God Made Sex and called it Good Dave Rogalsky Sept 2 2018
Scriptures: Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Psalm 45:1-2, 6-11; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 17-23; Genesis 1:26-31
Goal: To look at what God created, and how it can be good.
Sex. Is it OK to talk about sex in church? I hope it is because I’m planning to do it this Sunday. We read from Genesis, but the passage that sparked this sermon is the one from the Song of Solomon. Here it is:
The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice.
10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
11 for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth its figs,
And the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance. (Song of Solomon 2:8-13)
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
These are the words of a lover remembering her beloved. Around it are descriptions of what the lovers do. Sure, some of it is figurative rather than literal, but it’s about sex. This Sunday we will explore God the Creator who made sex and called it good.
Genesis tells us two separate creation stories. In the first, in an extended poem, the writers use the form of a week of creating. At the beginning of the week the “2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) Day by day God sets the void and darkness in order – the day and night are separated and put in place; the land and water and sky are separated and each part put in its place; different kinds of creatures – birds, fish, insects, reptiles and mammals - are made, each in their own kind. Finally God says:
"Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
27 So God created humankind in God’s own image, in the image of God created God them; male and female created God them.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." Genesis 1:26-28
Human beings are created in the same way as the other creatures. The only differences between human beings and the creatures are that they are created in God’s own image, and they are created to “have dominion” over the other creatures. Being in God’s image means being able to be in relationship, to profoundly know the self and the other. Of course recent scientific studies are showing that human beings are not alone in being able to do this. Some other animals can recognize themselves in a mirror – they comprehend self and other. While human beings are still the most adept at this, they are not unique. Perhaps God’s image or likeness is found throughout the creation.
Dominion is to rule over. The writers of the Genesis stories would see that human beings could dominate, could rule over. They many have seen this as also part of being in God’s image. God was the ultimate being and ruled over all things. Being in God’s image might have meant sharing that ability and responsibility.
What is really important to note here is that human beings are part of the creation. They are not separate from it or over it. They are, as the Romans said, “primus inter pares,” the greatest among equals. They are encouraged to “be fruitful and multiply.” They do this just like the animals to whom they are most alike, the mammals. Human beings are fruitful and multiply through relations between men and women that result in pregnancies and live births. God made sex, and called it, not only good, but very good.
In the second creation story God creates Adam out of the earth itself. It would have been obvious to the writers that human beings, like all living things, were made of earth. When anything died it became earth again. Adam literally means the earth being. But Adam is alone. The animals are not fit companions to keep Adam from being lonely. So God takes part of the Adam and makes a woman. What is left is a man. The story tells us:
23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:23-25)
God made two beings out of one. With this deep connection the two become one again when they become husband and wife. This story was told in a time when there was a lack of understanding about homosexual relationships and how two people of the same gender could complete each other. But the concept holds – human beings connect deeply in sexual relationships that are part of the larger relationship between partners dedicated to each other in emotions, shared responsibilities, economics, and the potential of raising of families. God had created sex and it was good. The couple were naked and were not ashamed of what they saw, or what they revealed. It was a good thing.
This brings us to the passage I read before from the Song of Solomon. We don’t know if Solomon actually wrote it or not. It seems to be a collection of poems about love, including some fairly graphic descriptions of both a man and a woman admiring each other’s bodies, and pleasuring each other. Some think that it is poems written for the marriage of the king. There is an ancient tradition among Jews to have the consummation of a marriage as part of the festivities. The couple is secluded in a tent on the grounds. As they enter the tent either “wedding jesters”1, or friends and family, tell romantic and erotic poems to encourage them in this part of the marriage. In the book Schindler’s Ark¸ and the movie based on it, Schindler’s List, there is a scene of a wedding in the Plaszow Concentration camp in Poland. 2 A man sneaks from the men’s part of the camp to the women’s where he and his beloved are married. They climb into the top bunk which is shrouded with blankets. Then Thomas Keneally writes:
In darkness Josef and Rebecca climbed to it, and all around them the earthy jokes were running. At weddings in Poland there was always a period of truce when profane love was given its chance to speak. If the wedding guests didn’t wish to voice the traditional double entendres themselves, they could bring in a professional wedding jester. Women who might in the Twenties and Thirties have sat up at weddings making disapproving faces at the risqué hired jester and the belly-laughing men, only now and then permitting themselves, as mature women, to be overcome with amusement, stepped tonight into the place of all the absent and dead wedding jesters of southern Poland.3
So important was the tradition of consummating the marriage with the jests and poems that these women overcame their shyness and internal disapproval and encouraged the couple in their consummation.
Some think that the poems were not reserved for the king but were for anyone. Others think that this is God’s way of telling us that sexual love is good. Through the church’s history these poems have been most often dealt with by either calling them dirty, or by ‘spiritualizing’ them, talking about the relationship between God and humans.
So what about “sex is dirty?” I think that in its place sex is beautiful and ‘clean.’ The New Testament tells us that “17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) And Jesus says that it is not what is outside a person that makes one unclean but rather the thoughts of the mind and the desires of the heart. (See Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 17-23) Sexual relations in their right place are good.
And while some have experienced their relationship with God as with a lover, these poems are also about very human relationships.
This is of course just a starting place for conversation.