Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on September 23, 2017
I was moving books from my bookcase at home to my office. One fell out of the stack. It was an anthology of love poems. Some of the most famous poets of the past few hundred years were represented. I read a few while trying to make sense of the many stacks of books.
The love poems made me remember a book from the Bible that is about beauty and sensuality as a pathway and metaphor toward God’s love.
The Biblical book is called Song of Solomon or Song of Songs. Like many readers of the Bible I didn’t know that tucked between the book of Psalms and the book of Isaiah is this little book of only 127 verses long that is one of the most sensual expressions of human sexuality and beauty I have ever read.
At its most basic level, Song of Songs is a celebration of human love. It is a dialogue between a pair of lovers, a man and a woman. It doesn’t have a plot or narrative.
The scenes are connected instead by similar motifs and themes of passion, descriptions of physical beauty, memories of past encounters, and longing for the lover’s to be with one another.
We enter a world where holiness is expressed through “taste,” “touch,” “sounds,” “sight,” and “smells.” Holiness is a full sensory experience of sexual and sensual delight. For many learning about faith is a mind thing, but in this reading, knowing God is a full body, full sensory experience.
The lovers call each other “my beloved,” “my darling,” “my beautiful one,” “my dove.” Expressions we don’t hear often in our culture, or even our own relationships, so they sound awkward for us. We might even get a little embarrassed. Who knows maybe Jay Z or Lil Wayne might read this and try these lyrics out!
Songs rhapsodizes the feeling of love that springtime brings. The gifts of spring rain. The sight of new born animals, the aroma of a flowering garden, the sounds of birds singing, are enough to arouse love in the most cynical of persons. With love, sexual excitement, and the fullness of springtime comes belief in new adventures, new possibilities, and most of all, a new outlook on life.
Human relationships, like divine relationships must be cultivated, nurtured, safeguarded, and cherished. Special moments do not just happen; they are cultivated. Intimacy with God and each other cost something. It cost us time and energy.
Intimacy requires our very lives. Not just a part of it, but all of it! A willingness to be present, to remain, to hang in there, be accountable, to see things through, to stop running and come out from hiding are necessary to nurture relationships.
Human love and God’s love cannot be taken for granted.
As we must find time to be with the ones we love, so to we must find the time to be with God. Like lovers in search of the perfect time and place to mate, care should be given to creating an atmosphere in which conversation, and intimacy can thrive.
Other than me, I have heard Songs preached once in a church. I am not sure what that means? Hearing these words and allowing the images to wash over us is timely today.
It is timely because sex is everywhere. Much of sex in popular culture is sex of the glands and not the heart, a sex of the moment, and not as gratitude and joy. Song of Songs brings a refreshing sensuality and deep longing. A longing that life is not complete without you. The ‘you’ in this story is God!
It is important for us to know that tucked into these 127 verses is a language that expands our knowledge toward the journey to God’s love. A journey that is loving, sensual and intimate. The journey does not consist in finding a path, as much as in being found on the path. “I once was lost, but now am found.”
The intimacy, love and romance that we know to be true in our personal relationships, Songs uses to teach God’s love. God is intimate, loving, calls to us, needs us as we need God. The church universal may not have the best track record when it comes to loving and meaningful dialogue on human sexuality. For all those hurt by cruelty of the church in this area. I am truly sorry.
Song of Songs is a reminder that our love romantic and sensual love are pathways to knowing God in a deeper more meaningful way.
Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah.
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