Sunday, August 26, 2018

Song of Solomon 2.8-13: Seasons Change

David Bowie says he can't trace time. But the singer of the Song of Solomon can. The winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers are blooming. Turtledoves are calling to one another. Figs are on the tree (clearly there are no squirrels in this world) and the vines are blooming. It is time to sing. (Song of Solomon 2:8-13)

This reading seems oddly placed by the RCL as it is read in August when Spring is just a memory. Where I live, temperatures have averaged over 90 degrees since June. The birds may be singing, but we don't hear them as easily over the air conditioning.

The singer may be implying that when she and her lover are together, it is almost like Eden - when creation was good and as God intended: when things did not fade or die. In other words, an eternal Spring. But I'm not sure I agree that Spring is the only embodiment of God's vision for creation. Perhaps it's because I am in the autumn of my own life, but I find the changing leaves and the pops of yellow and orange and red in the trees is its own kind of "good."

Like the singer, painters note the changes of season by things that are new or new again: landscape colors, the state of natural elements like trees, the presence or absence of flowers and birds.. Here, Georgia O'Keeffe moves from Autumn (left), then Winter and, finally (right), the winter is past and Sprig has come. Colors change. Branches are covered and then exposed and then covered again.
All Georgia O'Keeffe. (Left) Autumn Trees - The Maple. 1924. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.  Winter Tree III. 1953. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. (Right) Spring. c. 1922. Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College. Poughkeepsie, NY.
Sometimes those changes are wrought by the forces of nature: changing temperatures, blowing winds, unblinking rays of the sun. At other times, though, the changes come from within - which may be why the developers of the RCL pair this text with Mark 7's exploration of inside and outside. It seems that always when Spring comes, there are a few (literal) hangers-on. Just a handful of leaves that are brown and brittle but have refused to let go of the branches on which they grew. They have survived rain and wind, perhaps even snow and ice. Ultimately, though, those brown and brittle leaves mostly fall, pushed from their branches not by external forces but by small, new green leaves that cannot be held back. Those small leaves do what the forces of nature could not. Jesus' statement is true: what is within a person is more powerful that what is outside a person.


For "two turtledoves", see this week's Art&Faith Matters' Facebook page.
For additional thoughts on Mark 7:1-23, click here.

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