So the first round of dancing kicked off this one time I remember
And I don’t know why, but I wasn’t dancing this time round
But my friend Graham Hero was dancing with this girl called Jacqueline Onyx
Now Jacqueline – and I can remember very few other girls in this class, which shows you how much rejection hurts
Was one of the A-Listers in the class, and I had yet to encounter the concept of “Out of my league”
So I thought they were having a nice time
And I thought Jacqueline might be appreciative of my moves over the last 48 bars of the Gay Gordons
So I tapped Graham on the shoulder
And Jacqueline’s expression changed from one of pleasantness to a Jacqueline I had never seen before
She was furious that this boy obviously beneath her and clamped themselves onto her for the next two minutes of her life
And she made this abundantly clear with her furious expression
And I am sure the odd nip and dig and push
My first experience of rejection.
That awful moment of putting yourself out there,
And you have no control over what the other person is going to do
And you discover at an early age
That what the other person might do is charge in the most vulnerable parts of you and do serious damage.
I had a spate of funerals last year when everyone I seemed to be burying or doing a funeral for had met their spouse at the dancing.
All the families that were now before, often in mourning
But clearly families that had good histories,
Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren
All owed their existence to this moment of incredible vulnerability
When a bloke wondered across the floor of the Barras
Every single scrap of his reputation on the line
And uttered the immortal line “Are you dancing?”
And the response, which hangs out the agony, the vulnerability for ten more seconds
“Are you asking?”
“Yeah I’m asking” – so he can’t pretend that he’s not into this
And then the response.
These children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren
Hanging on that moment.
Recently I spoke to a couple who have just started going out after many many years of being friends
And I was in awe of this, because there must have been a moment when one of them must have said to the other, “I no longer want to be just friends”
And one of them has to go out to that vulnerable, naked point
Where a friendship that has had years of investment
Hangs in the balance.
What We Remember
And we remember two moments,
We remember the moment of the “No”- we remember it because it was a moment, when our deepest soul was examined, and someone said they didn’t want it
And a dark voice starts to get louder – you weren’t good enough
And then the moment of the “yes” – the moment when you could have danced a jig.
It’s This Moment
It’s this moment in the reading today.
That moment of extreme vulnerability.
We are into the Second Chapter of a book called Song of Solomon
It’s a book that is the Mills and Boon moment of the Bible
It’s a book with some fairly racy stuff in it later on.
But it’s a book that celebrates romantic love
And it’s important that that book is in there
It’s important that the book’s in there
Because otherwise Romantic love is something which is sordid, a little bit embarrassing, not quite as good as God’s love.
It’s a cheaper, popularised version.
We have kind of God’s love which is parental
It’s has a certain distance
It is sacrificial, it is wise, and will do anything
But if that is the only picture we have of love
Then love will always lack a certain passion.
So Song Of Solomon comes into this.
And says if you want to talk about love, you need to talk about the passion, the joy, the ecstasy of love.
And it has it’s beginnings in this moment.
There are two lovers here in the story
We know by the time that our passage begins, into chapter two,
That the two of them like each other
But neither has fessed up to the other
So there is still considerable doubt going on.
We take up the action in chapter 2 verse 8
“The voice of my beloved”
– This whole series is about a man called David, and the connection you don’t get in the English, is that the Hebrew word for Beloved is David, so she is actually saying here “Look, here comes my David.”
And he comes bounding over the hills
He is bounding like a gazelle – showing off in other words
You don’t have to bound like a gazelle when you travel across a hill
And springing over the hills.
He is keen.
And she likes this
But he takes a risk, because he is not playing it cool
In fact, what is interesting here is that he is brave,
You see to play cool is actually a form of cowardice
It is to say “This doesn’t really matter”
It’s the moment when you say “Are you dancing”
This is braver than that.
It goes to a more vulnerable place.
And then he stops
Do you see that in verse 9
“There he stands behind the wall, behind the windows
Peeping through the lattice”
Because there is a limit to where he can go
If you love you cannot barge in, you have to be invited.
And then you have this speech
“Come away my love – “count the number of times he says to her “Come”, “come on”
The winter is past – how long has he been waiting for the end of winter
And the rain is over and gone – how many times has he wanted to go over, but it was pouring, there were things getting in the way
He has dreamt of this moment
And then he starts talking about the spring
“The flowers are budding in the earth” – you have got to hand it to the boy
This is a lot braver than “Are you dancing”
And there is the poetry, the risk of this
He has to play this just right
Because if you overdo these things, then she will run a mile
Freaked out by the over the top-ness of this
It’s about being making yourself vulnerable, without forcing the other.
I once had a friend, and ex-marine, who had this girl that quite liked him.
They had kind of got together a bit but then things hadn’t worked out
At least that was his conclusion, she was still keen
And she was brave, she decided to come up with a gesture that might win him
The ex-marine, weight pressing bloke
The gesture she came up with was to “buy him a hamster for his birthday”
And it didn’t work – it was like coercion – how do you respond to a hamster.
So the beloved has to be careful here, he can’t go hamster,
But he refuses to be uncommitted.
