August 30, 2015
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
James 1:17-27
Song of Solomon 2:8-13


Religion that is pure
Proper 17 | OT 22

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David Coffin
The dog days of a hot August summer have been upon us. Some communities already have school beginning, while others are clenching onto the last moments of summer vacation times. Many congregations are trying to gear up for fall ministry programs, while others frantically worry that summer was too short and “What are we planning to do now?” Today’s lessons provide a glimpse as to what faithful people of God do in response to their salvation in this season of Pentecost -- regardless of how numerically successful they are or are not during this last week or so of summer. James 1:27 summarizes this quite nicely: “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.” By this standard, if nothing else, one may try to preach on giving to those who are in need outside the walls of the congregation. That is, to put our money where our words are always printed in mission statements, newsletters, and church wish lists.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Why the rabbis allowed this book to be in the Hebrew Bible still has scholars scratching their heads throughout the ages. Yet other ancient Near East poetry has similar connections to this writing, such as Egyptian love poems. Its erotic language between two lovers would get a pastor in my church denomination sent to a “boundaries workshop” and possibly exiled to another parish.

With that said, historically the book has been used as a metaphor for Israel and God’s relationship or that of Christ and the Christian church. Neither approach does this book justice. One has to simply take it as a passionate relationship that seeks to maximize life’s possibilities while one can do so in the honeymoon stages of life. This book is a collection of love poems. Dates of origin are disputed, ranging from the tenth to the second centuries BCE. Solomon’s authorship is also questioned. A post-exile date is usually favored. This is one of the books usually read at the Jewish rite of Passover. The sexual ethic of the book is contrasted with that of Deuteronomy 22. Along with the book of Esther, this is one of the two books in the Bible that does not mention the name “God” -- though one can see God’s hand hidden in the background of both books....

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August 30, 2015
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