Love isn’t Love until you give it away

The last time I went to the theatre before lockdown in March 2020 I saw “The Sound of Music”. I have forgotten how many times I have seen this stage musical but there have always been several years in between each one. This means that it has usually been a new production, certainly with a different cast, often a different interpretation and always more imaginative scenery. While the justifiably loved and hugely popular film is still shown on television at least twice a year, it is nevertheless the same each time.

When the stage show was made into a film there were recognisable changes made, not least at the time in the story when two of the songs were sung. There were also some lyrics left out of a song in the film and no one seems to know why. Lyrics which seem to have been in Oscar Hammerstein’s mind for a long time, which have been included in one way or another in other songs and have been used by preachers over the years:

A bell is no bell till you ring it,
A song is no song till you sing it,
And love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay,
Love isn’t love till you give it away.

The song from which these lines were omitted in “The Sound of Music” film was the reprise of You are sixteen, going on seventeen when they are sung by Maria to Liesl. As theologian, Ian Bradley, (no relation) puts it in his book “You’ve got to have a dream – the message of the musical”, these words provide one of the simplest and clearest expressions of the doctrine of the self-emptying, outpouring nature of Christian love. He also refers to the words in another of his books “The Power of Sacrifice”. May be the only time when the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein have been cited in a work of academic theology!

In this season of Easter we particularly think about and talk about giving love away for so many reasons – it’s all in the Bible. In the past year there have been so many examples of people giving love away; you know them and I know them. Then as we come close to Christian Aid Week* next month there is another opportunity to give our love away.

During my lockdown ‘re-reads’ I picked up “A cup of water”, written 50 years ago (and the pages of my copy are yellow with age!) by Janet Lacey. Many years ago I was privileged to hear her speak at a Congregational Church Assembly. She was one of those instrumental in the founding, soon after the war, of what eventually became known as Christian Aid and was its Director for almost 20 years. In her book this remarkable woman writes of her time during which she helped the organisation focus on global poverty, and it funded development projects in 40 countries. She visited the countries and projects personally and gave her love away as many have done since then working for and with Christian Aid.

There can be new interpretations of musicals, lyrics can be left out or put in. There can be stage and screen plays (with or without music) about Bible stories, with parts included or omitted, but we can’t leave out of our lives Jesus’ command to love one another. We cannot all lead or speak in public or write, but in our own way we can all respond to Jesus and give our love away.

Keith Bradley

*Looking ahead to Christian Aid Week, and just before
Wednesday 5th May at 7.30 pm (after Pause for Prayer) – A Zoom Quiz (similar to the popular one for Christian Aid last year).
Saturday 8th – Sunday 9th May – 24 hour sponsored Bible Reading (not the whole Bible!). Watch for details of how you can take part and donate.
Sunday 9th May at 10.30 am – Morning Worship. Christian Aid Chief Executive, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, will speak at the Service.
Due to continuing Covid restrictions there will not be house-to-house or other public collections again this year.