The man who wrote “Amazing Grace” lived to be a very old man. For many years he worked as a priest in London. His teaching, his sermons his hymns, inspired many in the struggle against slavery. But in old age he said to one of his friends these words: ‘I am a very old man and my memory has gone. But I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Jesus is a great saviour.’ Now when we come to Holy Communion, brothers and sisters, that is what we are to remember.
We are great sinners, we live so often in blindness; we do not truly see ourselves; we hide from those things in ourselves which we can’t manage. And sometimes we try to bury our history underground. And I think here of those underground pits very near this cathedral, where slaves were once kept. So do we keep part of our own lives underground like that; we cannot face our own failures? …
In so much of our human life we do this exactly the wrong way round. First of all we look at our neighbour and we say ‘I know what you need.’ Then I look at myself and say ‘I am alright’ and then I look at God and say ‘I am alright, aren’t I?’ and I don’t wait for an answer. The Bible turns it upside down: as always the Gospel turns the whole world upside down. First, God in Jesus Christ. Then myself, the wretch who has been saved by amazing Grace, and then the world around, the world that needs my love, my compassion, a world that needs me to speak a word from God to it, a word of challenge; yes; a word of judgement; yes, but above all, a word of promise.
— Rowan Williams, sermon at the Anglican Cathedral in Zanzibar, 2007