Let’s see what’s coming up this Sunday, 2nd September 2018…
This is from one of the most delightfully sensuous texts in our sacred book – certainly apt for the first weekend of Spring in the lands south of the equator. Eugene Peterson cites the Song of Songs for the intimate language of prayer that points to the bond between YHWH and his chosen. No hard and fast doctrine here – just delight and anticipation in the presence of the Beloved – from one to the other and back.
Lest one think all sensuosity is locked up in the Song of Songs, Psalm 45 uses similar language filtered through a hymn of praise to king and daughter. One could be forgiven in losing oneself in the ambiguity. Is the praise directed to the king and his court, or maybe it’s God and God’s chosen ones? In the minds of the ancients, the two were often indistinguishable. The king was meant to represent all the aspirations and ethos of the nation Israel who, in their most aware moments, deeply knew that everything they were and had was as a result of being the apple of YHWH’s eye.
Verse 27 is the well-known climax of this text, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” This is the outcome of the kind of relationship with the Divine that is spelt out in the earlier Hebrew texts. This text references the good gifts from “the Father of lights” and the reciprocal stance that is the natural result of receiving them – a benevolent stance towards one another, reflecting the love received from the Creator. The task of devotion is to lay aside all that does not express this loving relationship.
And here is the shadow of all the life, love, goodness and light in the preceding texts. Jesus, in whom all this is embodied, is opposed by the very guardians of this tradition. The problem is they have built so many walls around these precepts that they are no longer recognisable. The harshest words of Jesus are reserved for those who are so dedicated to enforcing the keeping of invented rules and regulations that the essence of receiving the gracious invitation to the fullness of life has become inaccessible.