Dear God, I Love You Passionately

The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9My 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.
10My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
11for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
12The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
is heard in our land.
13The 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.
14O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
15Catch us the foxes,
the little foxes,
that ruin the vineyards—
for our vineyards are in blossom.’
16My beloved is mine and I am his;
he pastures his flock among the lilies.
17Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
or a young stag on the cleft mountain.

Song of Solomon 2:8-17

 

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

Mark 12:28-31

People have been writing love poetry since the beginning of time. The Song of Songs, Song of Solomon,  is one of the most beautiful parts of our Bible. It has been interpreted as metaphorical and symbolic love relationship as well as a literal love relationship between two people having a passionate love affair. Some scholars have reasoned that it was about a kind of symbolic love, especially the love of Israel or the Jewish people and God. In this light, it becomes a writing about the Jewish people’s love of God, and Gods love for them

The Song of Songs is considered by some to be the most important Biblical text for the Kabbalah, a Jewish mystical movement beginning in the 14th or 15th century – some say earlier. They believed that God is both matter and sprit, and that love of God is much like erotic love between people. Sacred erotica is metaphorically expressed, a kind of female love essence, which is a symbol of the Jewish people, and the male essence is a symbol of God Himself.

In our reading from Mark, Jesus of course calls us to also love God passionately with all of ourselves, our heart soul and mind. Jesus was a passionate lover of God. How much time do we permit ourselves to feel and experience, to become aware of the passionate love we have for this mystery we call God, or creation, or whatever you want to call all that is sacred? Valentine’s Day is next Saturday, and I invite us all to think of it as not only a day for romantic love but a day to celebrate love of God – of everyone in our church. It can be a traumatic day for single people, I think. I remember being single and not having a husband or a boyfriend and feeling like a misfit, somewhat embarrassed to have to go through the day without a romantic date or gift or romantic sentient. In our culture many of us feel as if we are not complete and don’t even belong if we do not have a partner.

I invite you, whether you are in a romantic relationship or not, to become aware of the passionate love you experience and to open your hearts and prepare for Valentine’s Day as a day to love God and everyone passionately. Not just romantic love but phila love, meaning a love like we have for our brothers and sisters, and agape love, love of the Divine. I suggest we all write God a love letter.

I have a few poems or love letters to God written by famous lovers of God through history that I hope will inspire you.

From Meister Elkhart (1260-1328, German):

All beings

Are words of God,

His music, His

Art.

Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps in our souls.

Every act reveals God and expands His Being.

I know that may be hard to comprehend.

All creatures are doing their best

To help God in His birth

Of Himself.

Enough talk for the night.

He is laboring in me;

I need to be silent for awhile,

Worlds are forming

In my heart.

From Hafiz, or sahs-ud-dinMuhammad Hafiz (1320-1389, Persian):

“A famous story about Hafiz, told many ways, says: When he was twenty-one he was delivering bread to a wealthy noble family and glimpsed a remarkabl7 beautiful girl on a terrace of the home. He fell desperately in love with her, but she had already been promised to another. Still, he began writing and singing out poems for her that expressed his longing and adoration. The poems were so touching that many in Shiraz came to know of them, and they were sung to other’s sweethearts. Out of desperation to win her, Hafiz undertook a forty-night vigil at the tomb of a famous saint, for legend had it that anyone who could accomplish this feat would win their heart’s desire. Indeed, after a Herculean effort, upon completion of the fortieth night of vigil it is said the archangel Gabriel appeared before hafiz and asked him what he desired. Gazing upon the radiant beauty of Gods angel, Hafiz forgot his human love, and the thought rushed into his mind:” What must God’s beauty be like—my soul needs to see that, I need to see God.” Gabriel then revealed to him the whereabouts of a spiritual teacher …” (Love Poems from God, Daniel James Ladinsky, page 151)

Hafiz gave us some of the worlds most beautiful sacred love poetry.

THE CHRIST’S BREATH

I am

a hole in a flute

that the Christ’s ’ breath moves through—

listen to this music.

Or this passionate love poem to God:

POSITIONS OF LOVE

There are so many positions of love:

Each curve on a

branch,

the thousand ways your eyes can hold us,

the infinite shapes each mind

can draw,

the spring orchestra of scents and sounds wafting through the air,

the currents of light combusting like

passionate

lips,

the revolution of the universe’s skirt, whose folds

contain other worlds,

our every sigh that falls against

His inconceivably close,

omnipresent,

divine

body.

IF GOD INVITED YOU TO A PARTY

If God

Invited you to a party

and said,

“Everyone in the ballroom tonight will

be my special guest,”

how would you then treat them when you arrived?

Indeed, indeed!

And hafiz knows that there is no one in

this world who is not standing upon

His jeweled dance

floor.

This is a poem about the romantic love of a lover that touches me entirely:

THE WOMAN I LOVE

Because the Woman I love lies inside of you,

I lean as close to your body with my words as I can—

and I think of you al the time,

dear pilgrim.

Because the One I love goes with you wherever you go,

Hafiz will always be

near.

If you sat before me, wayfarer, with your aura bright from

your many charms,

my lips could resist rushing to you, but my eyes, my eyes

can no longer hide the wondrous fact of who

you really are.

The Beautiful One whom I adore

has pitched His royal tent inside of you,

so I will always lean my heart

As close to our soul

as I can.

St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380, Italian), began loving God at an early age.

