Belfast Telegraph

Bishop's sermon at the royal wedding captured passion of God's message

Great inspiration: Bishop Michael Curry speaking at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Great inspiration: Bishop Michael Curry speaking at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Alf McCreary

By Alf McCreary

What in God's name took place in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle last Saturday afternoon?

Well, a pretty and successful American actress, who is also a divorcee from a mixed-race background, married a prince and became a duchess.

On the same afternoon, a black American preacher, Bishop Michael Curry, blew the cobwebs off decades of formal English church history in that bastion of privilege and duty, and delivered a magnificent sermon on the power of love. How dare he do that!

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh remained stony-faced, and the other members of the royal family looked bemused or startled, like the rest of the congregation.

Bishop Curry, from Chicago and the first African-American to be the Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal Church, showed tremendous courage, charisma and scholarship in delivering his sermon.

It was right for the occasion, despite the fact that some stuffy Anglican clergy think it was wrong. Such nonsense.

Happily, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said afterwards: "We saw that preaching is not a past art. The use of language to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ just blew the place open."

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Bishop Curry, with a worldwide live audience of two billion people, gave an urgency, freshness and power to the Christian message which we in our Western so-called sophistication have lost.

How many sermons have you heard recently that bored you out of your mind?

Did you have the courage to tell the preacher that he or she was totally forgettable?

Quite a few of my friends and readers of this column have told me how they despair about standards of modern preaching.

I am even told that some ministers deliver sermons of up to 35 minutes.

This is ridiculous. A sermon of 35 minutes is an exercise in self-indulgence. It also shows a remarkable lack of planning and discipline.

A sermon of seven minutes, on the other hand, is probably too short.

The norm should be 15 minutes, or 20 minutes in exceptional circumstances.

Anything more than that is wandering into the realms of incompetence and egoism, which is many ministers' greatest downfall.

Bishop Curry spent only 14 minutes speaking at St George's chapel, which is short for a Gospel sermon of that kind.

When I travel in America, including last year to Chicago and St Louis, I often hear sermons much longer than that, but nevertheless spellbinding.

However, there was a much deeper dimension to Bishop Curry's sermon in that he really made people sit up and think.

Like him or loathe him, you could not ignore him.

He challenged everyone with a message about the power of love which they could not escape.

Those who doubt the power of love might also note that earlier this week Prince William read that searing statement about love by St Paul in the New Testament.

He read the lesson at a memorial service for the victims of the Manchester terrorist atrocity.

St Paul's lesson about "faith, hope and love" speaks to everyone.

As my late mother-in-law used to say, St Paul did not "make that up", he simply "wrote it down".

I have been thinking a great deal about St Paul since I visited Malta two weeks ago.

Several times I was driven past the island where he was shipwrecked off Malta, and it seemed hardly bigger than our own Copeland Islands.

Yet despite such humble beginnings, St Paul and all the other Apostles and missionaries spread the Gospel and helped make Christianity the world's greatest religion.

Last Saturday, Bishop Curry captured some of the fire and passion of that deep message of Christian love and redemption which people can accept or reject but not totally ignore.

So thank God for preachers such as Bishop Curry who wake us up spiritually and make us ask ourselves, "Is this man mad, or is he telling us something which we know deep down is right?".

One way or another, it was quite a memorable royal wedding last weekend.

Belfast Telegraph


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