There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, I know I’m one
I heard this song many years ago. I played it on my guitar. It was good because some old hymns fitted to the tune (‘There is a green hill’, ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds’…)
Then I learnt that ‘House of the Rising Sun’ is a song about prostitutes working in a brothel. Apparently this was not a ‘suitable’ tune for hymns!
We returned from France safely yesterday; thinking about my brother Chris’s death and funeral… good feelings of a good life well lived, an honouring thanksgiving service, the privilege of loving family, certain hope… and yet personal grief, disappointments, questions…
Whilst coming home I read Eizabeth Elliott, reflecting on the tragic death of her young husband: ‘God has chosen to leave certain questions unanswered and certain problems without any solution in this life, in order that in our very struggle to answer and solve we may be shoved back, and back, and eternally back to the contemplation of Himself, and to complete trust in Who He is. I’m glad He’s my Father.’
I return home to friends facing terminal illness, dementia, addictions, huge family problems. There’s no easy answer to their difficult questions.
And in all of the mess, disappointment, pain, brokenness is a Father-God who is there for the bereaved, the uncertain, the messed-up, the far-from-perfect… for Isaac Newton, the slave trader, who discovered the ‘amazing grace’ that he wrote about… the prostitute in the ‘House of the Rising Sun’… and me with my failures, questions and insecurities.
Putting the two songs side by side is entirely appropriate, because the Amazing Grace of the loving Father-God is there for all.
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.