Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sermon for 23rd October 2011

The Revd. J. Michael Povey at All Angels by the Sea, Longboat Key, Florida.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Tony is madly in love.  He writes to his new girl friend Melissa.

“My darling, I would climb towering mountains for you.  I would ford raging rivers for you.  I would cross blazing deserts for you.  With all my heart, Tony”.

P.S.  “I’ll see you on Friday if it’s not raining”.

That’s not much of a love letter.

Does anyone write love letters nowadays?  

In our most recent American  history some of the tenderest letters were exchanged between soldiers, sailors and airmen serving in World War II, and their wives, fiancés and girl-friends back home.
In the midst of the brutality of war strong men would pen some of the most affectionate and romantic letters.  In turn, the women on the home front would respond with words expressive of the deepest and fondest love.

In an earlier era, say in the founding days of our republic, parents would write gorgeous love letters to their children (with the noticeable exception of Abigail Adams!), and children were unabashed and unrestrained in the love of which they wrote in their replies.

And before that time, the too often maligned Puritans wrote of the bliss of their married love. Here for instance is John Winthrop writing to his wife Margaret in 1637 (see note (1) below)

My sweet Wife, -- I prayse God I am in good 
health, peace be to thee & or familye, so I kisse thee, 
& hope shortly to see thee: farewell.
Hasten the sendinge awaye Skarlett, & gatheringe 
the Turnips

My sweet Wife, -- So fitt an occasiō must not 
passe wthout a token to thee. I prayse God I am 
well: the Lo: blesse thee & all ors, so I kisse thee the 
second tyme, farewell.

And there is this poem from Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)  to her husband.
To My Dear and Loving Husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.  (Note 2)

We read a bit from a love letter in today’s Epistle. Here is St. Paul, not the crusty Paul of our imagination, but the tender Paul writing to his beloved children, the first century Christians in Thessalonica.

“But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us”. ( 1 Thess 2:7b,8)

That’s exactly how many pastors and rectors feel about the members of their congregations. We would put it the same way as Paul did: “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us”.

Long before the first century the scriptures of the Hebrew people included what is a quite remarkable and erotic poem.  That poem is also part of our scriptures, we call it  “The Song of Solomon”

Song of Solomon 2:10-13; 8:6-7

My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one,
   and come away; 
for now the winter is past,
   the rain is over and gone. 
The flowers appear on the earth;
   the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
   is heard in our land. 
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
   and the vines are in blossom;
   they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
   and come away.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
   as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
   passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
   a raging flame. 
Many waters cannot quench love,
   neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
   all the wealth of one’s house,
   it would be utterly scorned.

Who needs a love letter from you?   Your spouse of many years? A favourite aunt?  A darling grandchild?  Your in-laws?  A friend from fifty years ago?

Write it this afternoon.

Note (!)
New York
Note (2) Taken from the internet source “The Poetry Foundation”

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