I was not one of the two billion.
My mother-in-law was. Big time. Last Saturday, she awoke at 4:15 AM, picked up a friend of hers, and together they went to the Circle Cinema in Tulsa where they were served a fine English breakfast as they watched Prince Harry and his intended, Meghan Markle become husband and wife.
Two billion? That’s the number of people who tuned in to see a princess marry her prince in a castle amid much pomp and circumstance, and then ride off in a horse drawn carriage as an adoring crowd lined the streets and cheered.
Of all of the 365 options available to the royal couple, they selected Mary Ann’s and my wedding anniversary as their day to wed. We celebrated 39 years of marriage last Saturday. And we were in Tulsa to witness our niece and her fiancé exchange their vows.
So while I didn’t join the world in watching Harry and Meghan, I was spending time Saturday celebrating God’s good gift of marriage.
And I was grateful that in a culture where marriage has been devalued and wrongly defined, the world was for a day captivated by what Bishop Michael Curry called “the power of love.”
Love is powerful. We’ve been immersing ourselves in that idea for the past several weeks. Back in Romans 12, we read that one of the ways we are to respond to the good news of the gospel is by loving others, including our enemies, with a “genuine” love.
And this past weekend, we were reminded that love is the debt we owe to all people.
The kind of love Paul has in mind goes far beyond having our emotions stirred. The kind of love Bishop Curry was talking about – the powerful kind of love – is the kind of love God demonstrated for us, in that while we were still His enemies, He gave His Son to be executed in our place to pay for our sins.
Love that has power is a love that is demonstrated by commitment and by sacrifice. It’s not wedding day love. It’s faithful, persistent, “for better or worse” love. It’s the kind of transcendent, counterintuitive love that says “Your good is my highest priority. I’ll die for you - daily.”
When we experience that kind of love, it does more than warm our hearts. It shakes us to the core. It unsettles us. It exposes our own self-centeredness by its self-emptying.
Writing in the journal First Things this week, Wesley Hill had some observationsabout Bishop Michael Curry’s wedding homily. Curry’s personal history and his rhetorical style, coupled with his inspiring prose, certainly connected with his audience. Together with a choir that sang Stand By Me, Curry brought a needed trans-cultural, trans-racial element that reflected the union being formed in Windsor castle.
And his message about the power of love had to resonate with even his most secular listeners. By combining the central theme of the wedding day with the central theme of the gospel, Curry lifted up Jesus as an attractive example, a model for all men and women to follow.
For that, we should rejoice. Wesley writes “That there may be a connection between the kind of love that gives us the misty-eyed shivers (even when we’re only watching it unfold on TV) and the love that is the wellspring of creation itself—and that goes on to reshape entire societies—is the kind of thought that most of us, much of the time, ignore or disbelieve. It seems too grandiose, too metaphysical. To have it proclaimed with evident conviction, fervor, and fist-pumping cadence was to find ourselves, for a moment, confronted and beguiled by the fact that it just might be true.”
God’s love was declared with conviction before two billion people. And that’s a good thing.
But, as Wesley points out, the flaw in Bishop Curry’s message was that it seemed to reflect the progressive idea that “Christians and other people of goodwill can even now begin to imagine a world made new, that we can indeed combat racism and oppression and hunger.” What the Bible teaches is that the power of love is “not so much something we bring about in the world by imitating Jesus, as something anchored in and energized by what Jesus has already perfected without our aid. Our efforts don’t usher in the kingdom of love; they rather attest to its arrival.”
The power of love is the power of the gospel. It’s the power that brings transformation and change. Not because we can now begin to imitate the love we’ve seen modeled for us. But because we can experience God’s love ourselves and be transformed by it.
On our wedding invitations, we included 1 John 4:19, the verse that I have always thought of as “our verse.” It’s only seven words. But it’s seven powerful, profound words about the power of love.
“We love,” John says, “because He first loved us.”
That’s the real power of love.
Big plans for RCC after we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday this weekend. Check this out.
If you’re interested in being among those who will be baptized on Sunday, June 10, now is the time to let us know. We need to meet with you to talk about your interest and to plan your baptism. Contact Matt Gurney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the baptism details.
We begin our exploration of Romans 14 on Sunday. Lot’s to consider. Strong vs. weak Christians. Holy diets, holy days, matters of conscience and judging brothers. Get ready.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!