Homily - Malcolm Spencer - September 2 2012
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Mark 7:1-8, 134-15, 21-23
Love of God
Love story in the Song of Songs
Many years ago during a silent retreat, my retreat director actually gave me this passage from the Song of Solomon that we read from today. My role was to pray with this passage – to ask of it what I would be in this passage. I saw myself behind the lattice, the window protecting me from this lover bounding over mountains and leaping over hills. I felt that I had protected myself from God’s love by creating barriers of the ego and barriers of distraction. This is a beautiful love poem that is dripping in the natural beauty of spring. Couples have used it at their wedding but I think this is a startling story of the divine seeking us- having waited for us now comes to find us and give us our spring.
Back in Victorian times there was a poet in England, Francis Thompson who moved to London after study in medicine but never did practice – he stayed on the street sold papers and became a heroin addict. He managed to write poetry and was recognized by some as a great poet. He was plagued by illness often living on the street and died of tuberculosis in 1907 at only 48. One of poems was called the hound of heaven. He pictured being chased by God fleeing down nights and through years down all the labyrinth of his mind. He understood being chased by God as he hides and finds other ways of love but he cannot shake him off.
Spiritual teachers have long used this passage to demonstrate the powerful desire of heaven to embrace earth and each of us and yet we hide away and create even religious ideas and structures that may in fact not allow us to focus our attention on the love affair God has with us. We can probably remember things that happened that drew us back to a spiritual time when we felt something holy. Jesus was living in that presence and told his disciples the kingdom is at hand is close at hand but our preoccupation with other matters it impossible to apprehend it.
This is the stalker God that makes us uncomfortable and we are weary of talk of love, often of any kind because we are hurt or because we are afraid. As the Russian staretses often say it is a terrible thing to fall into the loving arms of God. Terrible because we may discover who we really are but often in our most intimate relations we have similar moments. We need not fear this onset of the love of God. After all we expect the presence of the holy one in our hour of worship or do we. Perhaps if we really do we might be more attentive to where our God is among us. The Song of Solomon choses to compare Gods love with a human love relationship, a sensual relationship even an erotic relationship. Solomon is supposedly this love story’s author and he had many, many wives so he may have been inspired to make this comparison, this metaphor to talk of the ultimate love.
We need to start in our faith with how much we are loved by God and finally we are beginning to recognize God’s love of creation.
Love of creation
In this poem of Solomon today we read of the beauty of the spring, the flowers appear, birds begin to sing, the green figs will ripen on the tree and vines give forth their fragrance. We live on a continent that was fragrant many miles away from the shore noticed by early European explorers and yet we had been occupied for almost 9000 years with a civilization which left this land with its beauty which regarded nature as part of the family, part of our heritage. Next week the united church has a season dedicated to creation and the new addition to our crest will carry the Mohawk words for all my relations. We are showing respect for creation here in our city by simple acts recycling and composting – and young people are gaining an interest in the environment – genuine attempts at organic living and so on need to be available to all rich and poor. It was sad for me to note that many farms in western Canada that were organic have ceased to be so now that the premium is not paid for the produce and the American market is down.
Yet as we persist and stay awake and learn to love Mother Nature in all her splendors we will become the people we were meant to be and grow in a mature faith.
Love of others
As our congregation has found, it is to love our community and those within its bounds and beyond that is our work for the the God who loves us. We know that as the beloved we see with the heart and eyes of the beloved. Something Sister Prejean has been trying to convert Americans to for many years serving those on death row.
Jesus explained to the Pharisees that it is what comes out of a person that often creates havoc and pain in the world not what goes in. If we open ourselves to the forgiveness, hope, renewal and justice that God’s love sweeps into us then we have ways to make inner life one of fairness, kindness and joy, of a listening ear, a caring heart and above all as genuine neighbour and we will truly be transformed and unafraid and will be really in touch with our true self.
Where can we find this life and how can we share it! This is way our congregation can find new life and energy in the loving presence of God in our midst and our freedom to accept it and work out our lives with it- so
Rise up darlings and fairest, let us all come away for this journey with our beloved.
Loving God of lovers you have given us a sign of great love, help us to open our hearts to you and keep us ever in your love as we return our love to you.
In Jesus Name we Pray Amen