Imagine that tomorrow morning all the Shakespeare’s Sonnets suddenly disappeared: from your library, from a public library and every library.
The volumes would still be standing on the shelves, even the print in regular neat paragraphs would still cover the pages, but this beautiful Elizabethan love poetry would be mysteriously gone, simply not there any more, because this exquisite literature would suddenly be used in a different, weird and peculiar way – the sonnets would be used for weather forecasts not only above the British Isles but also all over the world. Television, radio, and the internet would not be showing weather readings and satellite and radar images, but only William’s poetic prosody. Academic climatologists would be developing highly sophisticated methods to utilize patterns in Shakespearean verbal tenses for describing and predicting El Niño phenomenon.
Does it make any sense? Doesn't it sound crazy? It might, but something very similar happened to the Biblical Love Poetry. The Song of Songs had been and remained the regular and undisputed part of the Bible, but it was virtually invisible all the way through the end of 18th century. It was still read and diligently researched by generations of Christian as well as Jewish theologians. An endless series of inspirational sermons were delivered by some famous and eloquent preachers (Origen, Gregory the Great, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Reformers.) They claimed and argued to discover in Song of Songs hidden messages of divine theology, deep and ever deeper secrets of relationship between YHWH and Israel, or Christ and the Church. (Situation not unlike predicting weather from Shakespearean poetry!)
Only Enlightenment theology started to appreciate Song of Songs for what it truly was rather for what it was not. Two centuries later, the situation still remains fluid and not completely clear. Many people don’t even know that the Bible contains beautiful, intimate, even quite racy love poetry. Many other don’t know what to think of it.
This Sunday I would like to invite you to participate in rediscovering biblical love poetry and its potential to transform and nurture our lives and our faith.