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Human Sexuality: The Sensual Christian (Song of Solomon)

By James A. Harnish
Did you hear about the preacher who took up sailing and after just two lessons, told his wife he was going to preach a sermon based on his new hobby. At the last minute he changed his mind and preached on sex. Unfortunately, his wife didn't make it to worship that Sunday and did not realize he had made the change.

Monday she ran into a church member in the grocery store who commented on how much she appreciated the sermon. The unwitting preacher's wife replied, "Well, I don't know why he tried to preach on that. He's only tried it twice. The first time he got seasick and the second time he lost his hat."

I still remember the day in my first appointment when my senior minister preached on "The Mystery of Sex." There was in that congregation a retired minister who never hesitated to express his opinion of the sermon. On the way out of church he said, "Bob, that sermon was so bad you should have called it 'The Misery of Sex'."

A few weeks later Bob announced that he was being appointed to a church made up largely of elderly persons. On the way out that day the retired brother said, "Bob, you remember that sermon on 'The Misery of Sex'? Now, you are going to have to call it 'The Memory of Sex'."

Well, it can be difficult to preach about sex, but I know of no better place to begin than with this marvelous piece of Old Testament poetry often called "Song of Solomon 1," though the Hebrew is clear that the title is "Song of Solomon 2." The Good News Bible says, "Song of Solomon 3." The Living Bible paraphrases it to read, "Song of Solomon 4, more wonderful than any other." It is a lyrical, graphic, passionate, eloquent love song which celebrates our human sexuality as a marvelous, wonderful and beautiful gift of God.

Which brings me to the title of this sermon. I'm still debating about whether the adjective should be "sensual" or "sensuous." Different dictionaries give very different flavors to each of those words, but both of them deal with that which delights the senses: touch, taste, smell, sound, sight. And that is certainly what we have here. With no hesitation, no fear, no embarrassment, the woman sings,

Your lips cover me with kisses;

your love is better than wine.

There is a fragrance about you;

the sound of your name recalls it ...

My lover has the scent of myrrh ...

(Or, "Obsession," or "Brut," or even "Old Spice," whatever turns you on.)

My lover is like the wild flowers

that bloom in the vineyards ...

His face is bronzed and smooth ...

His body is like smooth ivory ...

His thighs are columns of alabaster

set in sockets of gold.

His mouth is sweet to kiss;

everything about him enchants me.

Then man sings to the woman:

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