There’s power in love
Mark Fairweather Tall reflects on the sermon delivered at the recent royal wedding, and believes that it gives a powerful message for all of us.
“The late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:
‘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-sentimentalize it. There’s power in love.”
So began the sermon that would catch the attention of millions as Bishop Michael Curry delivered the address at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday May 19.
I cannot remember a time when a sermon was so positively received and so widely discussed. True, there is often something in the news about the Christmas sermons delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope, but that is not the same as what we witnessed here.
Many commented on the passionate, uninhibited delivery of the smiling, gesticulating Bishop who brought life, emotion and challenge at a point where perhaps many expected to switch off. The response of the royals was scrutinised as people were looking to see which of the royals was smiling or open mouthed. Lip-readers were on hand to tell us that, at the end of the sermon, Harry turned to Meghan and said ‘Wow!’
Social media was soon alive with comments. Jeremey Vine wrote: “The preacher is doing 50 in a 30 zone and it’s brilliant”. David Grant tweeted: “He just took the Royal Family to CHURCH!!!!” and Ed Miliband went as far as saying: “Rev Michael Curry could almost make me a believer.”
Both at the time and as I reflect now I can’t help but say ‘Praise God’ that at a national occasion something of the power of the gospel message was communicated. The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I think we saw that preaching is not a past art, the use of language to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ just blew the place open, it was fantastic.”
There have been criticisms of the sermon as well. One was that he spoke for too long – all of about thirteen minutes! That may cause some of us who preach regularly to protest about how brief that is! Another criticism was that the Bishop wasn’t clear enough about the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is at the very heart of the gospel.
Yet what I found compelling is that, at a wedding, those listening were invited to explore a deeper understanding of ‘love’. On such occasions ‘love’ can be thought of simply as feelings of emotion and sentimentalising idealistic notions about what love between two people is like. Bishop Curry took us beyond this as he pointed to the power of love to change the world. He identified the source of love as God himself. He referred to the ‘old spiritual’ and the Balm of Gilead, that identifies Jesus as the one who ‘died to save us all’. He told people that love is not selfish and self-centred but can be sacrificial and it is this kind of love that can change lives.
This description of love and the way it was presented got people talking, even though he didn’t go into full detail about Jesus’ death and resurrection. And that leads me to reflect on how we share the gospel message. Do we always need to explain the gospel fully or is it sometimes OK to ‘whet people’s appetite?’
Jesus was asked by the disciples about why he spoke in parables (Matthew 13:10). They didn’t get everything he was saying and neither did other listeners - shouldn’t Jesus be speaking more clearly and explaining everything? Jesus said, “This is why I speak in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing they do not hear or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13).
It is beyond the scope of this article to look at this saying in depth, but it seems to indicate that some wanted to see and understand but others had closed minds to what Jesus was saying. Jesus gave them enough in what he said that they could discover more if they had the desire to see and understand. The disciples wanted to find out more and learn more – they had a hunger to see.
Perhaps the way Jesus communicated should challenge us. Can there be times when we are too quick to provide people with the answer to the question they aren’t asking? Are there times when we are giving people information they are not ready to hear? If so, can that cause people to switch off to the message of the gospel? Isn’t it better to sometimes ‘whet people’s appetite?’
Lots of questions to reflect on, and I sympathise with Bishop Curry as my six minutes of your time may be nearer thirteen minutes already! However, let me finish with a word of encouragement. We saw at the Royal Wedding the captivating nature of the gospel. The gospel message of the God of love, revealed most powerfully through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is both appealing and compelling. It causes people to sit up and take notice; It is like a breath of fresh air. It transforms the world. There is, as Bishop Curry made so clear, power in love!
The image of Bishop Michael Curry, above, is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Rev Mark Fairweather Tall is the Minister of Norwich Central Baptist Church.
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