In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A reflection on the Propers for 17B

A reflection on the Song of Songs 2:8-13 by The Rev. Crystal Karr

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 turtle-dove

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.

Song of Songs or Song of Solomon is quite unusual when compared to the rest of the books in the Bible. Not once is God mention, nor are there any references to Biblical tradition or religious celebrations, and it’s a bit racy. Song of Songs is the only book in which a woman takes the lead and we hear what she says without also hearing the voice of a man interpreting what we hear, there is no narrator to direct the story—it is simply a woman and her lover. It is a book of rebellion just as the story of these lovers also breaks away from the cultural norms of Israel.

How so? You ask. The woman speaks with brazen desire, this woman who is expected to patiently wait on and for her husband and obey him, does not wait, she demands, she calls and desires. Some have tried to label these poems as marriage poems, yet there is nothing to suggest that these two lovers are married. The encounters are brief and passionate, it seems that they must hide and meet in secret. No, there is little evidence that this is a safe situation in which the bonds of matrimony have been shared. I invite you to take the time read the rest of the poetry in the Song of Songs and embark on this sensual adventure alongside these young lovers.

So why is this sensuous book of love poetry contained within our Holy text? That has been a question for many for thousands of years. Some rabbis believed that it was included in the Hebrew writings because it must contain some special meaning about God. More commonly it has traditionally been interpreted to be an allegorical or symbolic story about God’s love for Israel and then Christians have interpreted it as Christ’s love for the church.

This love is passionate and moving, tangible, touchable and real. It can be dangerous, exciting and beautiful.

The woman calls out for her beloved, beckons him to come to her in his magnificence and glory. Her own physical beauty woos and courts him. God desires us, God yearns for us and calls out to us. God’s passion and desire to be in relationship with all of humanity was so great that God became one of us.

In the verses we’ve listened to today, the woman, like God, watches over her lover with joy and anticipation, admiring his beauty. She hears him calling to her, “Arise, my love, my fair one and come away.”

Do we listen when God calls for us, enticing us into relationship with the Divine? Do we hear God’s voice as a demanding, responding out of obligation? Or do we hear the sweet tones of God’s voice, whispering to us and respond as a lover who cannot move fast enough to reach out other half?

Let us respond to God with joy and rapture, embarking on a new and inspiring adventure. Amen.

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