After reading this Sunday’s texts, I’m convinced that they’re about dating. Yes, that’s right. Searching for romance. Looking for love. And maybe, in all the wrong places.
First, we have the Abraham’s servant seeking a lovematch for Isaac. The qualifications for the job seem rather thin—she’s willing to give the servant water and water his camels—and she was willing.
Next, we have Psalm 45—a royal wedding song—a love song, according to the scholars. It’s an unusual psalm, and our verses praise the bride. And while there are those who lean into the secondary meaning of the Psalm as messianic, its primary meaning is a love song. But notice something here—there’s no discussion of the beauty of the princess bride. Only her clothes.
Another option is from the Song of Solomon. This passage describes the man—“leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.” The lover speaks and says, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now winter is past, the rain is over and gone. To me, this seems like Good Time Charlie—the man whose only goal is to have a good time.
Doesn’t this feel like dating in the 21st century?
And then there’s Romans 7:15-25a. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but do the very thing I hate.” That could have summarized my dating life for most of my 20s.
And finally, Matthew 11. “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another…” Tinder, anyone?
When confronted with the choices in the dating world, from Tinder to OKCupid, from meeting someone in real life… When confronted with the choices in how people date—when they engage in sexual activity, when they move in together, when, and if they marry… How do we lead our congregants in seeking wholeness in partnership? How do we help them discern the best ways to date?
Ultimately, I believe we must remind folks that dating is not shopping. It’s not so much about looks, money, and good times. It is instead about the qualities most important, the principles and values you have. Seriously. Can we lose the superficiality?
Yes, you may have to kiss a lot of toads, but never release the idea that there can be someone who respects you, who gets you, who will stick around during the winter, too. Don’t settle for less than that. It seems to me that integrity is still the most important characteristic in seeking a partner.
But also remember that there are possibilities in all modes of being, that marriage may not be what your life holds. There are ways to structure our lives that honor love—in all its forms, whether loving ourselves, loving a partner, or living in a loving community.
Where will you go with the texts?
- The UCC Gathering suggests talking about power in relationships. Who has the power in Rebecca and Isaac’s relationship?
- Now that marriage equality has passed, how does the dynamic change for couples who have been in longterm relationships, some for decades?
- We have longings for relationships (notice that Rebecca helped to ease Isaac’s grief for his mother). What are healthy longings? What are unhealthy ones?
- Are there boundaries for dating in your community? Have you ever seen the church used for a sober dating club? What happens when people break up?
- The church’s relationship with Jesus is to be our model for our intimate relationships (the church is called the “bride” of Christ). What exactly does this say about the church right now? Have we belittled our walk with Christ by becoming a Tinder follower?
Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).
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