A Love Song

Embroidered cross with the words of Song of Solomon chapter 3 verse 4

Song of Solomon 3 / Matthew 28.16-end

A talk for Morning Prayer on Wednesday of Easter Week

Human Love

We don’t hear much about the Song of Solomon in church.

It’s a bit too romantic and passionate; even, if I dare use the word here, sexy.

We hear it read at weddings a lot, and in fact I had some of it at my wedding, although there the reading was from Chapter 4 rather than Chapter 3.

On one level it’s a very human love story, a description of a passionate encounter between two people in love.

Yet it’s here in the Bible, which to my mind suggests two things.

The first is that human love and romantic relationships are, at best, important and beautiful and to be celebrated.

The second is that maybe, as is often the case in puzzling parts of the Bible, other layers of interpretation and meaning are possible.

Divine Love

One level of meaning is that it’s a story about God’s love for his people Israel.

It’s about a God who pursues his beloved people even though they keep turning away from him and a God who is faithful and passionate about those he has chosen, no matter how often they let him down, get things wrong and turn away from him.

God’s people may sometimes be faithless, as we see throughout the story of the Bible, but God is always faithful.

And then this interpretation can be expanded into seeing the Song of Solomon as a story about God’s love for his Church – about his love for us, in fact.

We in the Church also have a history of letting God down, getting things wrong, turning away and being faithless – but God is always faithful.

The strongest evidence of God’s love for us is of course the death and resurrection of Jesus, which we are celebrating right now, and in one sense Chapter 3 reflects that.

It talks about looking for the beloved, who has gone missing, just as Jesus seemed to be gone forever when he died.

But then he’s found and his lover doesn’t want to let go, which may remind us of Mary Magdalene holding on to Jesus in the garden after the Resurrection.

And the chapter talks about the beloved coming triumphantly, crowned and ready for his wedding, as Jesus was raised and glorified by the Father and we, the Church, have become his bride.

For the Easter story is all about how far God will go to show how much he loves us – even to death and back again.

It’s about a passionate God, full of wild love, who won’t let anything stand in the way of reconciliation and mending the broken relationship between God and humanity.

Love for the world

Then, fired up and motivated by God’s love for us, we are called on to show such love to others, to let them know the good news that God is calling for them, and show them the way to him, remembering that our Saviour has promised to be with us always, to the end of the age.

For God is love, and we are his beloved.

Witnesses and Curators

Listening to a sermon this morning one particular phrase jumped out at me and has stayed in my head ever since:

“I would proclaim the gospel from the rubble of this church rather than become its curator”.

The preacher was talking about focusing on what really matters: putting Jesus at the centre of what we do, reaching out to others in mission and generosity, rather than focusing too much on our financial security, maintaining our buildings, and propping up our institutions.

Now, I (and indeed the preacher) do see the importance of our church buildings as signs of witness, as centres of mission, and as places for Christians to gather and worship.

But in that person’s passion for the gospel, for being a light of witness in an often dark world, I believe I caught a glimpse of God.

For it’s the good news of the gospel that matters above all – that God loves us, that Jesus died for us, that we don’t need to struggle alone because God is with us, and that sin, darkness, death and evil will not ultimately win.

This is an important message, especially right now, when we see hatred, prejudice, discrimination and bigotry spreading through society at all levels, when it’s government policy to create a “hostile environment”, when people are forced to rely on handouts and food banks because of a heartless and unfair benefits system.

At such a time do we, as the Church, really want prioritise our buildings and desire for security above reaching out to help people in desperate need?

Or do we want to say yes, we need our buildings, but let’s also look beyond the walls to the people in urgent need of help?

Sadly, for many people, Christians can be anything from irrelevant to nasty, idiots to prejudiced.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were known as people who love, care and welcome, as people who stand up for the vulnerable and share love and generosity?

Would it be wonderful if we could all share in God’s urgent desire to find and save the lost, bind up the brokenhearted, and to bring as many people into his kingdom as possible?

May God give us grace to show his light in the world.