[Rector]

Song of Songs

 

"Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields to lie among the henna-bushes; Let us go early to the vineyards and see if the vine has budded or its blossom opened, if the pomegranates are in flower. There I will give you my love, when the mandrakes give their perfume, and all rare fruits are ready at our door, fruits new and old which I have in store for you, my love." Song of Songs 7:11-13.

As you can see, the Song of Songs in the Bible is a very sensual book. It's a poem about the love two men have for one woman. There is the King, who has taken this dark Shulammite girl to himself, and her shepherd lover, whom she seeks to be united with. The king woes her, but all she wants is her shepherd lover.

Believers have had great problems knowing what to do with this rather sensual Eastern love poem. The accepted approach has been to treat it as an allegory of God's love for his people. There is little doubt that the whole experience of loving and love making, reflects beyond itself to something other than this world. The relationship we have with God through Jesus is nothing less than "union" with him. It is continually described in terms of a marriage. We are to be one with him, we are to love him. We are to unite with him in the same sense as a man unites with a woman, such that the two become one flesh. That is, God is to be our lover.

None-the-less, it is important to note that the focus of the Bible is not so much on the individual becoming God's lover, but rather the community of believers. The church is the bride of Christ, he the bridegroom. The community marries him and loves him and is loved by him - possessed by him. Furthermore, this self same love, union, oneness, and bonding, is to be the mutual experience of each member of the brotherhood towards each other.

So, sensual love between a man and a woman, does, in a mysterious way, express the relationship that exists between God and his people. It is for this very reason that the Bible tends to concentrate on sexual sins rather than social ones. Sexual sin strikes at the heart of what it means to know God.

Yet, The Song is still, in the fullest sense, a vibrant rejoicing in human sensuality. It is the way we are, says the writer, so be glad of it. In Christian tradition we are not often encouraged to revel in the sensual self, although Jesus did come "eating and drinking." We do well to remember that God created us flesh and blood. We are highly sensual beings driven by a bundle of instincts and urges of God's making. We need never be ashamed of our nakedness, rather rejoice in it.