In seminary, each third-year student preaches a “senior sermon” in front of the entire seminary. It’s a bit nerve-wracking because seminarians and priests are a pretty tough crowd. Add that on top of professors who have molded you for three years, and the pressure is pretty intense. I remember talking to a professor about my nerves and he assured me, “Well, you know what the old hymn says: If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say, ‘He died for all.’”
That hymn to which he was referring is, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” which is the same hymn that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry quoted in his sermon at the Royal Wedding. Of course, preaching after Bishop Curry the next day felt equally daunting. Lord knows, I cannot preach like Peter, and I certainly cannot preach like Bishop Curry. But as I was thinking about it, I think what people have loved so much about Bishop Curry’s preaching at the Royal Wedding is: 1) he was authentically himself (which is obviously a bit different culturally from those gathered in the royal family, but his authenticity was infectious), 2) he was passionate about the love of Jesus and its ability to change the world, and 3) he gave the world a glimpse of what is so awesome about the Episcopal Church – a Church who understands the radical power of love and brings together people from all walks of life to thoughtfully, willfully, beautifully engage in doing powerful work in the world through love.
What has been fascinating to me about Bishop Curry’s sermon and the way it has been described as “stealing the show,” is that Bishop Curry was just doing what the Episcopal Church does every Sunday, at every wedding, and at every funeral – we worship God in the beauty of holiness, we teach those gathered, and we equip them to go out into the world sharing the good news of God in Jesus Christ. What Bishop Curry’s success does is embolden us to live into our identity as disciples of Christ and members of the Episcopal Church. I suspect you have talked to someone about Bishop Curry’s sermon in the last few days. How about instead of just marveling about Bishop Curry’s talent as a preacher, you use this event to talk to someone about how you are inspired to be a follower of Jesus? Keep it authentic: “He was awesome, wasn’t he? He reminds me of my church and the amazing things we are doing to harness the power of love. I’d love to show you!”
What Bishop Curry did on Saturday at the Royal Wedding was be himself – a member of the Jesus Movement, sharing the Good News of God in Christ. Your invitation is to be yourself and do the same. You may not preach like Peter, and you may not pray like Paul. But you can tell the love of Jesus, and say, “He died for all.” I can’t wait to hear about your adventures!!