There has been an incredible reaction to Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding today.
Both the content and the manner of his talk broke the formality which so easily straight-jackets Anglican services and especially any religious events involving the Royalty.
There was power, authority and a bold confidence in the way that Bishop Curry spoke. As the world listened to him, I realised he was summing up why I am a Christian.
He spoke personally – so often, vicars, priests and ministers can lose people with religious jargon or abstract terms, but straight away Rev Curry connected the theme of his talk to the experience of everyone listening:
There’s power – power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved.
He spoke passionately – there was an urgency to his words as he spoke about a power (or fire) that was desperately needed if we are to heal the world we live in. It was not overly intellectualised but rooted in an urgent struggle for justice and change:
The late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once said and I quote: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.”
He spoke about justice – surrounded by the wealth and power of Royalty, Hollywood and a sea of military uniforms, he spoke boldly about poverty, war and the injustices that scar the world:
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.
He shook things up – good preaching should always comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. A very British blend of bemusement and mild discomfort was obvious in members of the Royal family as he spoke. Perhaps they had never heard a sermon like that ever before. But actually people want to hear someone who is really saying something – not safe, bland platitudes that no-one could disagree with.
He spoke about Jesus – even in church circles, especially at the more formal end, it can be controversial to actually talk about Jesus. The person at the heart of the Christian faith is easily smothered in liturgy, theology or religious cliche. But Jesus is the only person who can save Christianity from irrelevance. We have to use the J-word just as Rev Curry did today:
Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history: a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world – and a movement mandating people to live that love…
He died to save us all. He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t… he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world… for us.
Power and relevance
Bishop Curry preached the gospel to the widest possible audience today – the world was his congregation and they heard the good news. He showed the power and relevance of the Christian faith.
The former leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, a confirmed atheist, tweeted in response:
Rev Michael Curry could almost make me a believer