Song of Solomon 3: 1-4. The song of Solomon is a story about Passion and devotion and its carnality has perplexed some more pious readers for ever. But there has never been a time when it hasn't been part of the canon. Sexual desire is a God given gift, and the desire expressed between the man and woman in the text is a representation of the close physical and spiritual attachment and devotion between God and his people
2 Corinthians 5: 14-17. "Love" in the Bible and especially the New Testament is not a pink or fluffy or soppy thing. Love is best characterised as devoted service that extends to the end of the age. The ultimate image of love for the Christian is the beaten and bloodied body of a man dying in agony on the cross for the benefit of all people everywhere should they accept it.
John 20: 1-2, 11-18. The absolutely beautiful story from that first Easter Sunday when Mary Magdalene met the Risen Jesus in the garden. Mary went to tell the disciples "I have seen the Lord" and attracted the title "the Apostle to the apostles"
Love, passion and devotion are the watchwords for the feast of Mary Magdalene and each of the selected readings for today bring out a different aspect of those things .
Love, passion and devotion are not words you’d immediately associate with a service in the church of England perhaps but surely, at some level, that is why we are all here.
We celebrate and enjoy the passion and devotion of all those young musicians who have delighted us this week in the music festival ; and music is a gift from God so surely it is right that we should show at least the same passion and devotion to the giver of the gift of music
It is natural that we all have a passionate love and devotion to God in Christ, or else I would have to ask “why are we all here?” and why do we make the effort week by week to demonstrate that love by attending a worship service when there are so many other things we could be doing instead.
Paul starts this extract from 2 Corinthians today “The love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all”
And that is the central point. Our love for Him is merely a reflection of the Love he has shown to us.
And “Love” in the Bible is not a soft flimsy thing but awe-inspiring, death defying service one to another.
The supreme image of Love for Christians, is a man, beaten, humiliated and bloody, dying by drowning in his own blood on the cross.
And he did that for the benefit of all of us. That is Love.
Knowing that, even if any one of us were the last person on earth, he would still have done that for us makes our relationship with Jesus intensely personal.
The gospel story of Mary Magdalene, going to the tomb, finding it empty, running to tell the disciples, and eventually encountering Jesus in the garden is a beautiful story that speaks of the personal connection between Jesus and his followers.
A wise old monk at Mirfield once wrote;
The truth, only has the power of truth, once it becomes true for you”
What he is describing there is the difference between religious head knowledge and heart knowledge.
It is when religious knowledge, which holds religion outside of oneself, makes that journey to the heart and soul of a person and it becomes personal, that religious knowledge turns into faith; which in Christian terms is a living relationship with Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It has often been said that the most difficult journey our Christian pilgrimage makes is also the shortest. That journey from our heads to our hearts.
The climax of the story has Mary meeting Jesus in the garden but she doesn’t recognise him and supposes him to be the gardener and asks him where he has taken Jesus’ body.
The real point of contact is made when Mary hears her name on the lips of Jesus, which would have been said with such love and emotion in his voice.
“Mary” and on hearing her voice she immediately knows exactly who she is standing with and talking to.
At its heart, Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus and it becomes personal when we intuitively hear our names on the lips of Jesus.
“Martin”, “Louise”, “Chris”, “John” “Betty”. When you hear your name on the lips of Jesus, it becomes personal.
Jesus is certainly Lord and saviour and teacher. But he is also friend and brother and he has promised to be with all of us until the end of time.
All sacraments are points of meeting.
When you come to share in Communion today I invite you to think of Jesus speaking your name and inviting you to meet with him at the altar rail.
Also in our service today we have the baptism of Freya Catherine Beaumont.
In that sacrament Freya is baptised into Christ. God in Christ says to her in the power of the Holy Spirit……Freya I will meet you there.