“The flowers appear on the earth – the earth is telling you this is the time
And the time for singing songs has come
And the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land – turtle dove coo-ing time must have been the romantic sound track in those days.
And he asks
“Let me see your face
“Let me hear your voice”
And this is a moment of such vulnerability
Of waiting, of yearning, of not knowing
Such potential to go either way.
And then a line that doesn’t work so well in translation
“Cath us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards, for our vineyards are in bloom” – I guarantee you that that line was never used in the Barras.
Three possible scenarios
And there are three possible scenarios here.
The first scenario is that the woman does actually come out the house
She comes out the wall, the security of her Dad’s house
And goes off with this beloved, off with David.
But the Bible never says at this point, “And they lived happily after”
Because love, when it is responded to always requires work.
There is a scene later on in chapter 5, with this same couple
And the foxes are not running about the fields any more
And the spring flowers are not erupting from the earth with quite the same virility.
There is a second scene that happens, when this couple have now got together
Which shows that this moment of vulnerability still exists in a relationship.
2 While I slept, my heart was awake.
I dreamed my lover knocked at the door. – So the woman likes to get to bed early, and the Beloved has been up late watching some dodgy documentary on Five
Let me come in, my darling,
my sweetheart, my dove.
My head is wet with dew,
and my hair is damp from the mist.
3 I have already undressed;
why should I get dressed again?
I have washed my feet;
why should I get them dirty again?
One commentator has said the Hebrew here translates to “I have a headache”
Do you see that the vulnerability again, though
He cannot force his way in.
He has to work, he has to learn to come home at a decent time
He has to change, and she too has to work and change
You see the stuff that is easy and flowers, anyone can do that
But the stuff with late night work, that takes real love, and that is where the foundations of relationship are built.
The second scenario is this for the beloved
That she does not come out.
That he makes the great speech and she says no
And two days later he discovers that she said yes to his best mate.
And he can decide that from this point, that he is never going to love again.
“What do you get when you kiss a girl
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
And after you do, she’ll never phone ya
I’ll never fall in love again.”
But this scenario is death.
A friend of mine is currently doing a course on play therapy
And the person teaching the course is a woman who learnt play therapy on food lines in Ethiopia
I was kind of curious about this, because the last thing you need when queuing in a drought stricken country for food for your child, is someone wondering next to you with a glove puppet and a ball of plasticine saying “Do you want me to help you play with your child.”
But they discovered that when mothers in food relief programs played with children
The child was twice as likely to live
And the reason for this is that in an environment where children are likely to die, mother’s keep a distance from their children; they are wary of loving when there is a chance that the child might die. And the play therapy gave these distant mothers the courage to love.
There is still a huge risk, because the mother might love more, and the child might still die, but if she loves more, it has a much better chance to live.
To decide to love again risks further humiliation and rejection
To decide not to love again is death
The final scenario is that the love appears at the door of the house.
And is rejected
But decides to love again.
Love requires wisdom, and it requires that the lover has to think seriously about returning to that house; but also if they do not return, still to love.
There is a story of Jesus turning up at a village in a hostile country called Samaria
And Jesus is rejected by the village
And some of his followers say “master, shall we call down thunder on that village”
And Jesus says “no”
He knows when to walk away
But he does not destroy.
And wisdom sometimes demands that we walk away, but we do not destroy, nor wish destruction on the one we leave.
I know a situation where a spouse has been very damaged by an alcoholic husband, and she has to emotionally leave him, but she will still visit him in hospital.
But sometimes we must keep coming back,
Another place Jerusalem, Jesus says “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. And you were not willing.”
But Jesus, despite the pain of rejection
Despite the pain of asking to dance and the lover saying “no”
Jesus knew what it was like to dance with a riled Jacqueline Orrick
But he comes back
He returns to Jerusalem again, and he is held up before the Jerusalem crowd and first they acclaim him, but when he is bloodied and humiliated, they cry “Crucify”
But Jesus still loves
And when Jesus gives his disciples the job of following him
Where must they begin? In Jerusalem.
And when his people are birthed on Pentecost
Which city is it this happens in? In Jerusalem
Jesus does not give up on love.
Does not grow bitter.
Which league does Jesus belong to?
Is he in the happy club with Graham and Jacqueline
Is he in the A-listers
No, he is amongst the crowd who tasted rejection.
But still he comes back to love.
The scenario of love where we love
And love is spurned
Is, of all the three scenarios, the love of Jesus
And it is the calling of many of you.
Love Of God
And this is how God loves you
God loves you with tenderness
He is at the wall of your heart now,
Saying “Run with me, come and love me”
He says to diffident, power crazed, distracted Church
“Will you love”
He says to a people who have countless times before gone after other lovers
Who have gorged themselves on wine and chocolate
Who have spent thousands on remortgages and wasted time on distractions
And who have neglected family because of long hours at work
And who have spent little time on the God who created them
On the son who saves them
On the Spirit who sustains them
He stands at the wall
As he has come so many times before
“Will you come with me?
Will you love me?”
None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :