Why We Watched the Wedding
Why did democracy-loving, flag-waving Americans get up early last Saturday morning to watch a Royal Wedding? Why are we still talking about it?
Here’s what I think. In a time when our senses are numbed by the relentless headlines of conflict and corruption, polarization and pain, the wedding reminded us of something deeper, stronger, longer-lasting and more life-giving. It felt like a volcanic eruption of love and joy.
The Volcanic Fire of Love
The New York Times asked, “What if the surprise biggest star…of this royal wedding was a sermon about love?” Bishop Michael Curry’s wedding sermon demonstrated the power of preaching to offer a word of hope in a dark time, a glimpse of God’s love in a world of conflict and bigotry, an experience of joy in a world of pain.
When the Bishop put love at the center he was standing in the center flow of the Anglican/Wesleyan spiritual and theological tradition.
David Fields’ new book, “Our Purpose Is Love”, reminds us that the Wesleys were relentless in centering the Methodist movement in the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
- Put doctrine at the center and you could end up with a cold rationalism that places a higher priority on suffocating dogma than on grace-filled relationships.
- Put providence at the center and you might end up with a distant, micromanaging God who robs us of our freedom.
- Put holiness at the center and you risk becoming a self-righteous prig.
- Put church at the center and you might end up with a rigid institutionalism and is impervious to change.
- Put patriotism at the center and you end up with jingoistic nationalism and a world in conflict.
Doctrine matters. Providence matters. Holiness matters. Church matters. Patriotism matters. But Jesus put love at the center (Matthew 22:34-40). So did Bishop Curry. So did Methodism’s greatest missionary, E. Stanley Jones:
“The first thing in God is not truth by love..The Christian faith is not primarily a thought; it is primarily an act–an act of Love invading history to redeem [us]. The Christian faith is not a set of propositions to be accepted–it is a Person to be followed.” (The Word Became Flesh, p. 36-37)
A Volcanic Explosion of Joy
It wasn’t just what Bishop Curry said; it was the joy with which he said it. He’s an American version of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who confronted injustice with unrelenting realism but exuded confident joy in the goodness of God and the ultimate triumph of love.
Tutu’s latest book is a conversation with the Dali Lama entitled The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. A volcanic joy bursts out of both of them…a joy that is sadly lacking in some of the loudest voices that pretend to represent Christianity in our cultural debates. You can hear their laughter here. Tutu says:
“Joy is the reward of seeking to give joy to others. When you sow compassion, when you sow caring, when you sow love to others, in a wonderful way you have a joy that you can get in no other way…You can be the richest person on earth but if you care only about yourself, you cannot be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than of your own — wonderful! wonderful! — you start feeling warm glow in your heart.”
From Windsor to Washington
Last night, Bishop Curry was in Washington for a prayer service and candlelight procession to the White House. United Methodist Bishop, Wil Willimon was among the leaders who called faithful people to Reclaiming Jesus.
Bishop Curry proclaimed the same love in Washington that he celebrated in Windsor.
“Love your neighbor,” Curry preached, his voice rising with emotion. “Love the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor, your black neighbor, your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino neighbor and your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor! That’s why we’re here!”
The wedding sermon and the candlelight procession flow out of the same volcanic core of love and joy that should be the identifying mark of Christian discipleship. Paul said the sure signs of the Spirit at work in us are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
May the memory of the Royal Wedding be a constant reminder of the unstoppable flow of the love and joy that erupt from lives that are centered in the words and way of Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace,