A worldwide audience listened last weekend to a sermon about the power of love at the wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and U.S. actress Meghan Markle.
Delivered by Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, the sermon has received a global reception as a message the world needed to hear.
Building upon a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. about the “redemptive power of love,” Curry delineated the powerful existence between love’s intoxicating mystery and its healing balm for all wounds.
At the conclusion of his sermon, he offered the example of how fire changed the world.
Explicitly identifying a “harnessed fire,” the bishop demonstrated how fire provided sanitary cooking, allowed migration to colder climates, ushered in the Bronze and Iron Ages, and even created energy for us to be dysfunctional to each other on Facebook.
However, he concluded, if people would ever figure out how to harness love and direct it outwardly, this world of ours would be a much better place to live.
After hearing Curry’s sermon last Saturday, for a brief moment, I considered converting. His message, through its beauty and its challenge, reflected both its simplicity and complexity.
When Jesus declared to the rich young ruler, “love God and love others” (Luke 10:27), it revealed the tension between humanity’s desire to love and our desire to dominate.
What seems so simple in accepting, in reality, is very difficult to enact. Why?
Love means placing the well-being of others before your own, a lesson Jesus lived out through the cross. Jesus sacrificed himself so that others might have life.
Humanity, by contrast, has a difficult time setting aside our desires. We want to be favored. We want blessings. We want glory. We want riches. We want power.
For humanity to ultimately accept love as our prime motivation for life, it would take a willingness on our behalf to love even when love is not returned. Again, the Jesus way.
It can be overwhelming and disconcerting when we think about all the divisiveness and hate in this world.
The front pages of our newspapers and social media feeds characterize a world growing darker by the day. Where love and hope once existed, it seems like with each story, hate and despair are winning the day.
But then, all of a sudden, a spark of hope emerges from the darkness. A good word echoes from the shadows that grows brighter, consuming the darkness little by little. It’s the message of love.
Curry reminded his global audience last week that if this world has a chance for a brighter future, we must let love penetrate our hearts, permeate our minds and feed our souls.
But even that is not enough, for we must permit love to guide our steps, control our hands and tame our tongues. Redemptive love is both philosophical and pragmatic.
After answering the lawyer’s question with, “love God and love others,” Jesus moved quickly into a parable demonstrating the practical importance of redemptive love.
The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) showed the disconnect between the pious and their ideas concerning love against the true meaning of love lived out by the Samaritan.
For the pious priest and Levite, love meant a transformation of self at the sacrifice of another. For the Samaritan, love meant a transformation of another at the sacrifice of self.
Therefore, as Bishop Curry began his sermon with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., I end my weekly column with another.
When faced with the greatest of trials and criticisms of the civil rights movement, King responded, “I have decided to stick with love. … Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
As we wake each morning, let the love of God fill our souls and motivate our feet to walk another day. Let love be the balm for our hearts and the repercussions of our words.
Every day, we must let the redemptive love of God win. When we do, we all win.