Song of Solomon 2:8-13 NRSV
8 The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9 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.
10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
11 for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
13 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 Solomon is an often skipped-over book in the Bible because of its sensual allusions. It’s hard to preach from, or teach from, this book without making a fair amount of the congregation or classroom blush! That’s okay! The book is full of romantic poetry. In your own devotional period, read Song of Solomon 1:5-7. See if you can find different translations of this passage. What do you notice about these passages?
Today’s lesson will focus on the importance of delight in all our relationships. Read the scripture out loud together. What’s happening during this passage?
The writer of this passage is longing for her Beloved. And it looks like he desires her too! He is leaping over mountains, bounding over hills. The Beloved is compared to “a gazelle” who gazes through the windows looking through the gates. The Writer’s Beloved says, “arise, my love, come away.” It is no longer winter, but springtime. Tis the season for flowers and the time for singing! Trees are bearing fruit and the vines are blooming! Let’s get away!
What imagery and mood are being described here?
We do not know why, but for some reason, both the narrator and her beloved are separated by distance and time. They still long for each other. They are sending love notes across fields. Yearning! Most important here is the sense of mutual desire. It is not one-sided. No one wants to be in a relationship alone!
The writer’s Beloved relies on imagery from nature. “The winter is past.” “The Rain is over” “The flowers appear on the earth.” “Singing has come.” “The voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land.” “The tree puts forth its figs.” “The vines are in blossom, and they give forth fragrance.” They have spent a good season away from each other. Her Beloved equates the natural Earth cycle of seasons changing with the “timeliness” of them coming away together. In other words, “let’s go out on a date, what a beautiful day!” Except, it’s a little more intentional than that.
What is this really about?
Many scholars argue about what this passage is about, and why it even made it into the bible in the first place. Is this a metaphor about God and Humanity? Is it a book of romantic poetry? Is it about something else? But even before we get to what the metaphor is attempting to describe, we might want to sit with the actual words themselves. Why rush to see this passage as an allegory for how God pursues us, if we do not first bask in the words themselves?
Perhaps this passage might be about God’s pursuit of us. But what emotions arise when we consider this passage as a story of romantic love? Or, if you are not interested in romantic love, what about friendly platonic love? How does it feel to be pursued? To be considered? To be thought of? To long for someone and to have that longing reciprocated? We often talk about relationship dynamics that upset or disappoint us. But what are the dynamics we enjoy and desire? Do you want to see your special person making an intentional effort to see you? We do not know much about these two and their relationship, how they met, what they intend to do from this passage alone. But we do get the sense that they are mutually interested and excited about each other.
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
CONNECTION TO TODAY’S WORLD
Early in the beginning months of the pandemic, Elaine Welteroth and Jonathan Singletary were planning a wedding. Then the world shut down. They were both sad to think that their families might not be able to participate in their ceremony, and after a 3-and-a-half-year engagement, they were ready to tie the knot! They decided to have the wedding on their Bedford Stuyvesant stoop. In-person guests were expected to wear masks and social distance and wear white. The ceremony quickly turned into a block party. The wedding officiant was a pastor from their home church in California, via zoom of course.
The love was so magnetic that neighbors popped out from their own homes to watch on their stoops. The DJ played The Wobble and Stevie Wonder songs, enlivening the entire block. May 2020 was a difficult season. The couple decided to have a creatively responsible (and beautiful) wedding anyhow.
JOURNAL: We talked a lot about people and relationships today. Where do you derive pleasure and delight in your daily life? A home-cooked meal? Your favorite album? A warm and quiet bath? What delights you?
CLOSING: Listen to “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” Sung by Stevie Wonder.
No New Year’s Day to celebrate
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring, no song to sing
In fact, here’s just another ordinary day
No April rain, no flowers bloom
No wedding Saturday within the month of June
But what it is, is something true
Made up of these three words that I must say to you
I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart
No summer’s high, no warm July
No harvest moon to light one tender August night
No autumn breeze, no falling leaves
Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies
No Libra sun, no Halloween
No giving thanks to all the Christmas joy you bring
But what it is, though old, so new
To fill your heart like no three words could ever do
You pursue us and desire the best for us. You seek us out and know what we need.
We thank you for putting people in our world who think of us and consider us. For sweethearts, for friends, for old college roommates, for fellow choir members, for neighbors. Each of us is worthy of someone checking in on us and checking for us in loving ways.
Help us to recognize all forms of love that are healthy. Show us how to embrace ourselves and others.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Renita Weems, Battered Love