A Reflection on Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on this Pentecost Day
The timing and messaging of Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle yesterday takes on a meaning and understanding of cosmological importance and world-shattering proportions.
This foreground of understanding which will manifest itself through the words penned now is embodied in the background of events over the past week which climaxed with lives lost and destroyed by the dominant powers of our present world (dis)order. What I found very revealing, given that today is Pentecost, is how the message of the sermon indirectly, but forcefully, contrasts the power of love to transform our lives and the world, with the status quo of love of life-destroying power that reigns in the world today.
I will use the full text of the sermon to bring forth in high contrast the implications and applications of the great distinction between the power of love and the love of power to drive home the timing, messaging, meaning and understanding of it all that the Holy Spirit has fruitfully moved in me to bear. As is always the case, a life-grounded compass was necessarily sufficient to ground, anchor and steer me through this deconstruction of Bishop Michael Curry’s words of light, life and love.
“And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
This is the life-ground of ALL Creation and the basis of it all. Our allegiance and servitude to any other idols of worship in the name of hating, enslaving and life-taking military, economic or religious power is a hijacking of the (r)evolutionary life-agenda of Creation and all life-enabling movements in this world, be they in the past, present and in the future.
“From the Song of Solomon, in the Bible: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
This passage is found in Song of (Songs) Solomon 8:6-7. It is reproduced below in its entirety.
Song of Songs 8:6-7 New International Version (NIV)
6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy[a] unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.[b]
7 Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it[c] would be utterly scorned.
a Song of Songs 8:6 Or ardor
b Song of Songs 8:6 Or fire, / like the very flame of the Lord
c Song of Songs 8:7 Or he
Please pay particular attention to the fourth wisdom statement which was not included in the sermon: “If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”
“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, for love is the only way.’
This quote was taken from “Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (1957). Here is an excerpt to provide the broader context from within which this quote was made (highlighted below):
“And oh this morning, as I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution. Our nation is facing a revolution, our nation. One of the things that concerns me most is that in the midst of the revolution of the world and the midst of the revolution of this nation, that we will discover the meaning of Jesus’ words. History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.
Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it’s difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn’t the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.
Not only did Jesus discover it, even great military leaders discover that. One day as Napoleon came toward the end of his career and looked back across the years, the great Napoleon that at a very early age had all but conquered the world. He was not stopped until he became, till he moved out to the battle of Leipzig and then to Waterloo. But that same Napoleon one day stood back and looked across the years, and said: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have built great empires. But upon what did they depend? They depended upon force. But long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love, and even to this day millions will die for him.”
Yes, I can see Jesus walking around the hills and the valleys of Palestine. And I can see him looking out at the Roman Empire with all of her fascinating and intricate military machinery. But in the midst of that, I can hear him saying: “I will not use this method. Neither will I hate the Roman Empire.” [Recording interrupted] [ . . .] just start marching.11
11 In his Howard sermon King said: “I am just going to use love as my ammunition, and I am going out and put on the breast-plate of righteousness and the whole armour of God and just start marching.”
“There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise 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 centre around you and your beloved.
“Oh 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 is 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, and our lives were meant – and 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: ‘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 know God. Those who do not love do not know God.’ Why? ‘For God is love.’
Here is the context within which this statement was made:
God’s Love and Ours
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.“
“There’s power in love. There’s 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 is as strong as death.
“But love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we’re 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 by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses, and he went back and he 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 neighbour as yourself.’
“And then in Matthew’s version, he added, he said: ‘On these two, love of God and love of neighbour, 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 neighbours, and while you’re at it, love yourself.’
Interestingly, these great commandments of LOVE provided for me the Rosetta Stone of translation that connected the spiritual manifestations of LOVE with their physical, mental and social embodiments of well-being. As I wrote in a previous blog article entitled “On Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Grace”:
“What struck me at the moment when I was at the bedside of the patient was a discovery of another “means of grace,” which instead of being a watershed of further division in our traditions, had the potential to unify the physical and spiritual aspects of healing. Although I did not know it before, I now realise that what I described in my lecture, The Secret to Healthy Ageing last year, was actually God’s Grace disguised as God’s love for us all. So when my patient claimed that her healing will come with God’s Grace, it all made sense to me then and there. Let me explain.
In that lecture, I asked myself several leading questions:
1) Is the secret to health ageing responsible stewardship?
2) Does it involve me tending the garden of my physical, mental and social self?
3) What do you call that experience of connection with the cells, tissues and organs of your body so that you can keep your physiological reserves in the best shape possible? Is that your physical capital?
4) What do you call that experience of connection with your family, friends, school-mates, co-workers and neighbours in your community, that allows you to invest in them and they in you, as you actualise their potential, and they yours? Is that your social capital?
5) What do you call that experience of connection with your thoughts and emotions and your worldview that allows you to cope with difficult situations when they arise without getting anxious, depressed, angry or frustrated, and be at peace with yourself, others and the world? Is that your mental capital?
6) What did William Blake mean in his poem,
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
7) Could it be that when Jesus was talking about inheriting an eternal life, he was in fact talking about healthy ageing?
Luke 10:25-28 King James Version (KJV)
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
8) Is love of God referring to stewardship of all creatures and all of creation inclusive of the life supporting systems of the planet, be they the air, water, and soil of our planet – in other words, our environment? So if we take care of our life supporting systems, will they in turn take care of us? Do we already live in abundance and don’t even know it?
