Sermon August 29, 2021 by Rev. David Hodgson

A Summer Love Story

“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”

Song of Solomon 3:3

If you like to read romantic novels, you’re probably already acquainted with the Song of Solomon.  After all, a man with thirteen wives must have had some romantic charm!  But in the passage before us Solomon discovers that the gift of a young woman’s heart ~ cannot be bought with his great wealth, or controlled by his great power, or even outsmarted by his great wisdom ~ but that it can only be freely given in love!

As the passage unfolds we are introduced to a young maiden asleep on her bed, dreaming of a soulmate.  The young man of her dreams is not one whom she had already met, but one whom her soul somehow remembers.  And so vivid was that experience of a soulmate waiting to be found that when she woke up she ran through the city looking for him.

She ran through the market as merchants were setting up shop and called out with a spirit of adventure, “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”  Down the narrow cobblestone streets where neighbors gathered in doorways for early morning conversations, “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”  On to the guards at the city gates, “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”

Out along pathways to meadows, and beyond to green pastures and still waters …and there she found him ~ the one of whom she had dreamed!   He was a ruddy sheepherder whose manhood was in his earthiness, and yet whose smile in her eyes reflected the splendor of heaven.  He was everything she ever dreamed he would be.  But…. (always a complicating incident!)

But she was lovely and beautiful.  Springtime was in her smile and she moved with grace, and unfortunately she had also caught the wandering eye of the king.  Solomon had claimed her for his harem.  But true love would prove to be more to be desired that Solomon in all his glory.  And when he realized that he could not compete with true love ~ with a heart freely given ~ he set her free!

I call it A Summer Love Story ~ and it is a love story for summer-time ~ but it is so much more!  For as it turns out, God loves romantic stories too!  And when God heard the sound of her young, hopeful voice calling:  Have you seen him whom my soul loves? somewhere in the heart of God the longing to be loved was awakened and God declared:  I’d like to be searched for, and loved that way!

So God recorded the sound of her voice and the excitement of her quest and let it echo throughout the sacred text.  Listen carefully and you can hear the echo in Abraham’s search for God, as he lived by faith from one divine experience to another ~ Have you seen him whom my soul loves?

Draw near to the wilderness wandering of Moses and the liberated slaves, searching for God on their way to a promised land, and you will hear the echo: Have you seen him whom my soul loves?

The prophets as they challenged the powerful for their godless leadership, and the echo resounds in the canyons of a nation that had lost its way: Have you seen him whom my soul loves?

Turn the page to the New Testament and the followers of Jesus not only hear the echo but respond with the sound of Gospel Gladness:  Yes!  At last!  We have found the One whom the soul loves!  The Risen and Living Lord is the Soulmate for whom our spirits long?

And that’s how a young maiden’s summer love story inspired the greatest love story ever told ~ the story of our search for God, and how we find the Divine in the Son of the Living God.

I believe that every soul enters this world with latent memory of God ~ without words to define it, or images to guide it ~ but with the spiritual memory of what it was like to be with God!  And I believe that’s why we spend our lives searching for God, or feeling lonely without a relationship with God, …until our restless souls find their rest in the personality of God that we find in the Spirit of Christ.

We just finished a series of devotionals I prepared on the heart, and my favorite was the one featuring a little cartoon of a child holding up a heart to God and saying, “It’s not much, but it’s all I have!”  And from somewhere above and beyond comes the reply, “That’s all I’ve ever wanted!”  Even in a cute cartoon, I can hear the echo:  Have you seen him whom my soul loves?

The central theme of the Bible is the revelation that God wants to be in a personal, voluntary relationship with us ~ not only because it provides the love affair that gives us life ~ but also because it is the love affair that brightens the very heart of God!

I thank God for putting this love story in the Bible because in it we can see how our longing for God is a  spiritual searching for a soulmate.  And God uses the story, I think, to introduce us to our Ruddy Shepherd, the One who was Manger Born, as the love affair God always imagined it to be, for you and for me.

But in reality ~ when we’re not reading love stories, but living them ~ we experience God as soulmate most often when we are completely unaware of it.  In Jesus words: When you do it to one of the least of these, you do it unto me.

That may not be as romantic as we’d like it to be.  But treating the homeless with dignity, and feeding the hungry with humility, and visiting the imprisoned with compassion, and welcoming the marginalized into the fullness of community life is to touch and be transformed by the One for whom the soul longs.

I want to thank our men’s chorus for their anthem, He Touched Me, because it celebrates the many ways in which the soul, in search of a soulmate is often touched the Lord.

There is a poem written by Myra Brooks Welch titled The Old Violin, also subtitled The Touch of the Master’s Hand.  It tells the story of an auctioneer who held up a dusty old violin and asked for the bidding to start:  One dollar, two dollars, three…  It was almost gone for three dollars when a bearded old man stood up in the back of the room, came forward, blew off the dust from the old violin, tightened the strings, tucked it under his chin and began to play.

They say it sounded like the music of angel song.  The old man handed the old violin back to the auctioneer who asked once more, What am I offered for this old violin?  One thousand, two thousand, three thousand… sold!  And some in the crowd wondered aloud how the value of the violin could change.  The answer?  The change was wrought by the touch of the Master’s Hand.

So it is that when we shelter the homeless and feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted and visit the imprisoned in His name, by some ineffable mystery the soul, as it responds to the spiritual kinship of others, is also touched and transformed by the touch of the Master’s Hand.

We come into this world with one spiritual sensation ~ the need to search for God until we find him, and to live as soulmates ‘til the end of time.  And then, …then,  to live happily ever after!

Rev. David Hodgson