Proper 17 Year B

Reflection on Song of Solomon 2: 8-13, by the Rev Sally Maxwell

This passage from the Song of Solomon is recommended to be read at weddings (in the Episcopal tradition, the Book of Common Prayer, p. 426). Certainly when we hear it in that context, it is a beautiful love poem celebrating the passionate adoring love of a young couple. Though God is not mentioned in these love poems, they invite us to find God incarnationally; in ourselves, in our lived beauty and sexuality, in consummate love with the “beloved” in our lives.

What is profound from the standpoint of environmental consciousness is the natural imagery and spirituality, something we tend to shy away from in North American culture. The lovers call out their songs of love against a backdrop of gardens, living water, mountains, vineyards, blossoms, and above all, springtime. The poems themselves exude fragrance, portraying a new season of singing.

The male beloved in this passage is a gazelle leaping upon the mountains. In a nearby passage he is an apple tree bearing sweet fruit. The female beloved is a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. In a prior passage she is a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyard.

These natural images are profound, yet unfortunately not as familiar to many people as are television ads or the brands of consumer goods in our society. In a homily one could encourage a reconnection with nature imagery. It is not to be feared, but to be embraced as a deeper way to love the earth and ourselves. That is a path to loving God within us and God within the earth.

Saving Planet Earth: “Arise, my love, my fair one.” by The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

Excerpt: In a precarious time – when many of us feel unsettled about the present and worried about the future, when many of us may feel anxious and alone, overwhelmed by challenges in our personal lives and doubtful that we can make a difference in the world around us – it is powerful to remember that God is a lover who is always reaching out to us, always speaking in our depths, always luring us to stay in relationship with each other and with God. For here is God, reaching out a hand to pull us into the dance of life. That’s one way of understanding the Holy Trinity: as a dance of love between the lover, the beloved, and the love that flows between (Augustine). “Come on in,” says God, “and join the dance!” “Arise, my love,” God says to our soul. “Arise, my fair one, and come away.”

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Reflection on Psalm 15, by the Rev Wanda Copeland

The psalmist asks, “..who may abide on your holy hill?” We are here reminded that many ancient people imagined God dwelling on the high places of the world.  Those who lived (abided) on the high places were, thus, closer to God.  Yet, we know that YHWH came to dwell among God’s people wherever they were.  Whether wandering in the desert, settled in a foreign land, or in the promised land, God went with them on their journey.  Therefore, wherever they were was holy, was sacred. 

Scripture enjoins us to care for earth, sky, and water as “the commons” that we all share, by Tom Mundahl

Excerpt: Couched as Moses’ instruction to Israel before entering the new land, the Deuteronomic tradition balances the gift of land and torah with its demands. Think of Moses’ discourse as the instructions for putting a piece of IKEA furniture together. Without them, the pattern for relating to the God of gift, people, and the land is lost. And what should be seen as a gracious whole is reduced to a list of ‘screws, dowels, and wood.’ But when the gift nature of the land provided by the one who has freed them from slavery (Deuteronomy 5: 6a) is recalled, the “statutes and ordinances” may be seen as something that will bind the generations because they will be “made known to your children and your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)  These “commands of God” create community.

Entry into the land of gift requires this pattern be kept by the People of God on behalf of all—even animals—who dwell there. The commandment concerning Sabbath provides rest for all, from slaves to resident aliens, to beasts, to oxen, donkeys, and livestock (Deuteronomy 5: 14).  There is no attempt to separate the beneficiaries of this generous command, no sense that those who might be seen as inferior could be labeled “common” or “unclean.” All are part of “God’s commons,” God’s creation, and are owed the gift of refreshing rest.

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