The Most Rev. Michael Curry, the first African American to preside over the Episcopal Church, focused his sermon at the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday on “the redemptive power of love.”
Drawing from quotes from civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., American slaves and a Jesuit theologian, his sermon centered on the biblical teachings of Jesus.
“Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying,” Curry said. “He wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the well-being of the world, for us. That’s what love is.”
“Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, become redemptive,” he said. “That way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives.”
Curry, who was installed as presiding bishop of the U.S.-based member of the Anglican Communion on Nov. 1, 2015, is the son of an outspoken civil rights activist who helped bring an end to segregated schools in Buffalo. As bishop in North Carolina, he was one of the first to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in churches there and often speaks on progressive issues. Curry did not know the couple personally before the wedding, according a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church, but he met them before the ceremony. “When I was told I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” he joked of being chosen to deliver the sermon. “Is this an April Fool’s Day prank?”
Here is a video and transcript of the sermon he gave at the wedding:
The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, and I quote: “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, power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. There’s power, power in love, not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it. It actually feels right. There’s something right about it. There’s a reason for it. It has to do with the source.
We were made by a power of love. Our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here. Ultimately the source of love is God himself. The source of all of our lives.
There’s an old medieval poem that says: “Where true love is found, God himself is there.” The New Testament says it this way. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; And those who love are born of God and know God. Those who not love does not know God. Why? For God is love.”
There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. … But love is not only about a young couple. The power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we’re all here. Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up. It’s not just for and about a young couple whom we rejoice with. It’s more than that.
Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses. He went back and reached back to the Hebrew Scriptures to Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then in Matthew’s version, he added, he said, on these two, love of God and love of neighbor, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything from the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world. Love God, love your neighbors, and while you’re at it, love yourself.
Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history: a movement ground on the unconditional love of God for the world and a movement mandating people to live and love.
And in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself! I’m talking about the power, real power, power to change the world.
If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says there is a balm in Gilead, a healing balm, something that can make things right. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. One of the stanzas explains why: It says, if you cannot preach like Peter, you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all. That’s the balm in Gilead. This way of love is the way of life. They got it.
He died to save us all. He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the well-being of the world, for us. That’s what love is. Love is not selfish or self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, become redemptive. That way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives. And it can change this world.
Stop and imagine for a minute. Think and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.
Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine our neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way. When love is the way — unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive — when love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream, and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty would become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there’s plenty of room for all of God’s children. When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family. When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters and children of God. Brothers and sisters — that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family. Let me tell you something. Ol’ Solomon was right in the Old Testament. That’s fire.
French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century. Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, scientist, a scholar, a true mystic. Some of his writings from his scientific background as well as his theological one, some of his writings said, as others have said, that the discovery and harnessing of fire was one of the great technological discoveries of human history. Fire, to a great extent, made human civilization possible. Fire made it possible to cook food and to provide sanitary ways of eating, which reduced the spread of disease in its time. Fire made it possible to heat warm environments and thereby marking human migration a possibility even into colder climates. Fire made it possible — there was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire. … Anybody get here in a car today? An automobile? Nod your heads if you did; I know there were some carriages. Those of us who came in cars, the controlled, harnessed fire made that possible.
I know that the Bible says, and I believe it that Jesus walked on water, but I have to tell you I didn’t walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here. Controlled fire in that plane got me here. Fire makes it possible for us to text, and tweet, and email, and Instagram, and Facebook, and socially be dysfunctional with each other. Fire makes that possible, and de Chardin said fire was one of the great discoveries in all of human history. He went on to say if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captured the energies of love, it will be the second time in the history that will have discovered fire.
Dr. King was right. We must discover love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.
My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you. And may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.
This story has been updated to include additional quotes in the introduction.