The Song of Solomon is a Love Poem. I don’t know who wrote it or when it was written, but Solomon’s name is mentioned in the text. King Solomon was known as a poet, a writer of psalms and I have to say it, as quite a lover. 1 Kings 11 reports that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. “Lusty” doesn’t even begin to describe him!
I thought it was very brave when the Adult Education team selected the Song of Solomon as the Bible book to study in our Kerygma classes. The Bible and Bagels group on Wednesday mornings warmed up to it, but the first 10 minutes or so were pretty quiet…even reading it aloud causes suppressed giggles. Well, I had to suppress my giggles – I guess in St. Paul’s estimation I have not “put an end to my childish ways.” But there is innuendo and double entendre, and I am not going to give any examples because I will blush!
But here the “Song” is – right in the heart of the Bible and hence, to Christians and to Jews it is “living word.” We have to deal with it! This is the first sermon I have ever preached from the text.
The Song of Solomon glories in sexual love. It dwells on the body. It is a poem about lovers who are infatuated with each other, drunk on the senses of touch, taste and smell. It is sensual. And the sensuality is expressed both by the female and the male – the woman holds her own; I suspect that feminists and womanists would see a strong and powerful woman here: “I am black and I am beautiful!” She works in the vineyards.
I heard someone call the “Song of Songs” Christian pornography – but it isn’t at all. This is delight in the body of a beloved, not the denigration of the human form. It is a celebration of sexual love, not a prostitution of the gift.
Some might say it is the biblical version of “50 shades of Grey” (which I haven’t read or seen, and I won’t put any of you on the spot!) Actually I am more drawn to the new movie spoof that I have seen advertised “50 Shades of Black” with Marlon Wayans. Now that looks funny.
Christian commentators have always seen this as an allegory of Christ’s love with the church or the believer. Wow – I didn’t realize faith could be so steamy.
Christianity turns some off because God seems so judgmental. Well, after reading the Song of Solomon, one might get turned off because God seems so turned on.
Some Bibles add a note saying that no man under 30 should be reading this text.
And other Christian commentators see this as a practical guide of sexual love between husband and wife. Both can be true.
After reading the Song of Solomon I can no longer maintain the false notion that the God of the Old Testament is warlike and judgmental and the God of the New Testament is a God of love. The God of the Bible is a God of love, all right – just not the kind of love we were expecting!
But I want to go in another direction and take this Song of Solomon book seriously as God’s word to you and me this day, and as God’s word to the church and the world this day; a world divided: mistrusting, angry and fearful. A world that doesn’t like bodies.
God loves the body.
Ta-Nehisi Coates in his book Between the World and Me that I mentioned two weeks ago, begins his reflection on race and America with these words: “Son, Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body…”
Coates’ book is really an almost poetic expression of feeling as if the black body doesn’t count in American history, as if being black is to be invisible as Ralph Ellison knew and wrote about.
God loves the body! Every body. No one is invisible.
Our Christian faith is about the Incarnation – it is all about a body!
We carry so much shame around our bodies. The fit and unfit. The fat and skinny, various body shapes – we spend more time on our bodies and most of the time we hate ourselves, or at least are prone to focus on the “love handles” the fat deposits, the age sags… how much we don’t look like (you fill in the blank) the weight we have to lose, the food we cannot have, the pains that seem to manifest. We hate our bodies. And hate leads to bullying and violence. Twiggy or Adele? Which Oprah?
The diseases which afflict our modern culture: bulimia, anorexia – destroying the souls of our wonderful young people and older people too. But God loves the body!
And here in the Song of Solomon we read about the glory of the body, that the lover pursues and delights – to unclothe and disrobe and uncover – God loves the body.
Indeed you may need to take better care of your body, the body in which God delights – but bring no guilt, no obligation, no self-loathing. “Ah, you are beautiful, my love, ah you are beautiful.” God loves the body.
At some point each of us wants to be pursued. “I just want someone to love me, as I am.” “Just as I am without one plea… “Just as I am, thy love un-known has broken every barrier down, now to be thine, yea thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” Yes, God loves the body.
The Church Body – today we celebrate the work of Jesus Christ at Forest Hill at our annual meeting – we will delight and explore what we are doing, and where we are going. Each part is precious, there are no dishonorable parts. As Lois preached last week – ears and eyes, toes and fingers an ear can’t say to the eye “you are not important.” God loves the body!
The Body politic – right now divided by fear and anger. Who is in and who is out – some bodies count more than others; Immigrants bodies don’t count at all. Some want to keep other bodies from voting. God loves the body!
The Body of God in the world – women are sold and traded and trafficked. Muslim against Muslim, Christian against Christian, Jew against Jew and everybody against everybody. We are suspicious of those who cover the body and they are suspicious of us who don’t. The precious gift of religion blighted in form and image – now that is pornography. But God loves the body!
And here we have a love poem from God in the heart of our Bible – an incarnational love. God pursuing, God delighting, God calling you with a love that makes me uncomfortable– a love that will not let me go – the greatest love of all – better than brilliance, better than hope, better than faith – the inexpressible delight of being out of control in love – OUT OF CONTROL!
God will even allow his son’s body to be given over to the powers that be. God’s own body broken and blessed. Mother Mary cradling and honoring the dead body.
And you are the beloved bodies that love other bodies – passionately, pursuing justice, loving kindness and walking with humility – yes, delighting in the sensual – a gift of God to all.
Look in the mirror – God loves what you sometimes don’t. (Good thing it’s dim!)
Love never ends. God’s pursuit for you never ends. God’s delight in you never ends.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part, then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known!” A love poem from God to you!