It started out like any other Anglican wedding, with music from Handel and words from 1 John. The congregation sang a hymn, the prince drew the veil back from his bride’s face and whispered, “Hi”, with a smile. They spoke their declarations of intent, just like any couple. The prince’s aunt read from the Song of Songs, and the choir sang an anthem by Tallis. Then, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal church in the USA, entered the pulpit to preach. The first African American man to preach at such an occasion, he preached about love.
This was not a typical preacher for a royal wedding. Nor was this a typical wedding sermon, although God knows, it should be. The preacher celebrated the love of this young couple, whose love is like any other couple’s, even if they are royalty. But he quickly expanded the view of what love is. He said it himself – “do not underestimate it, and don’t even over-sentimentalize it” – there is power in love. Power in love to heal. Power to sustain slaves in the midst of oppression. Power to redeem the world.
Then Bishop Curry invited us all to imagine a world that is shaped and transformed by love—
-in our homes and families
-in our neighborhoods and communities
-in governments and nations
-in business and commerce
“to imagine this tired old world when love is the way.”
Bishop Curry preached a changed world, a new world, a world re-made by the power of the divine love that is the root and source of all love. At the royal wedding, where tradition and power and decorum reign supreme, he preached eschatology to anyone with ears to hear.
It made me want to stand up and cheer. Well, maybe I did, just a little.
Because Michael Curry did not just preach eschatology, he embodied it. His very presence signaled the breaking down of barriers that divide. His words pointed to the cosmic leveling of which Mary sings in her Magnificat.
It did not take long for the detractors to speak. They say he went too long, although he preached for just thirteen minutes—a short sermon by many standards. They say his sermon should have been more “appropriate”—meaning, I can only surmise, that he should have preached whiter—a sign that, in fact, his sermon was right on the mark. They say he was seizing the opportunity to draw attention to himself—when, in fact, he did just the opposite, enlarging the focus from one human love story to the greatest love story of all, that of God for the whole blessed world.
From where I stand, Bishop Michael Curry managed to both bless and challenge his listeners—to celebrate the love of two people while exhorting them (and all of us) “to treat each other like we are actually family.” Family! The descendants of oppressors and the descendants of the oppressed. Family! The descendants of rebellious colonists and the descendants of an empire. Family! Yes, family, the family of God. Then one by one, members of the family appeared—a British black gospel choir, the Jamaican-born chaplain to the queen, the Egyptian-born Coptic archbishop, the young black cellist, and yes, the darling Princess Charlotte and the Queen Mum.
This is the family of the new England, the family of the God of Pentecost, the family of the new world that God is creating even now, day by day, where there is plenty good room for all.