Rev. Megan Huston
March 22, 2015
Song of Solomon 1:2-4
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine,
3your anointing oils are fragrant,
your name is perfume poured out;
therefore the maidens love you.
4Draw me after you, let us make haste.
The king has brought me into his chambers.
We will exult and rejoice in you;
we will extol your love more than wine;
rightly do they love you.
So I have this friend, who I call my co-pastor. He was serving his first church, a rural church in East Tennessee at the same time I was serving my first church, a rural church in West Tennessee. And so we would call each other to read one another’s sermons and share our latest crazy ministry stories. He came to Bowling Green recently to visit Willie and I and we had a wonderful time catching up. Often, our conversations delve into the topic of my friend’s love life because it is usually pretty entertaining to hear a single minister talk about his love life. So he tells us that on Valentine’s day he went with a good friend to a new movie theater down the street from his house. He told me that it was just built and it is one of those kind of boutique theaters where you can get a beer and a meal while you watch your movie. So he has been going pretty regularly because the tickets have been cheap since they first opened. So- it is Valentine’s Day, and my pastor friend who shall remain nameless, who still has a flip phone and rarely frequents social media, shows up to the theater and discovers that he has seen nearly every movie that is showing. He also is pretty cheap, hence the flip phone, and so he has a strict rule that he will never watch the same movie in the theater twice. So, he tells Willie & I, he sees that there is one film that is showing on about 3 or 4 of the screens in the theater. He describes it to us, saying, “On the poster it was just a well dressed guy wearing a tie, so I thought, why not? Let’s try it out.” Ryan & his friend, who he described as equally sheltered, went to see Fifty Shades of Grey with no idea what the movie was about. Awkward!
So- I imagine, me talking to you all about lust & sex may be about as comfortable as if you accidentally ran into your pastor at the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Don’t worry- I haven’t seen it and don’t plan on it. However, I think that it is usually the things we are least comfortable talking about that we most need to talk about. And so there is a part of me that dreads this sermon more than anything, like, I actually cleaned out my entire garage yesterday to procrastinate from proof-reading my sermon and finalizing my notes, but I trust that saying something on the topic must be better than saying nothing at all. And if nothing else, maybe we will at least open a door or a window into some conversations we really need to have.
In an interview described in Rob Bell’s book, “Sex God” Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, described his upbringing. He said, “I was raised in a setting in which sex was for procreation only and the rest was sin.” He went on to say his family was prohibitionist, puritan in a very real sense. He said they never hugged- that there was absolutely no hugging or kissing in his family. He says there was a point in his life when his mom apologized to him for not being able to show affection. Hugh’s response was, “Mom you couldn’t have done it any better. And because of the things you weren’t able to do, it set me on a course that changed my life and changed the world.”
Indeed it did, I would venture to say that most young people don’t know who Hugh Hefner is because his empire has become mainstream. I would like to suggest today that what we teach our children by our words or by our lack of words about sex, what we decide ourselves as individuals & as communities or choose to ignore, about sex, has the power to change the world.
My favorite chapter, although not without some critique, in Bell’s book is titled, “Angels and Animals.” He begins the chapter by describing an African safari he attended with family and a stop in front of the lions. It was mating season, and Bell said, “The lady lion was not thinking I just really want to know that you love me for more than my body…” or “I just don’t feel you’re as committed to this relationship as I am.” The lions’ relationship was purely biological. Animal instinct. Bell goes on to describe a trip to a beach in Florida during Spring Break. He compares the beach to the Sahara, describing that there was no difference in the two because both humans and animals were indiscriminately following their animal instincts for pleasure, whether through sex or alcohol or just outright thoughtless behavior. Bell asserts that we are more than animals and surely we have the capacity to make decisions beyond our biological impulses.
And then he tells a story. About Hugh Hefner. He asserts we are not animals, but we are not angels either. To teach an ethic of sex- that we are spirits and our bodily desires don’t matter will only do damage.
But the church has a history of tending to ignore things that are complex. Like the community 1 Timothy speaks of in chapter four- because some were sacrificing foods to false gods those foods had to be avoided all together. Because people were abusing sex, some communities decided to outlaw marriage all together. It is easier to ignore the real issues and just make more rules.
Like, I wonder if church has become obsessed with homosexuality because it distracts us from all the other things we don’t understand about what the Bible actually says about appropriate sexual relationships. I have wrestled with whether or not this sometimes controversial topic fits into a sermon on lust. And while I wanted so bad to not step on anyone’s toes, I simply could not stay silent. I believe that in most churches a sermon on the topic of lust would almost always discuss the sinfulness of being gay, and I do not find this viewpoint to be Biblical.
Nearly all the scriptures used to condemn homosexuality are actually not about homosexuality. They are set in a context that requires interpretation and these scriptures are condemning rape or incest or pagan rituals, they have nothing to do with a committed relationship between two men or two women. If you have questions about what the Bible says about being gay, I hope you will come talk to me or talk to another church member and let’s see what we can learn from the Bible, from God, and from one another.
But, at the end of the day I think often the question isn’t actually the question. We often avoid the topic of sex in the church because many of us don’t really know how to answer the question of who someone should or should not have sex with. But maybe that isn’t the right question. Maybe our role, as the church, is to help people understand their God given worth. To be a community that allows people to be who they are and experience intimate connections with one another and with God.
Whether it is sex or food or alcohol, we all have been guilty of thinking, “if I just had “blank” then I would feel better.” That is what lust is- the greek word epithumia means “in the mind.” So we think we want something, and then we get it and we don’t feel better. So maybe the real question is what are you searching for? And who do you want to be? Do you know yourself and love that person? And if you can answer those questions, then we as families and as a community can start to answer the other question of when sex is a holy and God-given gift and when it is just a filler.
And if we pay attention we may just find that our bodies may be just as important as our spirits… that these arms and legs and awkward shapes we become are vehicles for love incarnate. Reading just the first few verses of Song of Songs is enough to make me blush. But if you read through that book, some say, oh it is all just an allegory about our relationship with God, and sure, maybe so, but I also think it is a real life affirmation that our bodies matter and this- this is what love can do.
At the end of his chapter, Bell refers to the creation narrative- that God created the universe, making order out of chaos. First God made animals, also Bell supposes that angels also came before humans. Humans were created last as the final act of making order out of chaos. And so- the decisions we make about our spirits and our bodies, these are acts that are creating the world we live in.
So, to my beloved youth, I have no problem asking that I hope you will at least wait until you are an adult to make a decision to have sex because otherwise I don’t know how you will be ready for all that comes with it.
On the other hand, I don’t know how to offer a generic prescription to free willing adults of exactly when you should and when you shouldn’t. But I can imagine the kind of world that I hope we will create- a world where people are seen and noticed for who they are in both body and spirit. A world where everyone has enough. A world where men and women, boys and girls, are taught to love themselves- bodies of all shapes and sizes, talents of all types, and hearts open to the world. A world where we know ourselves so fully that we can give ourselves completely to God and completely to one another- building an understanding of intimacy that makes our culture’s portrayal of sex look as small and insignificant as it so often is. This is a world where we will have the courage to converse even over complex issues, to disagree, maybe even argue, but at the end of the day, no matter what our decisions and maybe even our mistakes, that we will gather around the table and break bread and give ourselves fully to the grace of God.
Posted on Sun, March 22, 2015
by Megan Huston filed under