The Supremacy of Love

By Diana Ray,2014-06-26 18:47
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The Supremacy of Love ...

The Supremacy of Love

    Song of Songs Chapter 1

    Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI

    November 6, 2005

     I am really excited about the film adaptation of C.S. Lewis‘ ―The Chronicles

    of Narnia‖ that are coming out later this year. Lewis, in an exercise of absolute

    genius, created the ‗Chronicles‘ as a children‘s story with a much greater scope

    in mind than just entertaining young hearts and minds. Lewis wrote the

    ‗Chronicles‘ as an allegory of the Christian faith – a story to communicate the reality of grace and the sovereignty of God in terms that are understandable and

    appealing. His efforts were not in vain as the popularity of the ‗Chronicles‘


     A contemporary and dear friend of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien also wrote

    an epic sage that was turned into a film adaptation. Tolkien‘s triology, The Lord

    of the Rings hit theatres a few years ago and became a cultural phenomenon.

    Tolkien, like Lewis, was a man of committed faith. The discussions of Tolkien

    and Lewis on matters of faith are legendary among those who have loved their


     And perhaps that is why the Christian community has done something

    incredibly foolish since the release of The Lord of the Rings. Almost concurrent with the release of the first movie in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring in

    December of 2001, books began to show up on the shelves of Christian

    bookstores with titles like ―Finding the Lord in The Lord of the Rings.‖ Author

    after author began forwarding the idea that The Lord of the Rings at a minimum covertly presented the Christian faith and at most was an all out allegory in the

    vein of The Chronicles of Narnia written by Tolkien‘s ―good mate‖ and colleague,

    C.S. Lewis.

     There is only one problem. When asked if he had meant to write an

    allegory and weave his faith into every page, Tolkien‘s response was a resounding ―no.‖ In fact, when speaking about allegory in general Tolkien is

    reported to say, ―I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always

    have done since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.‖

    1 He did not

    deny that his faith had had an impact on the story, but he adamantly refused any

    notion that his story was meant as an allegory.

     Why do we this insist that something is undisputedly and overtly intended

    Christian, when in fact it isn‘t? I think part of the answer is so that we can be

    culturally relevant. We want heroes that cross cultural boundaries and make

    no mistake, Christian culture and American culture, though sharing many touch

    points, are two very different things. But I also think we feel the need to justify

    our enjoyment of things that are not overtly Christian. Although, I believe, The

    Lord of the Rings falls into the parameters that Paul gives us in Philippians 4:8 as

    things we should feed our minds with you know the one Finally, brothers,

    whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever

    is lovely, whatever is admirableif anything is excellent or praiseworthythink


    2about such things. we still feel the need to justify it because it comes to us

    from what we would call secular society. In other words, we feel the need to

    ―holify‖ things. So we allegorize the story.

     That‘s silly, isn‘t it? Justifying our enjoyment of a story that is filled with

    great moral and ethical themes such as courage in the face of danger, hope in the face of despair, fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds, and the

    supremacy of love? Of course it is. But interestingly enough, this is not our most

    grievous offense of this nature. As a church, we have allegorized another story

    to try and ―holify‖ it, to make it more palatable in the context of our cultural

    understanding of the Christian faith. The gospel always comes clothed in culture,

    the missiologists like to say. But sometimes a culture misses or twists the


     Such is the case with the Song of Songs commonly known as the Song

    of Solomon. This morning we will begin an exploration of the Song of Songs.

    We will start with an overview of how the book has been understood traditionally

    in the church. Then we will explore our passage absent much of the allegorical

    reading. Finally, we will explore the over-arching message of the text, in light of

    what we find in the text.

    I. An Uncomfortable Silence

    2 All text taken form The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

    I have to admit, the first time I read the Song of Songs, there was this type

    of uncomfortable silence in my heart. You know the silence the one that

    descends when a parent tries to talk to a teen about sex. It is a conversation that

    both parents and teens dread so much so that in many families it is avoided altogether until, of course, a teen pregnancy comes along or a sexually

    transmitted disease or an emotional train wreck results from illicit sexual activity.

    That was the way I felt the first time I read the Song of Songs that

    uncomfortable silence. How did such eroticism end up in the Scriptures? Thank

    goodness that shortly thereafter I found an allegorical reading of the Song of

    Songs. But around 1995, I heard a lecture by Dr. Cal Seerveld that rocked my

    world that challenged me to take another look at the Song of Songs.

    The church traditionally has approached the Song of Songs much the

    same way that I did it seems to be in our nature to do so. We are so

    scandalized by the language we find here and the ancient church was no

    different. It had to wrestle with the reality that the Song of Songs came to us

    from the Hebrew Canon and the book didn‘t seem to have a message about God.

    Instead, it seemed to focus on human love and sexuality.

    The church could not reconcile its own beliefs concerning sexual

    expression with what it was finding in the Song of Songs. It held that sexual

    expression was at best a means of procreation and at worst something impure,

    unholy and at odds with spiritual development. Actually, renunciation of the

    sexual self was seen as the best Christian response. In short, sex was bad all

sex and to be avoided except for procreative purposes. So when it came to the

    Song of Songs, the church could either maintain the uncomfortable silence or it

    could allegorize to see the Song in purely symbolic terms. It of course chose the latter.

