Power to change the world

No I didn’t watch the RoYal WedDing, and I was pretty staggered last night to see CNN “covering” it (to the exclusion of anything else) at 5 a.m. London time when all there was to say was “Well the sun is coming up and the crowds aren’t here yet but THEY WILL BE by god”…but all the same I’m getting a kick out of the sermon the royal stiffs got to listen to.

The sermon-giver was Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the US version of the Anglican church, aka the Episcopalian. (I was dragged to Episcopalian church a few times as a kid. It didn’t take.) He’s the first African-American head of the church. His sermon was a stem-winder. Even a non-believer can appreciate it.

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 into 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 and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. And 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 in 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.

Now someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history, a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. A movement mandating people to live that love. And in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.

I’m talking about some 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’s a balm in Gilead. A healing balm, something that can makes 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 actually explains why: they said, If you cannot preach like Peter and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus how he died to save us all. Oh 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 the others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world. For us, that’s what love is.

Yep, I’m still not going to watch so much as a second of the wedding or the supra-wedding carry-on, but I do like that sermon and who gave it and who heard it.

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