable. Indefinable. Not merely at work in the nice and glossy places. As much there in the horizontal rain as the heart-warming sunshine. Present in the popcorn-strewn cinemas, sweaty sports stadiums and beery punk rock gigs. I may have shared this before but here is a version of the hymn sung by the Irish punk band The Dropkick Murphys at one of their gigs…

I’m sure the writer John Newton would have approved. He found grace in a life of slave trading. His song comes down the ages to us, reminding us again and again, sung alone or in a crowd, quietly, raucously or triumphantly, in and out of tune, of a God like no other. A God who chooses us as his friends, who picks us for his team, who appears in a stable, humble, accessible, vulnerable, entrusting himself to us, that we might be able to entrust ourselves to him. ‘What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.’ 1 John 3 The Message

To quote a few words from Waiting on God by Andrew Murray: ‘God’s love is just His delight to impart Himself and His blessedness to His children. Come, and however feeble you feel, just wait in His presence. As someone unwell is brought out into the sunshine to let its warmth go through them, come with all that is dark and cold in you into the sunshine of God’s holy, omnipotent love, and sit and wait there, with the one thought: Here I am, in the sunshine of His love. As the sun does its work in the weak one who seeks its rays, God will do His work in you.’

‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.’ (Romans 12 verses 1-3 The Message version)


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