    Unfortunately, they chose wrongly. Now why do I say this? Because the

    premise for their choice was wrong. In fact, this premise still has a foothold in the

    church today and it is still as wrong now as it was over the past two millennia of

    church history. Part of our problem is that we have confused God‘s good gift with

    the twisted way we have used the gift. We must remember that when God

    created everything he declared it ―good,‖ that would include sex. Apart from our twisting and misuse, sex remains good when enjoyed within the context that God

    created it to exist the monogamous, committed relationship of one man to one woman. In other words, marriage.

    When enjoyed within the context of marriage, sex becomes more than just

    the brute urge to procreate. It becomes in some sense a picture of the intimacy

    and intermingled relationship that exists within the Trinity. Union of our bodies

    image the in a way that goes far beyond any physical sense the union between

    Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is why Paul warns the Corinthians in 1

    Corinthians 6:15-16 “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with

    a prostitute? Never!

     16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a

prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one


    II. A Look at the Text with New Eyes

    This is obviously a high view of sex, possibly one that makes us

    uncomfortable. Yet, what we find in the Song of Songs is a love song a love

    song of human love dripping with suggestive imagery. Try as we might to

    allegorize the message, central to the theme of the Song is love between the

    Beloved and the Lover. So with this central theme in mind, let‘s take a look at our passage for this morning. Song of Songs, chapter 1.

    Listen carefully to these words.

    Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for your love is more

    delightful than wine.

    Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like

    perfume poured out.

    No wonder the maidens love you!

    Take me away with youlet us hurry!

    The king has brought me into his chambers.

    And this,

    While the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance.

    My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts.

    My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of

    En Gedi.

    How beautiful you are, my darling!

    Oh, how beautiful!

    Your eyes are doves.

    How handsome you are, my lover!

    Oh, how charming!

    And our bed is verdant.

    Or this.

    Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest 4 is my lover among the young men. He has taken me to the banquet hall,

    I delight to sit in his shade, and his banner over me is love.

    5 and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Strengthen me with raisins,

    refresh me with apples,

    for I am faint with love.

    6 His left arm is under my head,

    and his right arm embraces me.

    These are stirring words of love! It is hard to mistake the message of

    these words. In fact as I read them, I find it hard to believe that the church ever

    considered them allegorically, so explicit are their meaning. Over and over again

    we hear the Beloved calling for her Lover to come and share with her the joys of

    physical love. But this is more than just pillow talk, more than just saucy speech.

    I remember when Kenny Rogers was at the height of his fame he made a

    movie based upon his song ―The Coward of the County.‖ The main character –

    the coward finds himself in a truck late at night with a girl of reputation, if you

    know what I mean. And he is drinking heavily. He begins drawing upon his

    knowledge of Scripture to woo her naturally he turns to the Song of Songs.

    The more he quotes the more amorous she gets until she says breathlessly,

    ―With ammunition like any girl would surrender!‖

    Well, the Song of Songs is more than ammunition for turning us on. It is a

    picture of something greater. If you look at all of the language what you find is

    language that is terribly intimate. What we find mirrored here is not love as we

    have tainted it, but love as God intended it as indicated by the phrase in

Genesis that describes the man and the woman as naked before each other and

    yet unashamed. Here are two lovers who in mutuality and love give themselves

    to one another unreservedly. Nothing is held back. In each other they find

    perfect satisfaction and perfect rest

    III. The Supremacy of Love

     After all of this, one may ask what the purpose of the Song of Songs is.

    What is this book that sounds like it should come with some sort of rating on it,

    like, PG14 or R, doing in the Christian Scriptures? Dr. Thomas Constable in his

    notes on the Song of Songs quotes J. Paul Tanner in saying, ―The Song of

    Songs hearkens back to God's prototypical design in the Garden of Eden of one

    man and one woman, in marriage, a relationship God designed to be mutually

    exclusive.3 He is saying that in some ways it is meant to be a manual for us of

    how to carry out our marriage relationship so that it reflects the one that God

    intended us to have what Adam and Eve shared before the fall.

     I guess the question comes down to what makes the Lovers touch so

    intoxicating? Is it that he is such a good lover that he blows the mind of the

    Beloved so much that she is willing to give up her body for the mere sexual

    pleasure? No. What makes his kisses intoxicating, his scent alluring, his touch

    thrilling is the love the two share.

     You see, what the Song of Songs is really about is the supremacy of love.

    In the Beloved and the Lover we see how love can be how deep and abiding,

3 Thomas Constable, Notes on Song of Songs 2004 Edition p.4

    how overwhelming, and enveloping. We see how love can color our world if we will but surrender ourselves to it. But we must surrender ourselves to it for it to be all God intends it to be. We stop seeking our own, lay down our rights and desires, and seek the satisfaction, the fulfillment, the wholeness of the other. Only when then mark of our love becomes self-sacrifice will love be what God created it to be. That is true of love emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically.

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