June 17th – Love Song



Because I believe that preaching should aim to cover the whole counsel of God, and because that involves expounding all the Bible systematically, even those hard passages which it is easier to ignore;it came as a surprise to me to realise that there was one Bible book I’d never preached from. Not once in the best part of five decades! It was the Old Testament book called ‘Shirith Shearim’ in Hebrew, or, in English: Song of Songs, Song of Solomon, or even Canticles.
I wondered why I’d always ignored it in public preaching, and concluded that I hadn’t the bottle! The Song of Songs is erotic love poetry. It’s about sex and you know how hot and bothered the English parsons and congregations get when they’re all dressed up and respectably attending church. “I say old chap, steady on. Remember where we are!”
But it is part of the Bible, and whether one likes it or not, the Bible has a lot to say about human sexuality, whether we want to hear it or not, and would you believe that its not all negative, like “thou shalt not commit adultery”, nor about it being wrong even to lust in your heart. In fact, the Bible has some wonderful things to teach us about sex and especially the generation that thinks it knows all about it. But I have to confess that in church, when we are confronted with explicitly sexual language we British Christians tend to chicken out in embarrassment.
So what do preachers do with the steamy Song of Songs? I’ll tell you. They spiritualise it to death. ‘The lover’ in the story becomes Christ. ‘The beloved’ becomes the church, his bride, and all the pillow talk becomes a devotional exercise of prayer. That is why I hadn’t ever preached on it – I couldn’t bring myself to spiritualise it like St. Bernard of Clairvaux did, who preached 87 sermons on it, all A-sexual. Let’s do more on this tomorrow, and for now listen to this beautiful invitation:
My lover spoke and said to me, “Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone, flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land…” Song of Songs 2: 10-12

A Prayer:
Thank you Lord that you made our bodies and their instincts, as well as our minds and souls.

Now read Song of Songs Chapters 1 and 2.

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