September 2, 2012

In the Middle East, through the centuries to this day, there are two fundamental metaphors for God’s relationship with God’s people—“parent-child” and “lover-beloved.” The first is the metaphor we find in the New Testament. God is our Parent. We are God’s children. The Gospel message expands this metaphor: God’s generosity is that of a loving parent; we are heirs to God’s Kingdom; we are brothers and sisters one with another. The “lover-beloved” metaphor is popular in Islam, particularly in the poetry of Rumi. This metaphor appears in our Bible, in the Song of Solomon from which comes our text for Sunday (Song of Solomon 2:8-13). The lover (God) addresses the beloved (God’s people) saying: “winter has past; the storm is over; the fields are laced with flowers; turtledoves call in the morning. Arise, and come away.” The scripture speaks as we feel the desire to be alone with God and bask in the balance of creation. The New Testament lesson (James 1:17-27) addresses us as “My Beloved.” We hear these instructions within the context of a lover-beloved relationship, a “marriage-like” covenant in which we are so committed to the integrity of the relationship that we heed the words. We heed them not as some law or rule to follow. The love of the relationship is the mainspring of our motivation. And the instruction, the truth that will protect any close relationship, divine or human: “My beloved, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”