Roy Exum: Words For The Ages

Monday, May 21, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I was probably one of few people in the entire world who didn’t get caught up in the Royal Marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry this weekend. I got over having any semblance of ‘pomp and circumstance’ a long time ago and, as a rule, studiously avoid those apt to ‘put on airs and graces.’ By ignoring the magnificent occasion, I made a big mistake and today it is with delight that I make amends.

The unexpected star of the wedding was a descendant of slaves and sharecroppers, his family roots easily traced to North Carolina and Alabama. How the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States every got to Windsor I’ll never know. But of all the people the newlyweds could have invited, I don’t believe a one could have matched The Most Reverend Michael Curry … yes, a guy who holds an honorary degree from Sewanee.

Moments after his 14-minute address before 600 guests in St. George’s Chapel, both the Washington Post and New York Times were every bit as exuberant as the millions who watched around the world, both newspapers calling it, “That sermon!” His passion, enthusiasm, joy were only upstaged by his message, as you will soon read.

Ironically, it was hardly lost on anyone the world over that Meghan is biracial, or that the Bishop Curry is the first black to ever ascend to the leadership of the Episcopal Church. And far, far better, not one single person could have cared. Delightfully, Bishop Curry’s North Carolina roots showed late in his homily when he looked with keen joy at the couple and said, “We gotta’ get ya’ll married now!” Despite the fact it was the first time ‘y'all’ has ever been said in Windsor, the audience absolutely loved it.

It is with joy that I share the complete transcript of Bishop Curry’s sermon:

* * *

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 do that, we will make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.

There’s power in love. Don’t 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. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love. Our lives 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 it: “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 no God; those who do not love, do not know God.’

Why? For God is love.

There’s power in love. There is 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. Set me as a seal on your heart, a seal on your arm. For love, it is strong as death. But love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we are all here. Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up. But it’s not just for and about a young couple who we rejoice with. It’s more than that.

Jesus of Nazareth, on one occasion, was asked to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses. And he reached back to the Hebrew scriptures of 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 profit, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy profits, 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 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 am 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 the one that says there is a balm in Gilead—a healing balm.

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: 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. That’s the balm of Gilead.

This way of love, it 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 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 and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial and, in so doing, become redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives. And it can change this world. If you don’t believe me, just stop, think, and imagine.

Think and imagine a world when love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities when love is the way. Imagine governments and nations when 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—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 will become history. When love is the way, the Earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more.

When love is the way, there is plenty of good room for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other 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, children of God. My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new Earth, a new world, a new human family.

And let me tell you something: Solomon was right in the Old Testament. That’s fire.

With this, we’ll sit down. We gotta get y’all married (!)

French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century—a Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, a scientist, a scholar, a mystic. In some of his writings, he said from his scientific background as well as his theological one, that the discovery and harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all 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 environments, and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into older climates.

There was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire. The advances of science and technology are greatly dependent on the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good.

Anybody get here in a car today, an automobile? Nod your heads if you did; I know there were some carriages. For those of us who came in cars, fire made that possible. I know that the Bible says—and I believe 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 e-mail and Instagram and Facebook, and otherwise socially be dysfunctional with each other.

Fire makes all that possible. And de Chardin said that fire was one of the greatest discoveries of all of human history. He then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it would be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.

Dr. King was right: we must discover love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will 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.

Amen.

* * *

If ‘Y'all’ wasn’t enough to steal the show, a gospel choir ended the ceremony with a rousing version of the wonderful Ben E. King standard, “Stand By Me.”

When the night has come

And the land is dark

And the moon is the only light we'll see

No I won't be afraid, No I won't be afraid

Just as long as you stand, stand by me

royexum@aol.com



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