So here’s this week’s sermon. It’s short and sweet. The scripture reading is from Song of Songs 4:1-7. I’m posting the video from worship but am starting it at the scripture just before the sermon if you’d like to listen or you can read it below.
Finding the Way
Song of Songs is full of beautiful poetry, vivid imagery and yet… it can make you feel a little uncomfortable, right? You kind of feel like you are listening in on a loving couple’s very private conversation. He is gazing on her beauty, fully engaged in it. We tend to see that kind of beauty in our loved ones mostly, but we need see this beauty in all God’s people. Dr. Wendy Farley says, “The capacity for beauty requires that we adore the mystery of others and recognize it as sacred and deserving of protection.” This is exactly what we hear in Song of Songs.
Would you please pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
So, I wonder, how are we adoring the mystery of others? How are recognizing the sacredness of others? Are we even trying to work on it? Are we “yearning for the well-being of others?”
In society today, this isn’t apparent that’s for sure. Those on opposing sides these days are really bad about name calling, about speaking ill of one another. We see a lot of looking for the beauty and saying kind words.
The early Christians worked hard to pattern their life after Jesus’s. In fact before Christianity fully emerged as a religion, people said they followed “The Way” or “The Way of Life”. They intentionally worked to live, to reorganize their life to follow Jesus.
They worked to follow the Great Commandment or the Golden Rule. The way of life is this: First you will love the God who made you; second you will love your neighbor as yourself. They also worked to follow another lesson Jesus taught. To love your enemies. The ancient texts say, “that we should speak well of the ones speaking badly of you, pray for your enemies and fast for the ones persecuting you. Love the ones hating you and you will not have an enemy.” Let me repeat that… Love the ones hating you and you will not have an enemy.
That’s some pretty hard stuff right there! I’m not going to lie, I struggle with this. But I wonder, if I actually tried to practice it more, especially the prayer part, if I would find it a bit easier.
This was a radical teaching back then and it still is today! Look at social media right now, even the news! It’s all just a bunch of trash talk and many of those participating in this trash talk identify themselves as Christians! We need to work to change this. We need to stop the name calling and instead try working together, try listening to one another, try praying for each other, even those who don’t like us, those who call us names, those who disagree with us. Imagine if we all did this… it just might be a very different world.
Marguerite Porete talks of a radical love that is a precondition of contemplative prayer. “We neither do, nor think, nor speak toward our neighbors anything we would not wish they do toward us. These commands are of necessity for salvation for all: nobody can have grace with a lesser way.”
See we need an inner transformation towards love and mercy and contemplative prayer can lead to this. Dr. Farley says, “For many of us, loving and forgiving everyone while putting aside our needs, anxieties, and desires is more the long-awaited fruit of prayer than its precondition.” She continues on to say that “we understand how seriously earlier Christians took the Christian path when we hear how insistent they were that inner transformation for love and mercy was both the path and the fruit of contemplative prayer.”
As we continue to practice this radical love and prayer our lives can be transformed. As we do this our self-centeredness diminishes and we begin to see the world in a different view. We can see the beauty of the world around us and in the people around us. As the scales of self-centeredness falls from our eyes we begin to see and cherish the sacred worth of creation. AMEN.
Worship and Liturgy
© Adapted from www.worshipdesignstudio.com/beguiledbybeauty by Dr. Marcia McFee
Dr. Wendy Farley, “Beguiled By Beauty” coming out Oct. 2020 I believe. I’ve enjoyed getting to read some excerpts. She has a beautiful way with words.