What you heard (or did not hear) at the Royal Wedding
God, love, Martin Luther King Jr and lots of fire
News Limited gushed. “US Bishop Michael Curry steals the show with enthusiastic sermon.” The ABC’s Annabel Crabb said “It’s a funny old wedding, however, in which the bride is upstaged by the clergy.” Former chaplain to the Queen Gavin Ashenden calls it Christianity “lite.” (You can tell he did not like it because he spells it “lite”.)
Could they all be right?
The sermon was a Martin Luther King Jr sandwich. Michael Curry (for those who prefer to read about but not watch such things as Royal weddings) is a black preacher with a captivating enthusiasm. Like MLK.
Here’s the powerful start of his royal wedding sermon – “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. Love is the only way.’”
“There’s power in love. Do not underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise it. 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 centre around you and your beloved. There’s power, power in love, not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right. There’s something right about it. There’s a reason for it. It has to do with the source.
“We were made by a power of love. Our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here. Ultimately the source of love is God himself. The source of all of our lives.
“There’s an old medieval poem that says: ‘Where true love is found, God himself is there.’ The New Testament says it this way. ‘Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; And those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God. Why? For God is love.’”
And MLK came back at the end. “Dr. King was right. We must discover love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.
My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you. And may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.”
On the way, Curry had a lot about love, and fire.
On Love: “If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s Antebellum South, who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says there is a balm in Gilead, a healing balm, something that can make things right. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul. One of the stanzas explains why, it says, if you cannot preach like Peter, you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all. That’s the balm in Gilead. This way of love is the way of life. They got it.”
And Fire: “Fire makes it possible for us to text, and tweet, and email, and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other. Fire makes that possible, and de Chardin said fire was one of the great discoveries in all of human history. He went on to say if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captured the energies of love, it will be the second time in the history they will have discovered fire.”
The fire stuff might have sounded weird. Curry was referencing French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a 20th century Catholic mystic who seems to have faded from a period of fame. But then there was also the Bible reading at the service: “As a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” (Song of Solomon 8:6,7 NRSV)
Read it all here.
So as happens with most weddings, many Christians wanted more in the sermon.
“Not wanting to disparage the man – but when you’ve got an audience of 1 billion+, why not use it to preach Christ crucified and risen?” wrote Akos Balogh of Gospel Coalition Australia on Facebook.
But perhaps today’s question for many Christians is what to say now?
As Brisbane minister Trevor Sketcher responded on one Facebook thread to those making Balogh’s point: “What a huge number of my none worshipping friends heard was a Christian priest saying something that seemed to make sense in this messy world. They heard a message touching on hope and Jesus name was there. This sort of message opens up a lot of conversations. I won’t be responding to those ‘But you know he’s a heretic’ conversations; I’ll be saying hope is Jesus, that fire, is the Holy Spirit… Look for what you can work with to proclaim the gospel when something like this comes along (a Christian wedding service that millions have watched) that proclaims Christian marriage and loves possibilities.”
And then there was the prayers and Bible readings.