Preaching the Song of Songs

In my distraction in dealing with Trigeminal neuralgia and a CSF leak, I failed to post a paper I delivered at the Council for Dispensational Hermeneutics in Houston Texas, October 3-4, 2012.

It was entitled, “Preaching the Song of Songs: How Should Pastors Handle, ‘Bellies,’ ‘Navels,’ and ‘Breasts,’ from Their Sunday Morning Pulpit?: A Test Case in Literal Hermeneutics AND Literal Application.” McGinniss_Preaching-the-Song-of-Songs copy The title did generate some buzz and one participant thanked my dean for having the foresight to schedule it right after lunch!  He mentioned that no one would fall asleep with that topic…and from my vantage point…no one did 🙂

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Living Your Faith on the Field

bobby

If you are a baseball fan, and even more a New York Yankee fan, you will want to read, Impact Player: Leaving a Lasting Legacy On and Off the Field by Bobby Richardson (Tyndale, 2012).  Richardson was the 2nd baseman for the NY Yankees during their historic years 1955-1965 when the likes of Mantle and Maris roamed the outfield of the house that Ruth built. There are enough inside stories of Yankee players to make the book a walk down memory lane for those who either watched these players or were told stories by their fathers.

Once the Yankee management employed detectives to follow their players when they were off the field so nothing would distract them from the upcoming ’58 World Series. While volumes could be written about the off-the-field antics of Mantle, Ford and others, the only thing that could be written about Richardson was that he liked milkshakes with shortstop, Tony Kubek!  Thus, the two middle in-fielders were known as the “Milkshake Twins.”

Although the stories like these provide a humorous glimpse inside baseball, it was the way Richardson shared his faith and lived his faith before his teammates that make the book a profitable read for a Christian.  If you know someone who is a Christian athlete and desires to live his faith in the arena, this should be on their reading list.

A Book on Preaching the Song of Songs

picJust finished Douglas Sean O’Donnell’s, The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy in the Preaching the Word series from Crossway (2012).  This 183-page book consists of an introductory message covering 1:1 and then nine more actual sermons on the Song of Solomon (each about 10-12 pages long).

This book of messages is very well-researched and this is its number one strength.  O’Donnell’s ten messages cover 118 pages.  And while endnotes normally drive one a tad nutty, they were much appreciated in this endeavor and cover another 35 pages!   His first chapter which is really an introduction to the Song (and which is very good) has 53 notes alone.

O’Donnell is to be commended for not shying away from most of the difficult texts of the Song such as 4:1—5:1—although he goes only so far in unpacking the metaphors in the more erotic 7:1—10. After explaining thighs and bellies (7:1b; 2b), he leaves the rest of the imagery (“navel”) to be figured out by his hears (101).  One can hardly blame the preacher.

It may sound strange for one who loves Jesus to suggest that he is not in this book of the Bible by interpretation or application. But a literal interpretation should lead to a literal application. However, this is not always the case for O’Donnell and this creates one weakness in this book: O’Donnell’s Christological lens.  While he recognizes the literal interpretation of the text, he often allows dubious connections to create contemporary application.  For instance in 8:5, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness, Leaning on her beloved?” From the word “leaning” in the text, O’Donnell first mentally connects to the hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and then links by only one word to “leaning on Jesus’ bosom” (John 13:23 KJV) and then jumps to this application: “The way Christians are to lean upon Jesus is similar to the way a wife is to lean upon her husband” (113).  While I agree that all Christians should “lean on Jesus,” unfortunately, hermeneutically, “one can hardly get there from here.”

For those interested in a study of the Song or attempting to preach it, the book is not the final word but it is a first one, (at least on preaching this OT hard text) and a good one at that.