The three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary contains only one reading from the Song of Solomon, and we will hear it this Sunday. This book is a highly evocative poem, a celebration of the joys of living and loving. It employs the vivid images of great nature painting, the lyric notes of music, and the varied voices of drama. Take a few moments this weekend or this week to read your way through this part of the Bible like no other. It should bring joy to your heart and make you smile.
The epistle lesson this week comes from the first chapter of James. It begins, "Every generous act of giving, every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." Our response to God's enormous gift-giving should be to live in that spirit of generosity. For James, that means being generous with our attention and our compassion-"slow to speak, slow to anger." Above all, we are to be "doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves."
Jesus explains the importance of cultivating this loving way of being in our Gospel lesson from Mark. Responding to the Pharisees' complaints that his followers do not follow the prescriptions of the purity code, Jesus calls on his listeners to understand that there is nothing in creation that is unclean, as everything comes from God. Rather, "it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come." Our selfishness, fear, frustration, and violence are the sources of evil in the world. Jesus calls us to walk in love, to work for peace, to shun anger and cruelty, and to live in hope for God's making all things new.