Theology & Church

Rev. Curry’s sermon summed up why I am a Christian 

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

21 thoughts on “Rev. Curry’s sermon summed up why I am a Christian ”

  1. Well put Jon.
    It is so good to know how big an audience this reached.
    Really appropriate for Pentecost this Sunday. One Lectionary reading is Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones. We pray that we are seeing new life being breathed into the Church of England.

  2. It was a wonderful sermon for the individuals and for the occasion – and it was proper Pentecost material! Unfortunate that the main camera position captured the Dean of Windsor (?) staring into the middle distance of the opposite direction the whole time, which seemed a visible metaphor for the established church. The contribution of the gospel choir and the expressive cellist were also such a positive antidote to the predictably odd mix of ecclesial formality and ridiculous hats. Thanks for posting so quickly Jon 🙂

    1. Yes Rachel – and how dry the Dean made the liturgy. Set on fire by the Spirit it can be inspirational poetry and dynamic prayer, but not unfortunately from his mouth yesterday.

  3. David says: “Yes, it was a passionate and eloquent (if rather drawn out) sermon about the centrality of love for human well-being, but the bishop said little about what that actually means for a couple setting out in marriage, and what it takes to build and sustain a happy one. It was, after all, a sermon for a marriage service, not an address to launch Christian Aid Week. I also feel that an illustration of love in action today would have helped to ‘earth’ the sermon more”.

    1. Fair points – but I disagree with the overall sense of disapproval – this guy nailed a great sermon about love (which is at the heart of a marriage) and managed to speak to the world. It was worth so much more than some bland homily that would be forgotten the minute it was preached.

      1. I’m not disproving of the passion and theme of the sermon, just pointing out that it didn’t focus enough, in my opinion, on the marriage itself nor unpack what love means, in practical terms, for a couple entering marriage (and for those listening who perhaps are thinking about getting married, or are striving to strengthen their own marriages).

      2. Fair enough – but I wonder whether that preacher did more for the idea of church weddings and people thinking about getting married than anything else could have! Lets hope so.

  4. It would do you good to remember that the Queen faithfully attends church every Sunday, and has seen a whole range of preachers who have shared the gospel message, it is incorrect to say she has not heard it preached this way bfore. Secondly, as a priest myself, ministering to the generations of ‘I will choose what style of worship suits me’ it is very difficult to make changes or try new forms of worship when you are trying to lead services for such a wide range of ages and styles. Because believe me, the back lash you get when you try something new, is painful, ill considered, and for the most part is wrong. Parishoners, in the UK, will moan about anything and everything, from the choice of hymns to the colours of the vestments. This gets really wearing, week in, week out and is a reason a lot of clergy don’t make any changes. So perhaps before you point out the speck of dust in my Anglican eye, you should remove the plank in yours, and be kind and gracious.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I think your comment highlights a major issue around creating change that must be very hard for many clergy to deal with – but that does not mean we should not talk about it. Those people who give you a back lash, as you say, are ill-considered and wrong. This needs exposing and the Royal Wedding gives you a great opportunity to show the importance of doing things differently.

      For example, I went to a C of E confirmation service last week – the Bishop did EVERYTHING and at no point was there any space for any form of testimony from any of the people being baptised or confirmed. I would not have expected a lot – but no personal testimony was allowed to interrupt the vast swathes of formal liturgy that had to be worked through. Much of the liturgy is good – but this is a loss and a weakness of formal Anglicanism.

      With your point about the Queen, I am sure you are right. But I am not so sure about the generations below her.

  5. Yes, let’s hope so, Jon. The sermon has certainly got people thinking and talking. That’s the first, important step. One of my tutors at college used to say in sermon preparation classes: At the end of your sermon, what do you suggest/hope/expect your listeners to do about it?

  6. Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history – false, he offered reconciliation to God by paying the debt for sin and commanded those he reconciled to tell others. The church is not a revolution, Jesus did not overthrow or even challenge government, he instructed people to give unto Ceasar that which is Ceasars and God that which is Gods.

    a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world – God’s love is not unconditional, the God’s can be found in the scripture (which he pretty much ignored)

    a movement mandating people to live that love… – what love? He has not explained true biblical love yet – can everyone just interpret this love in any way?

    He died to save us all. He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it he wasn’t getting anything out of it. – false, He died for his kingdom, for his glory. He got many “things 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. – Really? COME ON! He died so that you would be transformed, so that you would die and be raised with him. He died so that you could be reconciled with God, so that you could turn from sin, repent and believe. So that you could be completely broken and undone and built up again in Christ. He died for the will and Glory of the father so that we would worship him.

    Not for everybody’s good and wellbeing.

    If his sermon explains why you’re a Christian than you have absolutely no idea why you’re a Christian and I’m really really worried for you.

    1. David – I’m not sure it’s necessary to dichotimise as you do. Jesus’ coming did many things. Of course no government was overthrown – but Jesus’ spiritual revolution of love and grace turned the world upside down.

      And yes – for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, ultimately that God may be glorified. At the same time: ‘God so loved the world’ (before they turned to him – sounds pretty unconditional to me) and he came ‘that we might have life in all its fullness’. If that’s not also for our good and wellbeing, I’m not sure what is. The route we take to receiving that fullness is a sacrificial one of ‘dying to sin’ but the outcome of reconciliation and fullness is wellbeing in its truest form.

      Was the Bishop’s sermon perfect? No. Did it cover everything it could have covered. No. But it was full of the message of grace, truth and love that Jesus came to bring and, like Jon, that inspires me to take his message of love to the world and to demonstrate that love to all I encounter. I pray that love may be at the centre of your faith too.

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