Reflections on the Song of Solomon
“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 turtledove 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.” (Song of Solomon 2:8-13, NRSV).
It seems strange to some people that words like these are found in the Bible. It goes against what we think we know of the Bible.
These words are from a book of the Bible few people know about. This little book of the Hebrew Bible is variously called ” Song of Solomon” or “Song of Songs.” It is a long poem about erotic love. Really, it seems to be a collection of poems that have been brought together into one. A church group would not want to do a verse-by-verse study of this book because of the frankly erotic imagery in the book.
It’s about sex. It has at least an R rating. (more…)
The In-Breathing of the Spirit (John 20:22)
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.””— John 20:19-22 (NRSV).
Jack Levison’s new book 40 Days With the Holy Spirit is filled with insights about the Holy Spirit. The book is divided into several brief meditations on the Spirit — and the language the Scriptures use to speak of the Spirit’s role. Dr. Levison holds the W. J. A. Power Chair of Biblical Hebrew and Old Testament Interpretation at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. He has written about the Holy Spirit before: The Spirit in First Century Judaism (1997), Of Two Minds: Ecstasy and Inspired Interpretation in the New Testament World (2000), Filled with the Spirit (2009), Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life (2012).
And, in reading this new book, I came across a insight about the passage above that was new to me. I am quite familiar with the passage that reads: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”” Some scholars call this the Johannine Pentecost — the Gospel of John’s way of speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the Christian believers. More traditional believers have had some difficulty reconciling this bestowal of the Holy Spirit with the later event of Pentecost — wondering when the Spirit really came upon the first disciples of Jesus. (more…)
Creation’s True Unity is in Christ – Colossians 1:16,17
Some people see Christian faith as something wholly internal and spiritual. It is an inward experience of meaning and hope.
Certainly it is that — or it should be.
But, that is not all it is. It is also a perspective that embraces all of life. Christianity is a belief about what life is all about. It is not just about what is within us — it is about what is all around us. It is a faith in the God who is the Creator of all that is. The God to whom we pray is not just our God. Our God is the God of all people — and all things.
Notice the following verses: Colossians 1:16,17: (more…)
“I Am” Sayings in the New Testament (a list)
This post is primarily just a list — for me to archive — and for those who might be interested. I have also included (at the end) a video presentation by Dr. Andrew Lincoln on the significance of the “I am” passages in the Gospel of John.
In one of the churches I pastored, I led a series of brief Lenten studies on the “I am” sayings in the Gospel of John. In preparation for this, I did a search to find how many sayings like this there really were. I was a bit surprised how many I found.
Occasionally I get asked about this, so it occurs to me that there may be other people who would also find this list interesting. (more…)
A Forgiving God – Psalm 25:11, 12
Forgiveness — the pardon of sins — is a central issue in Christianity. Jesus has made it so — and has taught us to pray: “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Yet, it is also such a difficult issue. When there is a deep wound, the pain is still there, and the anger still arises. In times like this, we wonder: do the words mean anything? When time and time again, you have to pray “Lord, give me the grace to forgive my enemy” you have to wonder if there is ever hope for you. There have been many times, when I have wondered this about myself.
And, I know I’m not alone in having this problem. Those people who have done things that have caused wounds — especially those who have done it quite deliberately and knowingly — are hard to forgive. There are people I know who have been treated unfairly and unjustly. There are people I know who have been abused. And, the problem with forgiveness is that it seems to say that all that was okay. To let go of the anger and the outrage seems to give in to injustice — to give permission for their abuser to do it again to someone else. (more…)
Obedience and the Spirit of Truth – John 14:15-21
The themes in this section of the Gospel of John resonate well with the themes I am often addressing at this web site. Jesus calls his followers into a life of obedience — and promises the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to them.
In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus preparing his disciples for the days to come with a long discourse: it begins in Chapters 13 and runs through chapter 16, with a closing prayer added in chapter 17. The passage under discussion today is just a brief snippet from that longer discourse.
This passage is memorable because in contains of the promise of the Holy Spirit. But, it is framed on either side by a challenge to keep Christ’s commandments. (more…)
Leave Her Alone – John 12:7
Before his last earthly Passover, Jesus has a meal with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. We are told “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:15). And, during the meal, something amazing and unexpected (actually embarrassing) happens: Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and then wipes his feet with her hair. A word of rebuke arises. And Jesus replies with these words:
John 12:7 —
εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἄφες αὐτήν, ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό·
“Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”
Mary is the one who understands.
The way John sets the scene we understand as well. He says (verse 1): “Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” Jesus is with his close friends, but it is “six days before the Passover.” As readers, we know where the story is going even if some of the characters in the drama do not. The shadow of the Cross hangs over Jesus. Passover this year will mean betrayal, rejection, condemnation, and crucifixion. (more…)