Lesson 4: What Is The Message?

Royal Wedding 2018The royal wedding that united Prince Harry and Meghan Markle offers a good source for examining the content of the Christian message in a democracy. Many, including myself, thought it offered hope to our society that seems terrified of the future. Others accused it of promoting only an emotional utopianism that ignores Jesus’ teachings.

The latter group heard Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon as an example of Christianity-lite that bases its priorities on the zeitgeist of our culture rather than the Bible. They claimed the Church’s message should focus on the evils of adultery, divorce, abortion, and same-sex marriage that are poisoning our culture rather than romanticized compassion.

The former group sees a far greater danger in the paranoia that has separated us into warring tribes. We think, or at least I think, that much of the present societal hostility is anxiety about what will happen when whites, like myself, lose the majority and its inherent power. We are afraid non-whites will do to us what we did to them. From this perspective, those who adopt a fatalistic attitude are the ones who have succumbed to modern society.

The Acts 2 Pentecost community that continued Jesus’ ministry is hardly fatalistic. It offers biblical support to Bishop Curry’s claim that “there’s a 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 the way to live.”

St. Peter proclaims that Pentecost is all about the resurrected, ascended Jesus sharing with us the Spirit of love he enjoys with God the Father. His sermon maintains that the first reason Christ does this is to offer forgiveness, so we can put the errors of the past behind us and move on to a better future. Bishop Curry spoke of this as the redemptive power of love.

Jesus’ second intention is captured by the action by which the Spirit is given. People from every nation hear and understand the gospel of love in spite of their native languages. The royal wedding participated in the Spirit bringing all people together by offering healing for the divisions between white and black cultures. The child of an interracial marriage, who only 50 years ago was legally regarded as socially handicapped and therefore not eligible for adoption in the US, married a prince. The service from beginning to end demonstrated that black culture is just as talented, learned, caring, loving, and perhaps even more Christian than our own.

Jesus’ third reason for sharing the divine Spirit is manifested in the spirit-filled community caring enough for each other to share all they had. With glad and generous hearts, they sold their property and possessions, placing the proceeds into a common pot from which people could take according to their needs. The idea was people put in according to their ability and took out according to their needs.

Those who disparaged the wedding as a utopian misreading of the Bible certainly miss the message of Acts 2. It clearly supports Bishops Curry when he claims, “When love is the way, we actually treat each other well, like we are actually family” and “When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God, a new human family.”

It seems to me that our Christian message in the present democratic society is not so much to advocate Christian laws and silence supposedly pagan voices as simply to proclaim love as defined by Jesus. And as Acts 2 demonstrates, that messages is best conveyed by both our words and actions. I think the royal wedding surprisingly did a pretty good job.

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  1. Rita Yeasted says:

    As a white woman who teaches an African American literature and music class each spring, I was captivated by the wedding: its music, its sermon, its significance in the present situation of overt and subtle racism, and the sheer joy of the event.

    Chaucer’s prioress wore the medallion reading “Amor vincit omnia” (Love conquers all), and while her tale is frightfully anti-Semitic, the message on the brooch came to mind during the wedding. The royal jewels were bought centuries ago by the wealth of the slave trade and colonial domination, but on Saturday an African American woman wore (and will continue to wear) some of those jewels. Seeing all those persons of color in the Windsor Chapel and a black bishop preaching from the pulpit was a visual image of a new world. I felt that humanity (at least the humanity that I feel a part of) turned a small corner on Saturday.

    Jesus was about the law–but the law of love. As Bishop Curry said, “When love is the way, poverty will become history.” I have listened to that sermon more than once, and I thought that the Spirit of Pentecost came a day early in that chapel. He spoke “in tongues” to a diverse congregation. One of the audience asked about it after the wedding remarked, ” I thought it was a bit too religious.” What a secular world we have become… Come, Holy Spirit….

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