Jan. 10 lesson: The Most Beautiful Bride

1/4/2016

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The Most Beautiful Bride

Winter Quarter: Sacred Gifts and Holy Gatherings
Unit 2: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Sunday school lesson for the week of January 10, 2016
By Helen & Rev. Sam Rogers

Lesson scripture: Song of Solomon 6: 4-12
Background Scripture: Song of Solomon; John 10: 1-11


A disclaimer must be stated at the beginning of this lesson: we are not ignorant of the joys and ecstasies of romantic, physical love. However, this lesson is difficult for us to write simply because it focuses upon personal, intimate matters! 

The inclusion of Solomon’s Song of Songs has always been difficult for the Church to explain. Why is this book in the Bible? One answer has been a metaphorical use of the bride/woman as the Church in relation to Christ. Even NIV, a more conservative translation, negates the metaphorical approach and, also, what is called, a typological understanding of a loving and faithful relationship between God and His people. NIV concludes: “The book may be taken as a true but ideal and didactic love story that portrays all that is good and noble in love and marriage.”

The format of the book is a series of love songs between the lover (man) and the beloved (woman), with occasional insertions from others (friends). The particular passage for study is the powerful poetic descriptions of the physical attributes of the woman by the man. The descriptions range from astronomical, to geographical, and to dimensions of nature of the beloved’s beauty. Most of us husbands don’t have the romantic power of words or wisdom of a Solomon to make our wives know how beautiful they are to us. Maybe one of the meanings of this lesson is to encourage us to see again, through the eyes of love, the inner and outer beauty of our beloved!

, the Song of Solomon is the beautiful and sensual description of young love. Recently, our good friend Jim Jackson, a United Methodist minister (retired) in Texas, wrote: I taught my children not to marry until they had been ‘in love’ at least five times! Jim’s point is that we learn something important about love in each relationship. Being ‘in love’ is one of life’s most precious and powerful gifts of the Creator God. Age is not the only qualifying factor in such wonderful and powerful love. We are in our 59th year of marriage, and the joy and wonder of our love continues day by day. Of course, life is different today than when we were married in our twenties, but the compensations of age and experience still make the relationship strong and meaningful. Try to remember how it was when you were younger – and give thanks!

When Sam’s father died, his love letters to Sam’s mother, written during WWII from Europe, were collected and copied by our daughter. She warned us about the content of those letters! Sam was just happy to know the power of the love that conceived him. Sam taught a course in Christian Enrichment Schools entitled “Romance in Christian Marriage.” One of the resource books was written by Reuel Howe. One of the words of wisdom he shared was “let your children see mom and dad showing love to each other.” 

In commenting on the Song of Solomon, no less a theologian than Karl Barth wrote: “The book is Eros without shame.” In the beginning, when God created male and female, God called it ‘good!’ How sad that we have corrupted what God called good, and, like so much of creation, polluted it! 

The Hebrew Bible groups Song of Solomon with Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as Wisdom Literature. The wisdom of these love songs is love and sex are an integral part of God’s plan for human beings and are one essential element to the fulfillment of God’s purposes for life on the earth. In John 10:10 Jesus says “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.” (NIV) Jesus gives to His disciples the image of the Good Shepherd as the One who gives this abundant life. 

We hope a jump to a passage in Ephesians is not a disruptive one! In Ephesians Paul writes how Christians are to live together. He begins chapter 5 with the injunction “Be imitators of God!” Later in verse 22 he encourages his readers to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is the context for a passage, dismissed by many, but pregnant with meaning. We refer, of course, to “wives submit to your husband…” Too many persons stop there without reading further. In verse, 25 Paul speaks to the husbands in these powerful words: 

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself…

These words are reminiscent of Jesus summary of the Law about loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. A healthy love of self allows us to expand the circle of love to include many others, and, for Paul, especially our spouse! To love as Christ loved is to give our lives for the beloved. Every act and word of every day is to be Christ-like, totally focused on the beloved. When you recite John 3:16, try modifying the words to say (for example!!): Sam so loved Helen that he gave himself for her that she might have life!

With such love spoken and lived, a wife will willingly submit to her husband! Remember however, Paul began this passage with “submit to one another …” The essence of the Christian life is submission empowered by Christ. Jesus said, “Anyone who would be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” One final word: For us John 3:16 is the greatest love song ever written!

Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers are a retired clergy couple. They can be reached at sgr3@cox.net