“When Catherine was seven years old her longing to wed god became so intense she left home alone to find a cave in the forest of Leccto where a known settlements of hermits was said to live … During the night, whilein prayer, Catherine felt a great uneasiness come over her body, and her limbs became numb. Feeling a little frightened, suddenly she heard a divine voice say, ‘How brave you are my child, but let our wedding be later.’ The next thing Catharine knew she was at home in her own bed, no one had missed her, and she was absolutely sure that what had happened was not a dream. The next day she took her brother to the cave and asked him to go inside and see if anything was there. He returned, carrying two sticks Catherine had bound together into a little cross with part of the hem torn from her dress and also the uneaten loaf of bread … [she had brought]. On seeing these, Catherine fell upon her knee with deep thanks and happiness and a faith in God.”

CONSUMED IN GRACE

I first saw God when I was a child, six years of age.

the cheeks of the sun were pale before Him,

and the earth acted as a shy

girl, like me.

Divine light entered my heart from His love

that did never fully wane,

though indeed, dear, I can understand how a person’s

faith can at times flicker,

for what is the mind to do

with something that becomes the mind’s ruin:

a God that consumes us

in His grace.

I have seen what you want;

it is there,

a Beloved of infinite

tenderness.

Catherine and many love poets and mystics have used dancing as a metaphor for their relationship with God, just like we used dancing as a metaphor for a love relationship of give and take, of being a leader and a follower and moving in harmony in a loving partnership recently in our installation worship service.

I WON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER

“I won’t take no for an answer,”

God began to say

to me

When He opened his arms each night

wanting us to

dance.

She experiences God love’s as child and later as a kind of romantic love, and she often wrote of her love for God as a passionate love, like a sexual love between a bride and a bridegroom:

HIS LIPS UPON THE VEIL

He has never left you.

It is just

that your soul is so vast

that just like

the earth in its innocence,

it may think,

“I do not feel my lover’s warmth

against my face right

now.”

But look, dear,

is not the sun reaching down its arms

and always holding a continent

in its light?

God cannot leave us.

It is just that our soul is so vast,

we do not always feel His lips

upon the

veil.

Here is a relationship booster from the poet Rumi for everyone who has been married for so many years you can’t think of anything special to give your spouse or partner. It’s guaranteed to work: Every time your spouse or lover says something stupid, make your eyes light up as if you just heard something brilliant.

And Kabir (1440-1518, Indian) has the cherry to add to last Sunday’s reflection on our reptilian anger. He wrote a poem stating that greatest of love of God is the spiritual practice we all need to develop in controlling our anger:

VISITING HOLY SHRINES

If you circumambulated

every holy shrine

in the world

ten times,

it would not get you to heaven

as quick

as controlling

your anger.

Catherine of Sienna wrote this poem about the unconditional love God has for all of us:

YOUR HAIR, YOUR FACE

What is it

you want to change?

Your hair, your face, your body?

Why?

For God is

in love with all those things

and he might weep

when they are gone.

If you feel lonely on Valentine’s Day, remember what Mary Oliver, a 20th-century American poet, says: we all belong to God’s body of love. She writes, “no matter lonely [you are], the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

You belong here in this church, this house – or body – of God, and very one of you has a place on Valentine’s Day in the family of things.

Offered for our pleasure this morning by Barbara Crandall:

WILD GEESE

by Mary Oliver


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

We don’t really have to wait for Valentine’s Day or a birthday to send a love letter or take a few moments to contemplate the passionate love you have for life, another way of saying your love of God. In the business of our lives we all need to offer ourselves an invitation to take the time to be love poets.

I have a birthday card here for Ruth Switzer, who is going to be 102 years old on February 25th. Birthday cards can be like Valentine cards or like love letters – given and received any day of the year. I plan to deliver this birthday card to Ruth on February 25th, and I hope to get signatures and love messages from 102 people who wish her a Happy Birthday. We are so lucky to have the inspiration of Ruth Switzer in our community. She has born before women had the right to vote in this country. We are lucky to have her grace, wisdom, her prayers, and loving presence. We need to thank her for her service to our church and to God’s creation and for being an inspiration for all of us to take good care of ourselves. She is not just going to be 102 years old, for she will be 102 and is still alert, loving, concerned for others, steadfast in her care for others, appreciative and joyful in being a part of the world of seasons, birds, flowers and nature. Ruth is still active in her prayer life and has a solid foundation that her devotion and love and appreciation for this mystery we call God has lived on for 100-plus years.

THE SANCTUARY

by Catherine of Sienna

It could be said that God’s foot is so vast

that this entire earth is but a

field on His

toe.

And all the forests in this world

came from the same root of

just a single hair

of His.

What then is not a sanctuary?

Where then can I not kneel

and pray at a shrine

made holy by His

presence?

Rumi (1207-1273) was one of the greatest poets ever born in Persia, in what is now Afghanistan. He wrote about how we can use everything in our lives to become more devoted to our love of God.

PAY HOMAGE

If God said,

“Rumi, pay homage to everything

that has helped you enter my arms,”

there would not be one experience of my life,

not one thought, not one feeling,

not one act, I would not bow to.

So I invite all of us to be like Ruth Switzer and to use every moment of our lives to pay homage and to bow to be more appreciative of God’s love and creation and our part in it. May we fall in love en masse as a church community, as we see the God within one another.

Phila love, or brother-sister love, and agape love – Divine love – can be deeper and more satisfying than erotic, romantic love. May we remember in our daily lives to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds – to be like the young stag in Song of Solomon:

The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.


‘Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
11for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
12The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come …

Let us sing together in this body of God, our church, filled with the phila love of brothers and sisters and sing our closing hymn of our agape love of God.

Amen