Scottish Grace

Saturday, April 21, 2007
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Luke 16:25 – But Abraham replied, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony." (NIV)

Scottish people sing the hymn "Amazing Grace" differently from the rest of the world. This is because of bagpipes — and no, it's not because we become tone deaf through constantly hearing them. It's because most Scots grow up hearing "Amazing Grace" for the first time played with bagpipes.

The pipes don't have all the notes of the original hymn, so many years ago, bagpipe majors changed the notes of the third line in each verse to suit the pipes. As more and more Scots people heard the bagpipe version, they began to change the tune until eventually it became more common to sing the bagpipe melody rather than the original notes.

I can remember being at funerals when this transition began to occur. Organists would try to play the original notes whilst the people sung the bagpipe ones. Over time, the musicians eventually capitulated and someone wrote out the "new" notes. Nowadays, it's quite commonplace in Scotland to hear both musicians and the people sing "Amazing Grace" to the bagpipe version. I guess it's just evolved that way.

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we tend forget about the amazing grace that occurs here. "What grace?" I can hear you asking. "Doesn't the rich man get what he deserves?" But I'm not writing about the rich man; I'm referring to Lazarus. He has nothing in life but poverty, starvation, and death, but through the riches of God's grace, he is given every blessing in the after-life.

Most religions discount those who are poor as being cursed by God. In Christ's time, this was especially true amongst the Jews. Indeed, if one were prosperous and successful, it was an outward sign of God's blessings. If one were poor and starving, then one must be the recipient of God's curse. Jesus' parable was a revolutionary way of thinking about God's grace and love. It turned everything in His culture on its head, and a story such as this parable challenged the status quo.

God's grace is radical, and that's what makes it so amazing. We don't deserve it and never shall, yet because we believe in His Son and accept Him as our Saviour, we have the curse of sin removed from our souls, and in its place comes the amazing grace of God's everlasting favour and love.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we sometimes take for granted how amazing Your grace actually is. We forget that there were times when people believed that success was a sign of God's favour and that prosperity was only bestowed upon those who were worthy of Your blessings. Help us to revere Your grace and to acknowledge that it is Yours to divinely give, and not something that we deservedly earn. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.

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John Stuart <>
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

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