Water coolers, morning talk shows, and the intraweb have been abuzz this week with reactions to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the #RoyalWedding. The Twitterverse tweeted and twitted, as celebrities, pundits, and royals alike wrestled with Bishop Curry’s very simple (and very Gospel-centric) message: Love has the power to transform this tired, old world (and those of us plodding through it) into “a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.”
I must confess, I did not watch the #RoyalWedding. Yes, I enjoyed Downton Abbey and The Crown, even if Ashley made me watch them. But, I have no interest in the Royals and frankly would not have given the #RoyalWedding a second thought if Bishop Curry had not set the celebrity world on fire with his 13 minutes of Gospel truth from the pulpit of St. George’s chapel. Invoking the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bishop Curry proclaimed:
“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.”
These are not just sweet, mushy words for a sweet, mushy couple at one of the most high-profile weddings in recent memory. This is a brazen, clarion call for revolution. A reordering of the world as we know it. A reordering of the world, not by power, or by prosperity, but by love. Bishop Curry describes this reordering as
the most revolutionary movement in all of human history. A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world and a movement mandating people to live that love. And in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.
The implication of these words could not have been clearer as they rang across St. George’s Chapel, a chapel that was built during the wars of Scottish independence, that saw the conquest of Ireland and eventually the war for Irish Independence, not to mention the rise of the British Empire and its “Doctrine of Discovery,” which fueled the expansion of an Empire all people who stood in its way.
The implications of Bishop Curry’s words could not have been more clear in the choral arrangements by Kingdom Gospel Choir, an all-Black gospel choir, as they sang Stand by Me and This Little Light of Mine (no Black gospel choir has ever sung at a royal wedding before).
The implications of Bishop Curry’s words could not have been clearer in the faces of the Royal family and the British elites, who represent the legacy of the Empire’s colonialism, as they sat amidst descendants of the very peoples they once conquered — one of whom was seated next to the Royal Prince in a stunning dress with a 16 foot veil and whose mother sat as an equal amongst royalty.
The implications of Bishop Curry’s words could not have been more clear when he — an American (and a Black American at that) — looked directly into the eyes of Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan Markle, now officially the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and told them, “My brother and sister, I love you, God bless you.”
Bishop Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding reminds me of another sermon he gave three years ago in Hayneville, Alabama, when he was commemorating the death of Jonathan Daniels, a young Episcopal seminarian who gave his life to save the life of a Black civil rights activist, Ruby Sales. In that sermon, Bishop Curry spoke, too, of the power of love — selfless, sacrificial God-given love. A love that strips away title and privilege to make us all equals, brothers and sisters in Christ, children of God. A love that tears down walls and raises up peoples. A love that has the power to transform this mixed up, messed up world into the world that God dreamt of when he first molded it in His hands and breathed life into His Creation — a world that God dreams of even today.
This love is both our gift and our responsibility. As Bishop Curry reminded his audience in Hayneville,
We who have been baptized … were consecrated into radical discipleship — into the Jesus Movement — to change this world … [And] the movement will go on … we will not stop … we will not cease … we will not desist until justice rolls down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an overflowing brook. That’s the movement we are a part of. A movement that believes passionately that love can actually change the world. It can!
Both in Hayneville, Alabama and in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Bishop Curry did more than just deliver a good sermon — he even did more than just “preach” (something we are not all that accustomed to in the Episcopal Church, but could use more of). Bishop Curry brought the Gospel with fire and Spirit. And he dropped it directly in our laps, challenging us to do something with it.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good love story, but I believe Bishop Curry is right. The radical love we are called to participate in, having been baptized and consecrated into the Jesus Movement, will set the world afire. We were reminded of that this week when, at a royal wedding halfway across the world, an Episcopal Bishop — just “a black preacher” to some — set the world aflame with a radical message of love. Set the world aflame with an invitation to participate in a revolutionary movement, the Jesus Movement. Set the world aflame with an invitation to love.
What will we do with that invitation?