Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (NRSV)
The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.
Like most couples, when my wife and I were married, there were thousands of decisions to be made. What song would we first dance to? "I Knew I Loved You" by Savage Garden. What would we serve for dinner? Couldn't decide… so buffet it was! What kind of cake would we serve? Same problem… thank God for layered cakes! What scripture would we have read at the service? We weren't entirely sure, but we knew we didn't want that clichéd old 1 Corinthians text that every wedding seems to have.
So we chose this one - in all its gazelle, stag, leaping, frolicking, turtledove beauty. We chose a piece of erotic love poetry that surprisingly made it through the rounds of canon selection to be in our Bible today. I mean, what were those forerunners of our faith thinking when they included a text of blush-worthy proportions? (See 6:5-7 and 4:5 if you don't believe me.)
Probably the same thing our family and friends were thinking on that sweltering June Saturday: This is in the Bible? Aren't we supposed to be hearing about patience and kindness? But it is in there. And I'm glad. Right before we get into those often-harsh prophetic proclamations of Isaiah and Jeremiah, we have this: a song that celebrates love in all its humanness. It's like a scriptural deep breath reminding us that we are embodied human beings able to enjoy an embodied love that is God-blessed. And so it's something we should actively engage in.
So you know all those times when you read scripture and think, "Oh, I have to do that?" Now, you can say, "Oh, I get to do that!"
Love your spouse. Celebrate your lover. Frolic in the pleasures of what it means to be in love like it's your wedding day. Heck, even leap like a gazelle if you'd like.
And know that when you do all that, it's bound to spread even more love out into the world. And that can't help but be a good thing.
For gazelles and stags and turtledoves and frolicking (or at least meandering) over the hills, we give you thanks, O God. Love is a good thing. Thank you for encouraging us to celebrate and enjoy it. Amen.
Jeff Michael Gallagher
the Senior Pastor of the United Congregational Church of Tolland and author of the book Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith