A Royal Wedding and the Power of Love
I had avoided it as best I could. The sixth in line to the British throne marrying a B-list actress known for once holding case 11 on Deal or No Deal held little appeal for me. But my regular journey across the ideological spectrum to check the news of the day had made clear that on this day there was no other news to be found — at least, not without blister-inducing scrolling. Amid my descent from the royal towards the relevant, I was forced upon “Showstopping speech: Bishop gives passionate address about the power of love.” Oh dear, if CNN likes it, then I probably won’t. “Just how bad was it?” I thought, succumbing to the click-bait.
‘This Could be Really Bad’
Seeing that the preacher was Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, my low expectations tumbled still further. A decade prior, my congregation had been through a bruising and costly struggle with that denomination after our exit for a more orthodox form of Anglicanism. I expected that the new Presiding Bishop likely shared his predecessor’s high view of gay “marriage” and low view of the Cross and the Resurrection. “This could be really bad,” I sighed to myself. It wasn’t.
At first, Curry seemed poised to veer into romanticism: “Think of a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved.” But there were no saccharine odes to Meghan and Harry, just a passing reference to a “young couple” that the famous audience had “showed up” to see.
The Real Focus
Instead, the central figure in Curry’s sermon was Jesus of Nazareth. A Jesus responsible for “the most revolutionary movement in human history.” A Jesus who, as Curry quoted from an old slave spiritual, is the balm of Gilead “who died to save us all.” Lest the point be missed, Curry emphasized the sacrificial and healing nature of Jesus’s love: “They got it. He died to save us all. He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it.”
True, nothing was said of just why Jesus might need to die. (Save us all from what?) Sin and repentance were not major themes for Curry. That seems largely understandable. A wedding homily is not really the place for hellfire and brimstone. More could have been said, and one might rightly wonder if Curry would have said it correctly. Still, what was said was said well and most of it was well worth saying. Plus, bad things that could have been said were not.
‘The Way of Life’
A bit earlier in his energetic delivery, Curry had quoted from John’s first epistle: “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? Because God is love.” I then assumed that the bishop was about to seat us all for a trip on the liberal love-train: God is love, so whoever and however you love is godly. To his credit, though, Curry’s turned the focus to Jesus and “his way of love” that is “the way of life.”
The Leftist Media
Other outlets also gushed over the sermon. The BBC quoted a pundit who deemed Curry the “unexpected star” of the event. A prominent politician said the bishop’s words “could almost make me a believer.” Along the way, the BBC was quick to note that Curry was also a proponent of LGBT rights. That rejection of biblical marriage was a major reason for many parishes like mine ultimately rejecting the Episcopal Church. But what for a Bible-believing church is a detriment, is for much of the modern world a draw. If the talker is also on board with gay marriage, then this is the sort of “love” talk the media can get behind.
The left wants to see a “love” of autonomy and liberation, not a love that limits. But marriage is, counterintuitively, a testimony to the liberating power of limits. This is a forsaking of all others in order to form a “life-long covenant between a man and a woman” as the wedding’s program rightly proclaimed. Meghan Markle was glowing, not growling, as she was bound in marriage.
As the BBC noted, Curry himself has not always respected the true boundaries of the marriage institution. His sermon on Saturday, however, did implicitly provide a reply to those who, like himself, call for the end to sexual complimentarity as a basis for matrimony.
The Power of Love and Fire
Curry closed by humorously analogizing the power of love to the power of fire. “I know that the Bible says, and I believe it, that Jesus walked on water. But I have to tell you that I didn’t walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here. Controlled fire in that plane got me here.” Building off a quote from the controversial Jesuit thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Curry concluded, “If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.”
For love to do its work well, it must, like the jet fuel that propelled Curry across the waters, be contained and channeled into the appropriate engines. Physical love liberated from its proper bounds results in a fiery catastrophe, not life-enhancing power. As Curry noted, Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on the Old Testament commandments to love God with all our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Truly believing that the part of the law limiting sexual passion to one man and one woman actually hangs on love is a challenge for today’s world. Making that truth winsomely clear is the challenge for today’s church.
The sexual revolution has hijacked the plane and put the concept of love into a smoky freefall. The marriage of one celebrity from a dysfunctional family to another may seem an odd source of hope, but there could be far worse things for millions of people to witness. Those inside and outside of St. George’s Chapel watched as vows of lasting fidelity were proclaimed and heard a surprisingly orthodox sermon from an often unorthodox source. Love is a powerful thing, indeed.
John Murdock teaches at the Handong International Law School.