God is Love; and love enfolds us, all the world in one embrace:
with unfailing grasp God holds us, every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod,
then we find that self same aching deep within the heart of God.
Timothy Rees, the author of these lyrics, was a monk, Anglican bishop (appointed to serve the See of Llandaff in 1931) and a popular writer of hymns.
This is a hymn I have probably sung a thousand times, but last Sunday, when our Director of Music, Eric was playing, and we were all joined in singing, the second verse really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It is as good a summary of my theology as I have ever seen. It is funny how something so familiar can grab your attention in a new way. Over the years I have worked more and more at my own core ideas about the christian faith. Here they all are, written up in meter and set to music.
Firstly, God is love: that springs right from 1 John 4, my favorite passage of scripture, and the verse goes on: "love enfolds us.” And love does not just enfold us, but the "whole world", including "every child of every race.” This love is not exclusive, it is for all people, whether I like them or not, whether I agree with them or not, whether they are different from me or not. In the middle of that image of inclusivity there is another essential idea: that the loving grasp of God is unfailing. Many people let us down on a daily basis, but the Love of God does not let us go.
The hymn does not just stay with these simple and easy ideas about indefatigable inclusive Love. It remembers that life is not all sunshine and roses. When our hearts are breaking, when we face darkness, or some crisis, we can be assured that God is present in our suffering - feeling what we feel - empathizing - because he knew heartbreak when, in his life on earth, he was rejected, persecuted and killed. God entered into our lives through his son, so that we might enter into the life of God and find there an understanding heart.
Thank you for your music choices Eric - thank you for your words Tim. Thank you all for being a loving community at Transfig.
From the UK, Matthew loved US culture from the first time he picked up a Fantastic Four Comic when he was 12.