Come, let us all unite to sing: God is love!
Let Heav’n and earth their praises bring,
God is love! Let every soul from sin awake,
Let every heart sweet music make,
And sing with us for Jesus’ sake: God is love!

This week’s hymn is pretty cheerful. It basically says, everyone join in and sing. Sing because God is love. I suppose that’s as good a reason to sing as any, the idea that this Divine being is love. It’s kind of a grand concept. Not simply that God loves us or that we love God, but that God is love.

I must admit that love is another one of our commonly used words that is actually quite difficult to define. We understand it as a feeling of affection, attraction or devotion and a means of expression. Something that compels us to act in a particular way. Something that can shape our views, our actions and our decisions. But, for something or someone to be love, seems beyond our usual definitions.

How happy is our portion here, God is love!
His promises our spirits cheer, God is love!
He is our sun and shield by day,
Our help, our hope, our strength and stay;
He will be with us all the way; God is love!

The words of this hymn first appeared in an American songbook called Millenial Praises in 1812. It is unknown who wrote them, although they are sometimes attributed to Howard Kingsbury (unlikely, as he was only born in 1842!). It’s interesting to me that they are so pleasant. Filled with images of sweet music, happiness, sunshine, hope and strength.  Sing praises and all will be well. While I will be the first to suggest that music can uplift, and that the act of praise, in whatever form or tradition you choose to practice it, may also boost the spirit, life doesn’t magically become all we desire just because we’re singing praises.

So I struggle with these kinds of words. If we can’t praise, do we become sad? If we are struggling, hopeless, depressed, sick or weak are we unable to praise? Have we failed? I don’t think so. I think we have just been unable to define love very well. Love encompasses us completely.  Not just the happy bits, not just what looks or feels good. To me, these cheerful words are only part of the story. I’m happy to unite to sing, but love is about more than sunshine and so I also need us to sing in and about the rain.

Unite to sing whatever words or tune you know. There is much to be found in the unity of singing together.  But if you find yourself in a moment where you have no song, simply listen – the rest of us will sing.  And we will fill our voices with whatever love we have.

God is love! God is love!
Come let us all unite to sing that God is love.