The Song of Songs
Dear <<First Name>>
For the next two weeks the Daily Devotions will explore the Song of Songs with reflection and prayers by the Rev’d Dr ‘frin Lewis-Smith who works as a Healthcare Chaplain and is a member of The Church at the Centre in Bolton. This is a book of the Old Testament that we often don’t read – it doesn’t pop up in the Lectionary; it’s made generations of interpreters very uncomfortable indeed as it pays no interest to the Law or the Covenant with Israel. There’s no prophet lambasting an unfaithful people, no poems in praise of God. Instead, these poems celebrate love – sensual love between two lovers who delight in each other and each other’s bodies. The women of Jerusalem provide a chorus and backdrop to these songs which also talk about more difficult areas. Some of the days will begin with a content warning, alerting readers and listeners to passages which some may wish to approach with greater self-care, especially where the poet or the reflection speak about racial identity and violent assault.
Scholars can’t agree on when the Song of Songs was written with estimates differing wildly from the 10th Century before Christ to the 2nd – with some consensus it comes from the 3rd Century before Christ. In Judaism the Song is read on the Sabbath that falls during Passover whereas in Christianity early commentators made it safe by seeing the Song as a love poem between Christ and the Church. Some 12th Century Christian commentators felt the woman in the Song could be seen as the Virgin Mary but, happily, this interpretation didn’t gain much ground!
A more general preface to the series might be the 1991 pop anthem by Salt N Pepa (excuse the dated references to vinyl records and cassette tapes):
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be ….
Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be
How it was, and of course, how it should be
Those who think it’s dirty, have a choice
Pick up the needle, press pause, or turn the radio off
However comfortable or uncomfortable you are about talking, reading, and thinking about sex, the male and female characters in the Song of Songs speak openly, erotically, and often unashamedly, about desire, bodies, and intimacy. Our Daily Devotions will sometimes centre those themes, but the songs also furnish a rich variety of others. May the words on this screen, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in God’s sight.
We hope you find our journey through the Song of Songs both thought provoking and interesting.
with every good wish
The Rev’d Andy Braunston
Minister for Digital Worship