Archive for the ‘Song of Songs’ Category

Salvation, Past, Present, and Future   1 comment

christ-exorcising-the-gerasene-demoniac

Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 10:33-36

Deuteronomy 10:11-12:1

Judges 5:1-31

Song of Songs 4:9-5:16

Isaiah 26:1-21

Psalms 7; 17; 44; 57 or 108; 119:145-176; 149

Matthew 7:1-23

Luke 7:36-8:3

Matthew 27:62-66

1 Corinthians 15:27-34 (35-38) 39-41 (42-58)

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In Luke 7:38 the former Gerasene demoniac, recently healed by Jesus, seeks to follow Jesus physically.  Our Lord and Savior has other plans, however.  He sends the man away with these instructions:

Go back home and report all that God has done for you.

–Luke 7:39a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The text informs us that the man obeyed Jesus.

The theme of the Great Vigil of Easter, as evident in assigned readings, is salvation history.  In Hebrew thought God is like what God has done–for groups as well as individuals.  The responsibility of those whom God has blessed is to proclaim by words and deeds what God has done–to function as vehicles of grace and to glorify God.  Salvation history is important to understand.  So is knowing that salvation is an ongoing process.

Happy Easter!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-the-great-vigil-of-easter-year-d/

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Fidelity and Factions   1 comment

Ruins of Corinth

Above:  Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-00671

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 4:1-8 (Tuesday)

Song of Songs 4:9-5:1 (Wednesday)

Psalm 145 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:3-17 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:33-39 (Wednesday)

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The Lord draws near to all who summon him,,

to all who summon him in sincerity.

For his worshippers he does all they could wish for,

he hears their cry for help and saves them.

–Psalm 145:18-19, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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They should, therefore, dwell in unity and mutual respect, I suppose, but the opposite is true much of the time.

Two of the three readings contain references to disputes.  (The lovers in the Song of Songs are in harmony with each other.)  The question of fasting–that some people do it and others do not–arises in Luke 5.  And in 1 Corinthians, that community’s notorious factionalism is at issue.  Such divisiveness probably arose from well-intentioned attempts to discern and to act in accordance with the will of God and to hold to correct theology; that is my most charitable guess.  However, again and again we human beings have proven ourselves capable of fouling up while trying to do the right thing.  Then opinions become tribal boundaries.  The result is an unholy mess.

The truth is, of course, that there is such a thing as objective reality, and that each of us is right about some details of it and wrong about others.  Laying competing fundamentalisms aside and acknowledging a proper degree of ambiguity (in what Calvinist theology labels matters indifferent) is a fine strategy for working toward peace and faithful community.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/devotion-for-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Doing What Love Requires   1 comment

Angel at Tomb of Jesus

Above:  The Angel at the Tomb of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Solomon 3:1-11

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Mark 16:1-8

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I will give thanks to you, for you answered me

and have become my salvation.

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Psalm 118:21-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Today we have an interesting juxtaposition of texts.  In the Song of Songs a woman seeks her lover and speaks of a royal wedding procession.  Meanwhile, in Mark 16:1-8, women arrive at Christ’s tomb to anoint his corpse properly.  They find an empty tomb and a messenger in a white robe.  He informs them of Christ’s resurrection.  The women flee the scene in fear, terror, and amazement.  Thus the Gospel of Mark came to end, until people started tacking endings (at least three of them) onto it.

In one pericope we have an orderly, stately, and joyous procession, in the other, a fear-inspired recession.  In both pericopes the female(s) act(s) out of devotion.  And in neither pericope does the central man appear.  These readings inspire us to use our imaginations.  What is Jesus doing at that moment?  Where is the monarch?

Jesus is a powerful and mysterious figure in the Gospel of Mark.  There he remains mysterious until the original ending and powerful through the tacked-on conclusions.  There is also a sense of the danger he was in throughout the Gospel of Mark, just as the two lovers in the Song of Songs are in danger.  It is sad that such a beautiful thing as devotion to another (as in romance or friendship) or to a larger group puts one in danger from fearful people sometimes.  Yet this is an accurate summary of reality, is it not?  But pure love–as Christ embodied it in the flesh–proves more powerful and enduring than fear hostility, hatred, and violence.

May we focus on that which builds up others and ourselves, for what we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May we affirm the sacred worth of people–including those quite different from us–by words and deeds.  And, if love–regardless of the form of it of which one speaks and thinks–requires sacrifice and entails risk, may we do what love requires.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/devotion-for-wednesday-in-easter-week-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living Sacramentally   1 comment

Shaker Barn

Above:  Shaker Church Family Round Barn, Hancock, Massachusetts, June 1962

Photographer = Jack E. Boucher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS MASS,2-HANC,9–1

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs/Song of Solomon 7:10-8:4

Psalm 34

John 6:25-35

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The Song of Songs/Song of Solomon/Canticle of Canticles is love poetry.  I distrust attempts to spiritualize it by transforming it into an allegory between Yahweh and the Hebrews, God and faithful people, or Jesus and the Church.  Such readings indicate an unhealthy dichotomy between matters of the flesh and those of the spirit, the physical and the spiritual.  Much of Christian theology reflects a fear and distrust of the physical and sets related pleasures, which can function as vehicles of grace when one approaches them properly.  I have encountered profound theology in novels, but I have also read of strict Christian condemnations of of reading novels in general.  I understand the historical roots of such negative attitudes without approving such a mindset.  So I embrace the healthy pleasures of this life, no matter how fleeting or mundane they might be.

