“Amazing grace” and “tears in heaven” William D. Brown
“Amazing Grace” • Is there a God? • Who or what is He/She/It? • Why are we here? • Why do bad things happen to good people? • Why do good things happen to bad people? • Are human innately good or evil?
“Amazing Grace” • Written by John Newton in 1779 • Subjects: redemption and forgiveness • Considered his “spiritual (auto-)biography • Newton refers to himself as a “wretch,” which he was • Even “nasty people” did not like him • Got involved in the slave trade • Repented and changed his ways, becoming an ordained minister in the Church of England
“Amazing Grace” • “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…” • The AWE he felt at sensing God’s presence (how some people describe GRACE) • Yet this awe, which suggests something powerful and dramatic is controlled by the silence suggested by “sweetness”… • “WRETCH” – a powerful word! He uses this word to describe himself.
“Amazing Grace” • “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” • Spiritual and moral blindness – could not see what he was doing to his fellow men • He now sees – perhaps himself, perhaps others, perhaps a path…
“Amazing Grace” • “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fear relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” • Suggestion of the presence from the beginning • God’s presence was a gift, but HE HAD TO CHOOSE! • The choice led to immediate results.
“Amazing Grace” • “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, we have already come. ‘Twas grace that brought us safe thus far, and Grace will lead us home.” • Physical and spiritual references • Life as a path – many dangers, toils (difficulties), and snares (traps) • God as protector • God as a beacon or guide
“Amazing Grace” • “The Lord has promised good to me; His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.” • A covenant between God and Him: • God will protect and feed Him. • He will follow.
“Amazing Grace” • “When we’ve been here ten thousand years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.” • Concept of eternity • Every day is a new beginning
“Amazing Grace” • Tone: PURE JOY coming out of gratitude and hope (but a hint of remorse and regret) • The song is a celebration of his relationship with God but also a plea for forgiveness from God. • Reminds the listener that: • God is always present. • We have to make a choice – and later a commitment. • All we have to do is ask…
“Amazing Grace” • Sang this song in Chinese and English with my family (my wife, Yuchuan, and our daughter, Xuerui [her English name is Joy]) • Reminds me of the Psalms • Connects to Biblical Literature, especially the Gospels • Parable of the Prodigal Son • Had an encounter like this one…
“Tears in Heaven” • First heard this song while driving on the 405 freeway. • Eric Clapton wrote this song after his four-year-old son, Conor’s, death by accident in 1991. • He has stopped singing this song because he claims that he no longer feels the grief but may bring it back later.
“Tears in Heaven” • “Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven? Would you be the same if I saw you in heaven?” • The song starts out with questions – ones he cannot answer. • Death brings with it questions that we cannot answer… • Questions suggest uncertainty and insecurity and frustration…
“Tears in Heaven” • “I must be strong and carry on ‘cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven.” • Talks to himself to strengthen his resolve to continue • Reminds himself that he cannot live in heaven because he still has a life to live • At that time, Clapton struggled with drug addiction…
“Tears in Heaven” • “Would you hold my hand if I saw you in heaven? Would you help me stand if I saw you in heaven?” • More questions… • “help me stand” shows his weakness and vulnerability • Perhaps the line also shows his regret that he was not there • The most unnatural thing in the world: for a parent to bury a child…
“Tears in Heaven” • “I’ll find my way through night and day ‘cause I know I just can’t stay here in heaven.” • He needs to keep moving both when he can navigate his way and when he cannot – both physically and spiritually.
“Tears in Heaven” • “Time can bring you down; time can bend your knees. Time can break a heart, have you begging please, begging please…” • ANGUISH! • Imagery of the speaker on his knees pleading… • Weakness • Inability to continue
“Tears in Heaven” • “Beyond the door, there’s peace I’m sure ‘cause I know there’ll be no more tears in heaven.” • What door? • Perhaps death… • Perhaps the end of his suffering… • Title line: “this too shall pass” – HOPE • In the meantime, he knows that he has to suffer
“Tears in Heaven” • The song is MOURNFUL AND REGRETFUL but also HOPEFUL. • The speaker mourns the death of his son and regrets his absence, BUT • He longs for the day when he will see his son again – in the afterlife.
“Tears in Heaven” • I have sung this song several times at funerals, most memorably at my Grandmother’s funeral. • I still sing this song (unlike Clapton). Maybe I have not overcome my grief yet… • I was convinced that Eric Clapton wrote this song just for me… • It put into words how I had felt for fifteen years (1976 to 1991) but could not articulate: • My feelings after my mother died.