Bishop Michael Curry’s wedding address – or the US preacher’s Royal Wedding sermon (as he and it shall henceforth be known) in the marriage service of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle – has fast become the most talked-about homily (for that is what it actually was) in the history of preaching. Just google it: it’s all over the BBC, CNN, The Guardian, Fox News and Teen Vogue. it’s even made BuzzFeed. Yes, there’s Christian preaching in BuzzFeed. It wasn’t intended to be a sermon of dogmatic theological instruction, for the event was a wedding. It wasn’t conceived as an exhortation to corporate penitence with an altar-call to receive eternal salvation, for the occasion was a celebration of marital love and the power of love. It was a wedding address to edify first and foremost the bride and the groom: a Royal Wedding sermon to inspire their hearts and (in passing) touch two billion attendant souls with the fragrance of Christ.
But still they carp and criticise; still they clobber and condemn…
Jesus, what a missed opportunity. This so-called messiah trundles down to a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and what does he do? A conjuring trick with grapes! Honestly, this pathetic so-called prophet has a captive audience of hundreds just ripe to hear the gospel, and he gives them instead gallons upon gallons of of wine and a distorted messianic message. What kind of inebriating witness is that? He never mentioned sin or repentance once; never mentioned the reality of hell or the need for salvation. “My hour has not yet come,” he bleated. What a feeble excuse is that for not denouncing adultery, drunkenness, greed or gays. And don’t give me all this ‘It revealed his glory’ tosh: it was just messianic mush; it might have convinced a few disciples, but what about the hundreds of lost souls who needed to be convicted of their sin and fall on their knees in repentance and receive him as their personal Lord and Saviour?
It’s not the first time, of course, and it won’t be the last. These progressive prophets of perpetual good works are all the same. He was on the Mount of Olives the other day with a vast audience of thousands – thousands – and what does he preach about? Love and humility! No sin, no repentance, no hell or damnation; just bless you for this and bless you for that, and here’s a sardine and a slice of bread – God bless you, God bless you, God bless you. It’s the social-justice gospel of endless beatitude and boundless inclusion. Honestly, anyone would think the Kingdom of Heaven were open to the world and his dog with all this pap about spiritual happiness and compassionate love. It was a gospel of infinite mercy which missed the reality of judgment. Oh, sure, he might have spoken about that last week, but, honestly, people were snickering more at his wise and foolish virgins and jeering his shepherds and sheep than properly understanding in their hearts and minds the truth of hell fire, damnation and the wrath of God…
For what it’s worth, Bishop Michael Curry did speak about sin and salvation; and he did blast the world with the sacrifice of Jesus and the imperative of the Cross:
“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole,” and one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said:
“If you cannot preach like Peter,
And you cannot pray like Paul,
You just tell the love of Jesus,
How he died to save us all.”
Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead!
This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it. 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.
That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.
And he went on to talk about the power of divine transformation:
Imagine our homes and families where love is the way.
Imagine our neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way.
Imagine our governments and nations where love is the way.
Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
Imagine this tired old world where love is the way.
When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever flowing brook.
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.
When love is the way, there’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well … like we are actually family.
When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.
But don’t read this Royal Wedding sermon, as the Archbishop of Canterbury exhorted: it needs to be watched and heard, for the medium is the inspirational message. And those who have ears to hear will do so, and they will understand the essence of the mission. Others will carp and carve it up, and then they’ll condemn and criticise it because it doesn’t quite conform to every jot and tittle of their own theology or soteriology.
It is all about faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is not expository dogmatism.