Many of you know that before I was the pastor here at Summit, I was a youth pastor over at Riverside UMC for 7 years. One of my favorite things about the holidays is that many of those very special young people come home from college and show up at my doorstep talking to me about life and what is happening in their new worlds and with their new adventures! They are wonderful moments of re-connection and this week alone I’ve been blessed to have 4 of those conversations with young ladies who mean a lot in my life. I was sitting with one of those young ladies this week who is going to college pretty far away – she grew up in Columbus with a wonderful family and had developed some very meaningful and deep relationships here in this city -
And while she is having this great new experience in a new city with new people – she talked about how alone she feels sometimes. She’s surrounded by people there, but she often feels disconnected.
And she said to me – I just wish I could meet someone – I just wish I could meet someone who I could connect with on a deeper level, who could understand me – who I could open up with –
And she wasn’t talking about a romantic relationship. She wasn’t talking about sex.
She was talking about a meaningful relationship, connections that are real.
She’s longing for intimacy.
I found myself this week in the coffee shop as I often do – and ran into a colleague who I hadn’t seen in a while and who honestly I don’t know particularly well. As we both wrapped up our meetings, I sat down to say hello – and in that moment in the next 10 minutes, both of us began sharing quite honestly what was really going on in our lives. And I left that brief conversation feeling renewed and energized and joyful. At one point, she looked at me – and said – “I don’t even know why I’m going on and on about this…”
And I thought to myself later, “I know why.”
Because we’re made to be connected to others. To be intimate, To share life. To be in relationships that are honest and meaningful.
It’s part of how we were created.
Perhaps you have had moments like this – moments with people you’ve known for years and sometimes moments where you are surprised by a connection you have with someone you just met - and it leaves you feeling renewed and joyful and whole.
We’re made for it, and if we’re honest – many of us – all of us – find ourselves feeling disconnected and longing for the kinds of connection that are real.
Last week, we talked about the term sexuality as something much bigger than just the act of sex. Sexuality involves all the ways in which we seek to be connected to each other and to God, in real, intimate, and often physical ways.
And that includes friendships.
It includes people we meet in passing moments – but we make deep connections to.
It includes meaningful time with people who we care deeply for.
It includes moments of deep connection with God.
It includes moments of deep connection with the earth.
And it definitely includes sex and everything that goes with it.
Connection. Intimacy. We’re made for it.
Our Scriptures today are all about connection.
Let’s start with the Song of Solomon passage.
I had a young man at my former church who was always complaining whenever we would read the Bible – he was complaining that Bible was just a whole bunch of out of date stuff that was written long ago and didn’t have anything to do with his life.
One of the things that we would do on retreats is start each morning with silent Scripture reading – I would pass out index cards with various Scripture verses on it and the kids would find a quiet place to read and to journal about their Scripture. So, that morning I decided to give a very special Scripture to this young man. The entire chapter 4 of Song of Solomon.
When he saw I had asked him to read an entire chapter – he started complaining but I’ll tell you what – the rest of the weekend we couldn’t get that boy to put his Bible down. Every free moment – he was wanting to read some more Scripture.
And he never complained about the bible being irrelevant for the rest of the time I knew him.
The editors who put the Bible together and chose what to include made a very important choice by including this in Scripture.
Song of Solomon is a book of love poetry written about a couple who are deeply connected and who are intimate with one another.
And they are simply named – the lover and the beloved.
There is a great deal of verses where they are taking great delight in each other’s physical bodies, admiring each other, enjoying each other.
And there’s no question in your mind in this chapter about what is going to be happening next.
As we were planning this series, there was a small but vocal group who were continually suggesting that we incorporate some Marvin Gaye into our musical repertoire – and if we had – this would have been the week, right?
You can almost hear it as background music to this Scripture –
“I’ve been really trying baby.”
These two are about to have sex. Chapter 5 confirms it.
But in This chapter, in Chapter 4 - as the lover proclaims his love for the beloved – it isn’t about the act of sex. It’s about their connection. It’s intimate.
