Saturday, December 5, 2015

Freely, Freely -- Carol Owens

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8)

She and her husband had a charge, not from just one man but from two. ‘Tell others what you think is most important about the church’, Carol Owens heard one man say. And so, the genesis of what she and her husband Jimmy would include in a production began. At some point soon thereafter Carol investigated the roots of their beliefs and decided that ‘Freely, Freely” was a very key concept they should communicate to observers of the musical they would be presenting. It would be a crowd of not just observers, but seekers whom they wanted to introduce to the second man Carol had heard as she and Jimmy set about constructing the message to convey.

Carol and Jimmy Owens had bought into the Jesus movement in the countercultural environment of the late 1960s and early 1970s and made it their mission to introduce others to the Jesus they knew. So in 1972, 41-year old Carol and her husband must have found it pretty self-evident on whom they should focus a musical production that a church leader suggested they design. The Church on the Way in Van Nuys California (Los Angeles area –see map), where the church leader (Jack Hayford) ministered, no doubt reflected their own views and also one of the church’s members, Pat Boone, with whom they collaborated on the musical. They saw Jesus as the focus, but must have wondered at some point what of His divine message they should repeat in the production. He said many things, but which one was most important? Perhaps they put themselves in the shoes of the Apostles who also had a message to deliver (Matthew 10), and decided that the Master’s directions from that 1st Century episode were still good enough two millennia later. It’s free. That’s what they thought would resonate with a broad group of people who needed to heed Jesus’ words. It was no accident what they predicted would result from this central theme, that people would “Come Together” as the musical’s title proclaimed. The Owens-Boone show went on the road, including England, in hundreds of venues. It started with a Messiah some 2,000 years before them who said his envoys should heal the sick, revive the dead, and point toward the Divine source – all for free. It would stun anyone in anytime to witness such events, something Carol must have surmised as she read from Matthew.  

Can you imagine what a sensation it was when Jesus came for a visit? ‘Just believe’, He said. No one went away sick, usually. Our medical practices today deliver far less and cost a lot more. He offers even more that no one here can pretend to mimic in even the smallest way. And, it’s still free, a foreign concept on this planet where priceless products always seem to have a price. So, that’s probably why the Owens song doesn’t have me focus on the methods He employs or the results of an encounter with Him, although those are fascinating details of a Jesus visit. Notice throughout her words that Carol says ‘in Jesus name’. I cannot buy what only He possesses. He’s the sensation.     

See more information on the song discussed above in this source: The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.

The following websites have information on the church where the composer developed the song:
Here’s a link to the broad movement in which the composer and her spouse found themselves at the time of the song’s composition:

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