It was the perfect sermon for a royal wedding. Not too long. Not too short. The kind of sermon that would have been applauded by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who himself was quoted in the prelude to the sermon that brought Bishop Michael Curry, the Episcopal reverend from Chicago into global evangelical stardom. On listening to the sermon, I tweeted:
Rev Michael Curry, what a sublime sermon on love and marriage! One of the best sermons I have ever heard, flowing like a river, a sermon straight from the throne of grace. Oh what a royal wedding! And what a sermon! God indeed is love and love is God. (Follow: Mike Awoyinfa @pressclips)
It wasn’t Bishop Curry alone who stole the show. How about the young, Davidic cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who charmed the watching world playing classical musical with the touch of a virtuoso? Instantly, I became his fan and went on my Apple Music to listen to his full repertoire. Now, I am hooked. His latest CD Inspiration has a classical rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, which made me cry like a woman. Those were the two black men who made my day on the royal wedding day, last Saturday, about this time at Windsor. Here is Bishop Curry, armed with an iPad (Steve Jobs will be so proud), delivering his poetic, off-the-cuff sermon, all for you, my beloved brethren of the Press Clips Pentecostal Church (PCPC):
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.—Song of Solomon
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. Anyone who has ever fallen in love, knows what I mean. But think about love in any form or experience of it. It actually feels good to be loved, and to express love. There is something right about it. And there’s a reason.
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An old medieval poem says it: “Where true love is found, God himself is there.” The Bible, 1 John 4 says it this way: “Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; Everyone who loves is born of God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
There’s power in love. Love can help and heal when nothing else can. Love can lift up and liberate for living when nothing else will. And the love that brings two people together is the same love that can bind them together, whether on mountaintops of happiness and through valleys of hardship.
Love is strong as death. Its flashes are flashes of fire. Many waters cannot quench love. Love can see you through! There’s power in love. But the love of which we speak is not only for couples getting married or just for interpersonal relationships. Jesus of Nazareth taught us that the way of love is the way to a real relationship with the God who created all of us, and the way to true relationship with each other as children of that one God, as brothers and sisters in God’s human family.
One scholar said it this way: “Jesus had founded the most revolutionary movement in human history: a movement built on the unconditional love of God for the world and the mandate to live that love.”
And in so doing, to change lives and the world itself! There’s a reason. An old spiritual may suggest why: “If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all. There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin sick soul. Just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all.”
He didn’t sacrifice his life for Himself, or anything he could get out of it, He did it for others, for the other, for the good and wellbeing of others, that’s love. How does St. Paul say it? Love is not jealous, rude, or boastful. Love does not insist on its own way. Love is unselfish, sacrificial, kind and just. Love seeks the good and the wellbeing of the other. Love makes room and space for the other to be. This love, this is the way of Jesus. And it’s game changer. Imagine our homes and families when this way of love is the way.
Imagine our neighborhoods and communities when love is the way. Imagine our governments and countries when love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when this love is the way. Imagine our world when love is the way. No child would go to bed hungry in such a world as that. Poverty would become history in such a world as that. The earth would be as a sanctuary in such a world as that. We would treat one another as children of God, regardless of differences. We would learn how to lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. There would be a new heaven, a new earth, a new world. A new and beautiful human family. The very dream of God.
Love is strong as death. Its flashes are flashes of fire. Many waters cannot quench love.
The late French Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, was at once a scientist, a Roman Catholic priest, a theologian, a true mystic. His was one of the great minds and spirits of the 20th century. He suggested that the discovery and harnessing of fire was one of the great technological discoveries of human history.
Fire made it possible to cook food, thereby reducing the spread of disease. Fire made it possible to stay warm in cold climates, thereby marking human migration possible. Fire made the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Revolution possible. If you drove here this morning, you did so in part because of harnessed fire. I flew here from the U.S. due to controlled burn of fire. Fire is involved in broadcasting this wedding around the world. And we can text, tweet, email, and otherwise socially engage one another due to fire. Fire was one of the great technological discoveries of humanity.
In light of this, de Chardin said that if human beings ever harness the energies of love, then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire. Love is the very fire and energy of real life!
Dr. King was right: “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.”
My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you. My brothers, my sisters, God love you, God bless you. And may God hold us all. In those Almighty hands of love. Amen.