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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 31, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Song of Solomon 2:8–13

The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. (NRSV)

The wisdom literature of Song of Solomon is unique in that God is not mentioned anywhere in its verses. Instead we find poetry of physical love, of sexual yearning and fulfillment. It is also unique because the primary narrator is a woman, and hers is the only unmediated female voice in scripture.

So why is it in the Bible? I want to suggest two reasons: first, it is there because it takes us right to the deepest longings of the human being, those of desire and love. And second, it is there because the power of the body and the physical pleasure of love is a God-given gift.

The poetry in the Song of Solomon is far from an abstract discourse on the nature of love. Instead, the two lovers strain for the fullness of what they are experiencing by using poetic images that take the reader to the territory of sensuality—smell, taste, touch, and sound. Renita Weems says, “They present an experience of love that elaborates unashamedly and unapologetically on the physical pleasures of love” (Women’s Commentary, p. 158) The key here is that the poetry of this text views human sexual love as an analogue of the love between God and Israel.

For centuries, theologians have tried to drive a wedge between two of the Greek words for love, eros and agape; between love as desire (eros)—an infinitely longing love that is bodily and yearns for satisfaction—and love that is self-giving and seeks the best for the other (agape). When eros and agape work together, lovers are keen to bring their lovemaking out into the world, to give to the world out of the abundance they receive from each other.

The Song of Solomon is about the beauty of love in its fullness and the joy of being fully alive and awake. But even more, it is infused with the longing for the fullness and joy with the One God, who created us as sexual beings. In this we hear the voice of the beloved one, that is, God.

For the gifts of life and of our bodies, we are so grateful. Thank you for sensual, sexual love, holy and beloved. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

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