The world tuned in on Saturday morning to witness the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Even we Americans seem to hold an odd fascination with the royal wedding even though we rebelled against said monarchy a while back.
The bride was beautiful and the groom was captivated by her. They were a beautiful couple. However, it was the sermon by Rev. Michael Curry that took center stage. If you watch the video of his message – which I highly recommend – hold on until about 2 seconds after he completes and you’ll see Prince Harry turn to Meghan and utter one word:
As with each of these occasions, social media brings out the best and worst of us all; especially, those of us who preach and theologize. Some have declared it to be a new standard for sermons. Others have decried it as a truncated gospel. For all of us, let’s just calm down and let it stand for what it is. It was the wedding sermon by an American Episcopalian priest at a royal ceremony. One source reports that it was viewed by two billion people. I’d say that Curry did quite well given the scripted nature of it all. (In fact, you can read the transcript here.)
There are some who wanted Curry to suddenly become Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Sunday, George Whitfield, or Luis Palau. “Just preach the Gospel and given an altar call!” I’ve seen those tweets who say he wasted his opportunity.
Others likely wished him to tone down the rhetoric and hold a more mannerly demeanor for such an auspicious occasion. Looking at a few of the faces from those in attendance, I’m not sure they knew what to do with a black preacher from America.
For my part, I would want to cheer him on. “When love is the way” was a powerful summary of why divine love is needed to heal a broken world. He spoke of the divine love that brings healing and redemption. Curry was not attempting to ambush the royal family and their guests with an A-B-C Gospel presentation. He gave carefully-crafted content with an impassioned delivery that was aware of his context.
In other words, it was a finely-tuned sermon.
Curry crafted his words carefully in order to deliver this message. It is not likely to be a message that he’ll deliver anywhere else. Now, as pastors, we likely recognize that some of the material had been used by him before. “Two people fell in love and we all showed up” is not a line original to Curry. I’ve heard it before and probably even used it at some time. But, as a whole, the material was all carefully assembled.
It was an impassioned delivery. But Curry did not go too far with his style though it is apparent that he could have easily done so. At one point, I did think he would wander right away from the lectern and go to preachin! (Yes, preachin with no “g” on the end. Totally different from the preaching I do each Sunday.) He was passionate about what mattered most – the idea of God’s love. But he was not distant from the assembled congregation.
It leads to the final idea that Curry was aware of his context. He knew how far he could go with his message. With the Queen in attendance and the royal nature of the event, my guess is that certain parameters were dictated to him. So, he preached to his context. Knowing who was in the room, especially the bride and groom, he delivered a message about the power of love. He deftly avoided politicizing and pontificating.
For all of our sound and fury, I hope that we in the SBC will take what we can from the global moment. In a philosophically-divided crowd, Curry united them with the one idea that can do so: the love of God. It is beautifully biblical.
I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
As we approach the Annual Meeting, I hope that we will choose love as the way in making decisions and setting the course of the future. We can and must decide outcomes and leaders without derision. Our assembly must unite under the character of our Lord who gave us the self-revelation that He is love.
As the SBC family, we must make the hard decisions with the redeeming love of God in mind. We should feel no need to shrink back from making tough choices about our future. But we should do so with an attitude that invites those of the opposite view to join us in the next season of convention life.
As the leader of First Bradenton, I plan to guide our church to hold on to love and hold out love.
As Christians living in a sin-sick world filled with violence, abuse, disease, war, and desolate lives, we must give out the love of Christ both in gospel declaration and gospel living.
It would see that for all of us that we must admit the truth of Jesus’ words that all of the Law and Prophets hang on the idea that love is the way.