But the greatest of these is love…
Our first reading today was from The Song of Songs (or the Song of Solomon). When was the last time you heard scripture from this book of the Bible? A wedding maybe? It is a book of the bible that is filled with love poetry. It is found in the Bible after the books of Psalms and Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, a short book of 8 chapters, filled with love. Poetry that the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda would have loved to have written…
“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.” ― Pablo NerudaThat is true of the poetry of the Song of Songs. Let’s listen again to the words: [First Reading - KJV]
What do you hear? (Beloved, love) The Hebrew makes it clear (which is sometimes obscured in English) that the text is between a man and a woman. In their most basic form they are poems between two lovers: a man and a woman, unnamed and in a few places in the text a chorus of voices joins in.
But as we consider this one poem, we begin to see a mutuality between the lovers. There is no dominance, there is no one sidedness, it is two people who long for the other, with their own voices. Spring has come, winter has ended, what has held them a part is no longer there and they can reunite.
Many have looked at all these poems and have gotten a sense that these poems are also directed at us, that it is God who is pursuing us and we are the other lover (for Christians this spiritual allegory was understood between the bridegroom and his bride, between Christ and his Church)…
Listen again: [Second Reading – CEB]
From Genesis to the Song of Songs, we have love played out in mutual affection, not as an arranged marriage or love, nor focused solely on the procreation of children. Here love is presented in its most natural between two of God’s creatures. Just as Jesus does in the Gospels, love is presented as part of the beauty of God’s creation, intended for God’s creation not for one greater than another, but a mutuality & covenanted relationship between man and woman. Such love is not for sale like we see around us today where everything seems to be a commodity we need to buy. No this is rooted in each of us from creation.
Love is a gift from God intended to bring creation together.
I think of this prayer often said at marriages: Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair.
Love is a sign from God. For love unties, forgives and is full of joy, even in the midst of estrangement, guilt and despair. Love is present because God is. And that is what the Song of Songs gives to us today.
Listen again for what God is saying to us: [Final Reading – Falk]
And that is our song too. Amen.
(The 3 different readings int he sermon are also posted on the blog...)