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HYMN FOR LENT 4 Amazing Grace/The Prodigal Son

Norwegian: Å nåde underfull og stor

Swedish: Oändlig nåd mig Herren gav

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

Text: John Newton (1725-1807) Tune: William Walker (1809-1875)

1. Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind, but now I see.

2. 'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,

And Grace my fears relieved.

How precious did that Grace appear

The hour I first believed.

3. Through many dangers, toils, and snares

I have already come. '

Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far

And Grace will lead me home.

4. The Lord has promised good to me.

His Word my hope secures.

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.

5. When we've been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun,

We've no less days to sing God's praise

Than when we'd first begun.


Arlanda, Stockholm’s airport. Waiting for my flight, I saw painted on the wall, Katja, kom hjem. Allt är förlåtet! Come home, all is forgiven.

Someone had a prodigal daughter who had run away or disappeared and they wanted her back. Forgiveness the condition, if there were one, that would bring her home.

Hardly a Christian who saw it could see it without thinking of the Prodigal son. Now he returned without the promise of forgiveness, but at least he trusted that he would be received, which was tantamount to forgiveness for him. "Father, I have sinned and am no more worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” When his father saw him, however, and ran to him to embrace him, the speech was not necessary. His coming home was enough of a sign to the father so overjoyed he did not demand the formalities. He knew the heart of his son. And then there is the elder son who tends to be where many of us identify. He gets preached against a lot, but there he is and the father loves him too.

It is a glorious story and we all know who we are in it—and we have very likely been all three. Like the father, expected to generously forgive the most awful transgressions; like the elder son, appalled at the embrace of his younger brother, the wastrel; and the prodigal, gone off into the sunset to the fleshpots of California. As in most parables by Jesus, we don’t get to see how the story goes on. Does the older son cultivate his hate and fury along with his crops; does the younger son wander off again and again, expecting such a return every time? We don’t know. That is for us to live out and see what happens in our lives.

I once had a student who had something against me. She would write graffiti against me around campus and on my car; she would stop by my house in the middle of the night, drunk, and incorrigible. It was upsetting and frightening. Then one night she came to ask me for forgiveness. She knew this parable—everyone does, even non-believers—and she was on one of the steps of recovery in which one is supposed to ask for forgiveness from those one has hurt.

What was I to do? Of course, I forgave her. But then she wanted a party from me, a robe and ring, veal roast and all the trimmings. I told her to go home and get some sleep and then we would talk.

When we did, I told her I was very glad she was working on her addiction and thankful for what it could mean to her. I, however, needed to have reason to trust her. That had to be earned. For the time being, I was wary.

This made her very angry and she left in a rage. Did I not understand forgiveness? From what I heard things went from bad to worse. And I have always wondered if what I did was right or even helpful? God can forgive, and we are to forgive, but what then?

I get that, and yet… Once I heard of a clergyman who told the parents of a young girl who had just been brutally murdered that they had to forgive the murderer. It was a terrible thing to hear just then. They needed help. A colleague of mine, who worked with families who had experienced such a trauma, drove many miles to minister to them in their grief. She didn’t know what she was going to say and prayed for words. When she got out of the car, suddenly out of her mouth came, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” A word from the cross. A word for them. God could forgive the murderer before they could. And now was not the time to go further.

She also knew that living in hate and despair, hoping hour by hour for revenge, gave the murderer charge over their lives forever. In that case it was not time to forgive, but one day it would have to be so they could live. William Blake, the English poet, wrote once, We become what we fear. Which is how hate takes over and shapes us. Forgiveness not only frees the sinner, it frees the sinned against.

This parable, Jesus’ word from the cross, his going to his death to free us from sin and guilt so we are free to live, works and works on us as we try to live by his word. And that is why we need to remain close to our Shepherd, and trust that the one who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile we live in his amazing grace. John Newton said it best:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.


Amazing Grace is the most famous hymn of the last 75 years, ever since the 1960s when Judy Collins began singing it. It is the story of a prodigal, John Newton, who knew himself to be a sinner, and who knew he had been forgiven. For more on John Newton watch the Story of Amazing Grace below.


The Story of Amazing Grace/15 minutes well worth your time

Judy Collins and choir/ some 80 million views

Swedish congregation singing Swedish version

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