We just heard a beautiful poem, full of wonderful images, like lilies and doves and flowers and apple trees. It is called the Song of Solomon because it talks about King Solomon, David’s son. People who study the Bible think it was written much later, and just used King Solomon as a character in the poem.
This is a poem about love.But not just any kind of love.This is a romantic poem. It’s the words of two people very much in love, in the spring, getting ready for their wedding. Two people who want to be as close to each other as possible. (I know; gross, right?)
In English, the language we use,there is just one word for love. That’s it: love. I saw a cartoon once where a lady got madbecause her husband said “I love lobster” and then he said, “I love you.” You could say, I love my mom, and I love gummi bears. But do you feel the same way about your mom and gummi bears? Not really!
In the language called Greek, which some of the Bible was written in, they had different words for different kinds of love .Eros is like boyfriend/girlfriend love, romantic love. Storge is like the love in a family. Philio is like the love we feel for our friends. Agape is like the love we have in a community or a team or a group of people that know each other and take care of each other. The kind of love where you share happy times and hard times, and where you try to help somebody even when it’s hard. This is the kind of love that Jesus tells us to have for each other. I don’t know what word the Greeks would use for how people feel about lobster or gummi bears! …
Okay, so coming back to this love poem we just heard. Why are we reading a love poem in church? Well, because it’s in the Bible. So why is a love poem in the Bible? A lot of people have asked that question, over the years. Some people have felt like it just doesn’t really belong here.It’s about romance… and some of it is pretty kissy-kissy… reading it might make people think about things other than God… so let’s just skip that part of the Bible. And certainly don’t read it to the children!
Other people have said, What is wrong with you? This isn’t a poem about romance at all. It’s a poem about the love between God and God’s people. The sweet, tender adoration that God has for us. And if you see something kissy-kissy there, that’s your issue.
I wonder if we can say that it’s kind of both? It’s kind of about the romantic love of two people, and also about the tender love God feels for us? I wonder if all kinds of love -Eros and Storge and Philia and Agape – I wonder if all those kinds of love, deep down, are really the same love?
At least, I wonder if all the good kinds of love we feel are really the same love, deep down. Because sometimes we get attached to things that aren’t really good for us, but it might feel like love. One word we use for that is addiction.That’s when you want something all the time, and it feels really important to you, like you need it to be yourself, and it feels like you love it; but the thing you’re attached to is unhealthy for you. Or at least it’s not truly adding anything to your life, it’s just taking your time and energy without building you up. The best example for kids might be computer or video games. Maybe you’ve felt a little bit addicted yourself, or you have a friend who’s kind of addicted. For grownups it might be cigarettes or alcohol or online shopping, or even a person who’s really exciting but who does hurtful things. People can get addicted to lots of things.
So not everything that feels like love, is good for us. Real love does good things in our hearts and minds and lives. And that’s true whether it’s the love of a friend, or a parent, or a pet, or a teacher, or a girlfriend/boyfriend someday. Real love doesn’t always feel good every minute. Sometimes we hurt each other, or we feel sad when someone we love leaves or gets sick. And sometimes we have to tell people we love something that they don’t want to hear. Like, come do your homework! …
But even if it doesn’t feel good all the time, real love is good, and we need it. Let me tell you a story about King Solomon, because it is also a story about love. Remember, King Solomon was King David’s son, and he was famous for being very, very wise. This is one of the stories that people told about how wise he was.
There were two women, sisters, who both had new babies. And one of the babies died. Very sad! So now there was only one baby, but both mothers said that that baby was theirs. The babies looked alike so nobody could tell for sure, and both women said, This is my baby. So they argued and argued, and finally they took the baby to King Solomon the Wise. They said, How can we solve this?
And King Solomon thought about it, and then he said, All right, I know what to do. We have to cut the baby in half. Each of you can have half of the baby. Was that a good solution?…
It doesn’t sound like a good solution, does it? But let me tell you what happened. One of the mothers said, All right, fine, that seems fair. But the other mother said, NO! Don’t hurt the child! She can have him. Just – let him live.
And King Solomon said, Let the baby go to this woman. She is the baby’s mother. He saw that she truly loved her baby. The other woman was so broken by her sadness and jealousy that she didn’t care what happened. But this woman loved the baby with such big, deep, strong love that she would rather let the baby go with somebody else than be hurt. (Now do you think King Solomon was wise?)
So that’s real love! And all that kind of love comes from God. That’s what we mean when we say that God is love. Have you heard people say that? God is love? The woman who draws the Sunday Papers is named Gretchen. And the way she draws God – it’s hard to draw God, nobody knows what God looks like! – so the way Gretchen draws God is as a heart with hands. Love that reaches out to us and touches the world, and our lives.
What do you think about that idea? That the love in your family, the love of your pet, the love you share with your closest friends, the love you feel for a special place like a lake or woods, the love you feel for doing something you’re really good at, all of that real, good love is holy? Comes from God? That it’s one of the ways God is in our lives, every day?
I’m going to give you all some hearts. I want to notice love in your life today, okay?Notice where there is love in your life. Put a heart on it if it’s a thing, or if it’s a person you could give them a heart. And say in your heart, Thank you, God! Thank for all the love in my life!