We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister, on the day when she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar. I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who brings peace. Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he entrusted the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver. My vineyard, my very own, is for myself; you, O Solomon, may have the thousand, and the keepers of the fruit two hundred! O you who dwell in the gardens, my companions are listening for your voice; let me hear it. Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of spices!
An avalanche of curious imagery draws the Song of Songs to a close. Throughout, we have read the embraces of the woman and her lovers in human terms, even as their lovemaking has drawn on architectural metaphors. But here, in these last verses, the little sister being dressed by the singers reads as though a metaphor of a city, adorned as though a bride for her husband (to borrow from Revelation 21.2). Is this Jerusalem, the city where the human worship of God is encouraged? And if the temple of God is now among humanity can we imagine ourselves as this little sister, the one whose heart is the place where God is worshipped, preparing her/our face and her/our garments for this, the holiest of tasks.
Is the final singer, who addresses him/herself to Solomon, God – uninterested in the vineyard that can be traded for money? The images are not unlike the invitation of God in Isaiah 55, who invites us to the waters, to buy the bread that can’t be bought with money, pours out the wine without cost. The shifting lens by which the Song of Songs can be read alongside, and read into, every passionate action of God towards us is briefly in view – these poems have inspired countless sermons, poems, artworks, and sleepless nights because they offer the assurance of hope that God loves you. Earthy, body-bound you. Utterly.
Listen to these final verses as God’s invitation to you: God and his companions are listening for your voice. Will you speak? And will the words on your lips be a love song to beloved God, or a song of resistance to human corruption, or is that just one song shifting between its verse, and chorus?
Make haste, beloved one, God is waiting on you.
As you prepare to pray, reflect on this lyric, which speaks of the Holy Spirit*: She comes with sister’s carefulness strong to support and bind. Her voice will speak for justice’s sake and peace is in her mind. Holy Spirit, stir my heart again today. May its beat constantly remind me of my passion for you, and your passion for this world and everyone in it. Keep me restless to join with you, my beloved, working for your kingdom. Amen.
* She Comes, by Kathy Galloway.
The Rev’d Dr ‘frin Lewis-Smith is a Healthcare Chaplain and a member of The Church at the Centre, Bolton