Jesus, in John 6, is the bread of life.  One of the greatest spiritual teachings relative to sacraments, one of which (the Holy Eucharist) is germane to that metaphor, is that God makes the ordinary extraordinary.  Bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.  Water becomes an outward sign of inner renewal.  Words become means of grace.  The laying on of hands becomes a method of transforming a person.

If God can do so much with words, hands, water, bread, and wine in official sacramental actions, how much more can God do in meals, good books, mundane deeds, and acts of human love?  Washing the dishes, for example, can be merely a household chore or a great service for another human being.  The circumstances make all the difference.  So may we, by grace, succeed in living sacramentally.  May we, by our lives, with their mundane details, prove to be consistent with Psalm 34:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989):

I will give thanks to the Lord at all times:

God’s praise will always be on my lips.

My soul will glory in the Lord:

the humble will hear and be glad.

O praise the Lord with me:

let us exalt God’s name together.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-23-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Unquenchable Love   1 comment

Candle Flame

Above:  A Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs/Song of Solomon 8:5-14

Psalm 144

John 11:45-57

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Rescue me from the hurtful sword

and deliver me from the hand of foreign peoples,

Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

–Psalm 144:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Song of Songs/Song of Solomon/Canticle of Canticles is a composite love poem.  The main characters are two lovers of unmentioned marital status.  Their love has placed them at great physical risk, for some seek to commit violence to end the relationship.  Nevertheless, as we read in 8:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If one offered for love

all the wealth of one’s house,

it would be utterly scorned.

We read of great physical risk in John 11 also.  In that lesson some Temple officials plot to kill Jesus and to scapegoat him for the nation.  They succeeded in killing him, of course, but God resurrected him.  And the scapegoating proved ineffective, as it tends to do time after time.  Some people not only scorned divine love incarnate but tried to quench it.  The flame of love, however, proved to be unquenchable.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One way to experience the love of God is via our human beings–friends, neighbors, church members, relatives, spouses, et cetera.  May we extend and receive such divine gifts when God provides the opportunities to do so.  Everyone involved will be better off for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-22-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Song of Songs and Gospel of John, Part II: Risk and Faithfulness   1 comment

traditional-site-of-the-feeding-of-the-five-thousand

Above:  Traditional Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010007468/PP/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 5:2-6:3

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

John 6:1-21

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Some Related Posts:

John 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-17-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fourteenth-day-of-easter/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/proper-12-year-b/

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The theme of risk unites these lessons.  In Song of Songs the love relationship runs afoul of certain people who have done violence to the woman in an attempt to prevent a liaison.  And a crown of people follow Jesus and the Apostles around in John 6.  Impressed by our Lord’s signs, they want to set him up as a political revolutionary leader.  That would fulfill a certain vision of Messiahship yet would certainly lead to his death at Rome’s hands.  That consequence came true anyway, but not because Jesus was a rebel leader.

If one continues to read in John 6, one finds advice not to follow him because of his wonderful signs.  That is a selfish motive.  No, his call is one to service–what we can do in this world. What is God calling each of us to do for each other’s benefit?  That is a question to explore so to know how to respond faithfully to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-21-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Song of Songs and Gospel of John, Part I: That Which Offends (More)   1 comment

pool-of-bethesda-april-12-1839

Above:  Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem, June 12, 1839, by David Roberts

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002717460/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 1:1-2:7 (May 18)

Song of Songs 2:8-3:11 (May 19)

Song of Songs 4:1-5:1 (May 20)

Psalm 103 (Morning–May 18)

Psalm 5 (Morning–May 19 and 20)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening–May 18)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–May 19 and 20)

John 5:1-18 (May 18)

John 5:19-29 (May 19)

John 5:30-47 (May 20)

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Some Related Posts:

John 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-week-of-advent-friday/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-13-and-14-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-15-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-16-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-fourth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-fifth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-sixth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

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In John 5, the unity of which I have maintained, Jesus committed a good deed.  He did this on the Sabbath, a fact which made some especially strict interpreters of the Law uncomfortable.  And he spoke of himself in ways which sounded blasphemous to them.  The penalty for blasphemy, according to the Law of Moses, was death.

What makes us uncomfortable?  And which input makes us more uncomfortable than other input?  What do these facts say about us?  Consider Psalm 139:18-21 (1979 Book of Common Prayer), for example:

Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God!

You that thirst for blood, depart from me.

They speak despitefully against you;

your enemies take your Name in vain.

Do I not hate those, O LORD, who hate you?

And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?

I hate them with a perfect hatred;

they have become my own enemies.

Then there is Psalm 137:9 (1979 Prayer Book):

Happy shall be he who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock.

Those passages–and many others in the Bible–should make one uncomfortable.  Accounts of massacres depicted as God’s will cause me to squirm in my seat.

But do such passages make one more uncomfortable than love poetry?  Or does love poetry make one more uncomfortable?  The Song of Songs seems to be exactly what it appears to be:  love poetry.  There is nothing exploitative about it, and the two lovers are consenting adults.  Allegorical interpretations seem like stretches to me.  They look like attempts to make the Song of Songs seem like something it is not.

I think that often, in certain cultures and subcultures, people are more prudish about love and sexuality than squeamish about violence.  Our bodies, with their orifices, fluids, and urges, both repel and attract us.  Yet here we are, in our physical form.  And, if we focus so much on the spirit as to think negatively of the body, how far removed are we from Gnosticism?

So, which option–the means of leaving this life or the method of coming into it–offends us or offends us more?  And what does one’s answer to that question say about one?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-18-19-and-20-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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