At the risk of lowering the tone of Choral Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer, as the rock band Queen once put it in a mantra for our time “I want it all and I want it now.”
These words familiar to a child, who cannot understand why they have to wait for the ice cream they have been promised are about desire. And what we do with those feelings often deceptive feelings around our perceived wants and needs.
It’s something we all must learn to navigate as we live our lives, some rather more successfully than others.
Like the only child who has to learn beyond the nuclear family that their needs are not the centre of everything.
I can’t help feel that Herodias, the young woman who as the second reading put had learnt to ‘please Herod’ and I think we know what that means, had learned how to manipulate desire.
She danced in such a way that Herod was seduced. He was beguiled into offering her whatever she wished. She and her mother wanted the head of John the Baptist.
The first reading offers us a different vision, a love story in which Jacob falls for Rachel, who is as the scriptures put it ‘graceful and beautiful’ but he has to wait. He cannot have her now. He waits for seven years, years that ‘seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.’
What a lovely image, that such was his love that the waiting years seemed short. It’s hard to imagine that was the case, seven years isn’t seven minutes. There must have been days of longing but the image is worth pursuing as we reflect on these readings and how they might speak to us today.
For there is something deeply attractive to us in Jacob’s waiting, he knowing that the love he had for his beloved was not going to fade, indeed it likely grew.
The contrast with Herod is great. We sense the rashness of his promise made when his vision was distorted by desire. His feelings of regret about John, in whom he was interested. Yet to save face he granted Herodias’ request.
My experience of the life of faith, because God is not in the business of manipulating our desires, is much closer to the image of Jacob’s love for Rachel. The love of God is poured into our hearts, writes St. Paul but slowly.
And if I look back over my life, I can trace that slowness. As a child faith was an often-unspoken part of the landscape of my growing up in a Vicarage. The year shaped by the slow contours of the church calendar.
And as an adult, my faith in God has and continues to be revealed slowly over time, an ever-present deep knowing even amidst the wrong turnings of my life.
So, Jacob’s patience speaks to me of the sense that life with God is more a slow burn than a whirlwind romance. And whilst there may be times along the way when we feel caught in a lovers embrace, in the whirlwind spirit of God.
There are many more times, most of the time in fact when God is slowly revealed to us, often imperceptibly amidst the ordinary stuff of life.
This slow burning love at the heart of everything can be so easily missed, that why we leave space in our loves to be deliberate about our wanting to know more of this God.So we fashion holy habits, like coming to evensong, or taking time each day to be still, to think, to pray and to be.
Over the last couple of years, I have been getting used to the phenomenon of the chick flick being part of Vicarage life.
These movies tell of the love that is often destined to be fulfilled but is often elusive, as life gets in the way, or indeed as we get in the way, making our mistakes, misreading the signs, behaving like a fool. Yet it all works out in the end. Love finds a way.
And so, God’s love finds its way with us, a love that like Rachel is graceful and beautiful, a love where we find ourselves. Often slowly, gently revealed as we live our lives.
And we do know something of this slow burning patient love, as we care for a loved one, as we support our beloved through a time of change.
And it seems apt to be exploring this theme within the context of Choral Evensong, from the Prayer Book from 1662 with words that have shaped the nations life over centuries. Seeped into our consciousness.
Yet it’s hard for this message to be heard in the I want it now, and quick fix culture that we are caught up in, but it was ever thus. And it can be frustrating that life with God isn’t often more exciting, at least on the surface.
For God’s love is mostly the slow cooker that gently simmers in the background of our lives. A love that changes us, so that our once pressing desires for status, wealth, power, success fade and we become content to be.
Jacob’s deep desire for Rachel took years to be fulfilled and their love blossomed. Herod’s desire ending in a beheading, in a death. Which would you prefer?