For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Song of Songs 8:6-7
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
I remember well the first time I realized just how much I loved my then friend, soon to be husband: we were standing outside his house, and as he played with his young sisters, I was overwhelmed with the realization that I loved him. It was not long after that that we were married and our love for each other has grown. I’ll never forget though, the way my mom responded when I told her I was marrying Tom. I had expected her to be surprised, since I had been dating another boy. She wasn’t. I expected her to be dismissive. She wasn’t. In fact, she said that it was about time I recognized what the rest of the family had figured out some time earlier: Tom mattered more to me than the other boy. How? Because Tom was all I talked about.
The Song of Songs – this book in our Bible that gives us a love poem from ancient history – is a picture of the love God has for us and it tells us a few different things about how we can understand God’s love for us. It reminds us first that God’s love for us is best seen in the picture of a couple in love. As people fall in love and wrap their stories around each other, this love – when perfectly expressed – is the love that God has for us. God’s love is unconditional, it takes us as we are, and it enjoys the beauty of who each of us is.
One of the unique things about scripture over all is how often intimate relationships are used to explain our relationship with God – when we walk away it is shown as infidelity or adultery. When we stay close and walk in harmony with God, it is shown as a picture of beautiful marriage.
Nothing rips through a family so starkly and harshly as infidelity can. When one person has been unfaithful in a marriage, it hurts and ruins and rips apart what was intended. This isn’t always infidelity of a sexual nature either – it can be disinterest, dismissiveness, argumentativeness – there any number of ways someone can be unfaithful to the person they have married – and usually sexual infidelity is the last symptom of a long-time disease of hurt and betrayal that has been infecting a marriage in subtle and less obvious ways.
But when marriage partners are faithful to one another – it looks like a couple in Iowa who were married for some 80 years and died within hours of each other, holding hands as they did.
It looks like a couple who parents together, cleans house together, loves each other even as appearances change as responsibilities evolve as priorities and jobs and challenges appear and disappear and reorder themselves – these are two who committed to tackling these things as one and who continue to do so day in and day out. The message of Song of Songs is one that says that God’s love for us is like a beautiful marriage – one that lasts and one that partners and one that none of us probably actually know except in love poems and romantic comedy movies. But it is the picture of love that wraps itself in the wonder of the other and longs to hold them, draw them close.
This Song of Songs talks about bodies and loves the body of the one they sing about. We often have a broken view of bodies – we tend to objectify bodies, to turn women’s bodies into something to be ogled at and men’s bodies into something to be drooled over, all the while disconnecting the woman and the man from the physical attributes: cute butt, nice pecs, gorgeous face, lovely muscles – and all of those may be true but it removes the humanity of the person from the skin and bone of their flesh.
God said from the beginning that what was created was good – including the bodies of dust made for us to wear. We are definitely body and spirit, but neither is better or worse than the other – they are created together as components to our whole selves. God has promised that after death, although our physical body is no longer, at the resurrection, we will receive new ones – perfect ones. So then, it is not acceptable for us to wrap our bodies in shame or distress either – we cover ourselves to keep our bodies safe and warm and we don’t necessarily have to expose all of us to everyone we meet – but our bodies shouldn’t be viewed as shameful or sinful either – they are part of God’s good creation. It was the fall that made us think they were sinful, and as those who have been redeemed and who know that God delights in wholeness for us as new creations in Christ – our bodies are GOOD again, good for us and good to us. Not many years after Christ died and was resurrected, some tried to re-shame and re-sin the body, to turn it into the nasty part we have to inhabit by saying Jesus wasn’t really fleshly, that instead he was spirit that we couldn’t understand.
But that isn’t what Jesus said. In fact, our weekly reminder of God’s love is a weekly taking in of what Jesus said about himself – that his BODY was broken for us and his BLOOD was shed for us. Not his special spirit self, but his actual body. Bodies are not bad things, bodies are our physical mark in the world and they are beautiful no matter what they look like, what color they are, what imperfections they have – God declared our bodies good from the start and God redeemed us through the body of Jesus. God loves our bodies, and it is time we loved our bodies for the wonderful creation they are.
We are crafted by God to be beautiful and to love each other. Sometimes that love looks like romantic love and sometimes that love looks like kindness and warmth and sometimes that love looks like discipline. In scripture, we see love defined for us in many ways in various texts. Song of Songs reminds us that God loves us for who we are, for what we look like, and that our love together is like a marriage of faithfulness and intimacy. Human marriages are known to be fraught with imperfection so they are just a snippet of what it looks like to be loved by God. And the pictures in Song of Songs are given us so we can see the love picture more completely, whether we are married or not. Love yearns for the other. Love stands strong. Love protects. Love invites and encourages close touches and weathers the storms together. Love is present. Love is here.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.