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Learning to kiss with your eyes closed

Song of Solomon 2:8-17

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

April 19, 2015

Year B (Not lectionary)

On Thursday old friends passed through town and we had lunch together. Bill grew up a
“PK,” a preacher’s kid, and so he knew the drill of ministry and he asked, “So what’s the sermon about on Sunday?” And I said, a friend from Armstrong, Kelly Grittner sent me this piece it begins like this:

“Breaking the ends off green beans,
with your grandmother is a charming memory
unless you did it for an entire summer
while your friends were at the pool
learning how to kiss with their eyes closed.”

He laughed and replied, “When I was about thirteen years old I was at the pool hanging on to the edge watching the girls from my class go by when one of them dropped into the water beside me and said,

“Want to go under water and kiss?”

I replied,
“Sure, lets go!” But she swam away horrified that I would be so eager to kiss her.

My granddaughter, Katie who is 19, says to me, tell me about your first kiss and so we have long conversations about what that was like, beside a prairie watering hole, in the hot sun on a brilliant summer day. Learning how to kiss with our eyes closed.

“Breaking the ends off green beans
with your grandmother is a charming memory
unless you did it for an entire summer
while your friends were at the public pool
learning how to kiss with their eyes closed.”

Song of Songs tells a perfect poetic love story. Some scholars believe the Song of Songs was written by a woman since the woman speaks more often than the man, and because it seems to offer a woman’s perspective. In any case poets like prophets, rely on metaphors because they are frequently trying to talk about the most elusive of human experiences – peace, hope, joy, community, death, faith, and so on. The poet of the Song of Songs finds herself having to rely on metaphors even more in her attempt to describe the most elusive of all human experiences: love. The language is often as bewitching as the imagery, alternating between ambiguity and explicitness, reality and fantasy, the literal and the metaphorical. It insists that the reader experience in reading what the lovers experience in their romance: the elusive yet instinctive, the knowing yet not knowing nature of passion. Love dictates its own elusive meaning.

Because love defies easy definition, the poet does not try to explain this love story that they are experiencing. Instead the two lovers describe love, and their vision of each other in poetic images like - fruits, flowers, animals, images that capture how they experience love within themselves.

This morning, the Gospel of Mark invites us to experience life from within – in the beginning the story is about purification rituals, but in the end it is about diversification and cultural change. Mark is talking about the heart, and how the heart takes the lead in allowing the inner self to have knowledge. The heart, if we allow it to go its way, will write erotic love poetry like the Song of Songs.

Where do we usually live out our lives? Are we in touch with our heart’s desire, and with pen in hand are we writing love poetry? Are we down beside the pool with our eyes shut? Waiting?

Sometimes we get to the pool but not as often as we might want to. Instead we go to work because we have to, we care for our families, we cook and keep house and if we are really lucky, we do those things believing we are at the pool. It’s when we never feel like we are at the pool that we are in trouble. It’s when we have broken too many ends off too many beans, that we need to consider what it is we are doing with our lives.

I wonder if the church has sat on the porch for too long and for too long we have been breaking the ends off green beans. What would it mean for the church to be at the pool? Learning to kiss with their eyes closed.

I believe the church has become fearful, fearful maybe that it won’t be here when we need it. In that fearfulness we have become defensive. Like love poetry, the issues are difficult to define. We struggle to find ways to write the love story but the words are stuck in our throats. We have spent a long time counting beans when we might have been establishing strong intimate relationships with one another.

What if we have time to write another love story, what if there is time to go to the pool? What will we write? Writing love poetry will require a letting go of the past. It will be something like deciding how deep you can go down at the pool.
How long can you hold your breath? Will you go in at the deep end, or maybe just wade around in the shallow end? I think maybe we should try for the deep end and see how long we can keep our eyes shut kissing our future into being.

When you recall those days at the swimming hole, and the swimming pool, days of first love, first kisses, days of wonder, what would it be like to live that now?

In the church what would that be like? It would likely be a bit like Mark’s Gospel. There would be much discussion; there would likely be plenty of debate. Remember, the people didn’t necessarily agree with the change Jesus was attempting to create. It was a letting go of old rules, it was a time to consider making a new path. We would have to decide what to keep and what to let go. How do others reach out to their community?

Pat Krug, a long time potter and United Church member from Balcarres, Sk. runs her pottery business from the farm where they once lived. They live in town now but Pat still has her pottery shop and on the door to her shop is a sign that says,
“If no one is home, take what you need and leave your cheque or money in the drawer.” How do we entertain that level of trust in our community? How will our rules get made?

We need the work of our hands and head – breaking the ends off the green beans. We also need the work of the heart - kissing lessons at the pool.

How do you distinguish between the work of the head versus the work of the heart?

Life in all its fullness…green beans on the porch with grandma, or eyes closed at the swimming pool with friends.
How does the inner Spirit/God ask us to live?

James Hillman, writes that the word spirit is connected to the heart, the heart is the soul and it creates that longing within that sends us to the pool. We don’t want to be spectators of the heart but activists of the heart. However, Hillman says that the soul is always in-between times. It exists between the head and the heart, so between breaking the ends off beans and being at the pool.

The soul, the heart is intimate and infinite, perhaps existing forever. I read that we need the poem, The Song of Songs, because it helps us to see what we can’t see very easily on our own. Very often we only see what we want to see, the poetic partner offers us valuable insight that would remain unknown to us without that voice. The poetic voice, the metaphor for what is possible, it is what gives us room to paint the big picture and to use our imagination.

What do we imagine possible on the way to the pool?

My heart wants goodness to prevail on the planet. I want the poor to be cared for and those living on the margins to move to the centre, I want to save the planet for future generations. I want my family to be involved in spiritual matters of the heart. I want my children to find something that will sustain them spiritually. They’ve made it clear that they are not going to be involved in institutional religion so what could we imagine for them? It will be the work of the heart to find the answer.

We will have to search for those answers as will many people in the future. What is our role in that you might ask? I think we have to get on our bikes and go to the pool and learn how to kiss with our eyes closed.

And this week I invite you to write love poetry. Try writing two love poems: one to the earth and one to your church.

Sharon Ferguson-Hood