What stands out over and over again – is how much they long for one another. How much they long to be connected, to smell and enjoy each other’s bodies to be intimate.
For this couple, sex is one of the most meaningful and ultimate physical ways that they can express this deep connection they feel to each other. It’s the one of the most powerful ways that they can become intimate with each other.
This is a beautiful picture of one of the things God designed us to experience through sex.
It’s a part of how we are made.
But sexuality – remember is about all the ways that we SEEK to be connected to each other. Which means that sometimes – we don’t achieve connection. Sometimes we reach out to others but we are rejected, sometimes we are taken advantage of or put down, and sometimes, sex is just sex. We don’t ultimately leave feeling connected.
We’re going to talk about that in coming weeks.
because while sexuality can bring us deep and meaningful connection, it also has the power to leave us scarred, to disconnect us from one another…
And sometimes the ways we’ve been wounded can convince us that intimacy isn’t for us.
That perhaps we’ll always be lonely.
We put up walls around us and we don’t let other people in.
It’s not worth the risk.
And all of those things are real.
But – the problem with that – is that even though pain and heartbreak is real…
We’re still wired and created to be in meaningful, loving, intimate relationships.
Because there’s a bigger thing going on here.
This isn’t just about us.
We were created in the image of God.
And in the Christian faith, one of the core parts of our belief is that within the singular God that holds everything together – within that one God – there is three. There is Trinity – the father, the son and the holy Spirit.
And we believe that these three are actually in such a deep, meaningful, and intimate relationship with one another that they actually are one.
They are so connected.
They are so intimate.
That the three are also, ONE.
In seminary, the language we used to describe the relationship between the three is a mutually, inter-penetrating, love.
Inter-penetrating – that’s kind of sexual language.
A love that penetrates through them and connects them in intimate relationships.
And that’s whose image we were created in.
And not just that –
But the second creation story that Barb read – told us that not only are we created in God’s image –
But that God – actually came and walked on the ground of the Earth and fashioned a human and breathed into him the breath of life.
This God, this three in one, mutually inter-penetrating relational God, comes and walks on this Earth and relates to us as well.
We long to be connected to each other because that’s what we’re made for.
We’re created by a God who in God’s very essence is mutual, loving, inter-penetrating relationships. A God who breathes into us the breath of life and created us in God’s image.
Of course we long for connection. Intimacy. Love.
I asked the folks at our Tuesday bible study this week about what happened to them in these moments of intimacy, whether it was the physical act of sex or in moments of deep connection with others.
And they all said the same thing – I felt myself opening up, I felt my walls coming down, I felt like I could share things that I otherwise might not.
Part of experiencing intimacy as a sexual being is about opening ourself up, giving ourself away to someone, and sharing parts of us that make us self-conscious – nervous, etc.
And in truth – the experience of true intimacy with others – actually can help us to also better connect and understand what intimacy with God means.
As I’ve been preparing for this month of Sexuality, I’ve been reading the wisdom of several authors – one of them is a book about Radical Love – written by an openly gay professor in Chicago.
He wrote the book because his own experience of intimacy had so profoundly changed him. This is what he wrote –
p. ix. Radical Love (by Patrick Cheng)
We’re created for intimacy -
Now, I need to say one thing – because it’s possible that there are some of you here in this room thinking – well, that sounds nice – but I’ve tried. I’ve tried to reach out to people and I’ve been rejected. There’s no one who wants to be intimate with me. Well, I’d like to remind you – intimacy is NOT just about sex – sex is one of the ways that we can experience that deep connection with others but it is not the only way.
And you are right now sitting in a church where the pastors and the congregation are seeking to become the kind of place where real connections and intimacy happen. But it might require you to open yourself up. It might require you to be vulnerable.
This week, this month, this year – I invite you to think about the ways in which you experience intimacy in your own life. The ways in which you feel connected to others – the ways in which you open yourself up and give yourself away to others.
May you be open to the ways in which God is inviting you to greater intimacy with others in your life and ultimately – with the one who created you.