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February 21, 2014


Pastor Roger Newton

Judy Collins' singing of "Amazing Grace" is very important to me. Judy has made several beautiful and powerful recordings of "Amazing Grace." She would have made my distant relative from two centuries ago, John Newton (the writer of the words of "Amazing Grace"), very proud. Like John Newton, I am a recovered alcoholic who sobered up and became a pastor. Judy has said that "Amazing Grace" is important to her after what she has suffered. And it is very important to me as well, especially as Judy sings it.

Judy's recording of "Turn, Turn, Turn" is also important to me. My Dad died the day after my ordination to the ministry. I think the excitement of the occasion was too much for him.

I could have been so devastated by Dad’s death that my ministry could have been rendered fruitless. But by the grace of God I was not devastated, thanks to Judy Collins and the pastor of my home church.

Pastor Ed suggested that I lead the worship at Dad’s funeral but that I allow him to preach the homily so that I could sit back and relax as he preached.

Pastor Ed chose as his text the verses from Ecclesiastes 3 about “a time to be born and a time to die”, . . .etc . As he was reading the text, I was hearing in my mind Judy’s lovely voice singing those words in “Turn, Turn, Turn.” And the spiritual healing process began for me at that moment.

After reading the text, Ed spoke about how God could transform my grief through faith so that my ministry could be enhanced rather than diminished by what the Lord had allowed to happen. And Ed made his message more personal for me after the service when he told me that his mother had died a couple of days after his ordination.

I will always appreciate Judy’s contribution to the peace which I experienced that weekend.

It wasn’t until several years later that someone pointed out to me that “Turn, Turn, Turn” never gets as far as verse 11 with its wonderful promise that God will make everything beautiful in its time. But Pastor Ed included that verse and I have never forgotten it.

Recently I listened again to Judy’s beautiful recording of “Turn, Turn, Turn.” As I listened, I was thinking about the words which replace verse 11: “A time for peace; I swear it’s not too late.” And I realized that those words raise an open-ended question: “Why is it not too late for peace?”

The secularist would answer, “Because our leaders can achieve peace by negotiation and diplomacy.”

An Eastern religionist would answer, “Because good karma will outweigh bad karma.”

But because God has put eternity into our hearts, you and I can answer, along with the writer of verse 3: 11 of קֹהֶלֶת, “Because God will make everything beautiful in its time.”

Thanks for reading.

Bless you.

Jim Gordon

Really great to hear from you Roger, and to hear your story. Blessings from Scotland - and the line from Judy's song, "A Time for peace - I swear it's not too late", sung as a protest in the 60's remains where I stand as a Christian over and against the tragedies of Gaza, Ukraine, Syria and many other heartache areas in our world.

Pastor Roger Newton

Another thought, if I may:

Yesterday, as I listened to Judy Collins, I realized that “Both Sides Now’ would be an excellent commentary upon the verses of Ecclesiastes 3 in “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The clouds symbolize nature, beautiful yet threatening. The singer has looked at nature, love and life from both sides, good and bad, and realizes that she doesn’t know any of them at all. The singer of “Turn, Turn, Turn” echoes the Teacher of Ecclesiastes, who has looked at planting and reaping, loving and hating, killing and healing, and sees them all as part of the purpose of God, which we humans cannot understand until God puts eternity into our hearts and until He makes everything beautiful in its time. And because of that, it’s not too late.


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