9) Is love of neighbour referring to stewardship of the relationships with our family and community, and that if we take care of our families and communities, our families and communities will take care of us?
10) And finally, is love of (your)self referring to stewardship of your body, and that by taking care of your organs and body, your body and organs would take care of you?
11) For me at least, to love GOD, and to love your neighbour as you love yourself, with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, is the secret to healthy ageing!!!
It was this morning, that I realised that it is the personal relationships with our life-supporting-networks, within, around and without that IS God’s Grace. These diverse and interconnected networks that work efficiently and with great resilience are not earned, and are not gained on merit, but are given to us unconditionally by our Creator. How many times have we turned away from God’s grace and “sinned” when we have polluted our bodies with toxic and less nutritious substances, and caused injury to our internal cells and organs? How many times have our internal organs forgiven us? Seventy-times-seven?
How many times have we impoverished our soils, deforested our lands, polluted the air and oceans and lands, along with our food supply? Have we passed the grace period, seventy-times-seven, that Earth has given us before she cannot forgive us anymore?
And finally, how many times have we spewed toxic and less than wholesome thoughts, words and deeds that have affected our family members and members of our local community and those in the wider world? If our bodies have been very forgiving of us and our planet and its life-supporting systems have endured so much, why can’t we find it within ourselves to forgive the perpetrators of misdeeds among us, just like the victims’ families of Charleston on that fateful day had found it in their hearts to do so?
A more pertinent question in our globalised and financial age that must be asked with much urgency is this: Why can’t the high priests in the temple of finance find it in their hearts to forgive nations of their debts when they err, so as not not bring untold hardships on the people for generations to come?”
“Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.
“A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world – and 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 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 is a balm in Gilead…’ a healing balm, something that can make 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.’
“And 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, 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 didn’t… he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world… for us.
“That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes 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 and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.”
“Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way.
“Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
“Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
“When love is the way, 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’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children.
“Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well… 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, old Solomon was right in the Old Testament: that’s fire.
“Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – and with this I will sit down, we gotta get you all married – French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.
“Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, scientist, a scholar, a mystic.
“In some of his writings, he said, from his scientific background as well as his theological one, in some of his writings he said – as others have – that the discovery, or invention, or harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history.
“Fire to a great extent made human civilisation 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 warm environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates.
“Fire made it possible – there was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire.
“The advances of fire 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. But those of us who came in cars, fire – the controlled, harnessed fire – made that possible.
“I know that the Bible says, and I believe it, that Jesus walked on the water. But I have to tell you, I did not 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 email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other.
“Fire makes all of that possible, and de Chardin said fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history.
“And 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 will 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.”
The synchronistic timing on this article on Pentecost day is based on its syntropic etymology as found here at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecost:
The term Pentecost comes from the Greek Πεντηκοστή (Pentēkostē) meaning “fiftieth” (50th). It refers to the festival celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, also known as the “Feast of Weeks” and the “Feast of 50 days” in rabbinic tradition.
The Septuagint uses the term Pentēkostē to refer to the “Feast of Pentecost” only twice, in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit and 2 Maccabees. The Septuagint writers also used the word in two other senses: to signify the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10), an event which occurs every 50th year, and in several passages of chronology as an ordinal number. The term has also been used in the literature of Hellenistic Judaism by Philo of Alexandria and Josephus.”
The fire of love is represented by the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles that day as tongues of fire, which empowered them to go forth and to speak truth to power of the power of love in fiery tongues.
This is beautifully exemplified in the Orthodox iconic imagery below:
And finally, Professor Michael Hudson may have rediscovered the literal earthly basis for the redemptive power of love and why we have all been disempowered from harnessing the energy of fire within to guide the harnessing of energy of fire from without in the tools and technologies of civilization in life-protecting and life-promoting ways. What was surprising, for me at least, was that this rediscovery was hidden in plain sight all along. If we look up the definition of redemption we will find it has several meanings:
“1 The action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.
‘God’s plans for the redemption of his world’
1.1 A thing that saves someone from error or evil.
‘his marginalization from the Hollywood jungle proved to be his redemption’
2 The action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.
‘the peasants found the terms of redemption unattractive’
2.1 The action of buying one’s freedom.
‘soldiers who were captured had to seek redemption’
‘serfs began paying redemption dues’”
In his article “He died for our debt, not our sins”, Professor Michael Hudson re-interprets Jesus’ life mission as one of a social activist who preached of the redemptive power of love IN THIS WORLD by the clearing of debts, which was also the main instrument of enslavement by indebtedness of the people in his locale to the military, economic and religious ruling establishment of his time. The same rings true today, which is the hidden esoteric meaning of Bishop Michael Curry’s (r)evolutionary and path-blazing sermon for me.
I will end now with an illustrative excerpt from the article:
“Jesus died for our debt
Professor Hudson says Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for his activism.
The Pharisees, Hillel (the founder of Rabbinical Judaism) and the creditors who backed them decided that Jesus’ growing popularity was a threat to their authority and wealth.
“They said ‘we’ve got to get rid of this guy and rewrite Judaism and make it about sex instead of a class war’, which is really what the whole Old Testament is about,” Professor Hudson said.
”That was where Christianity got perverted. Christianity turned so anti-Jesus, it was the equivalent of the American Tea Party, applauding wealth and even greed, Ayn-Rand style.”
The economist says that Christianity was reshaped by Saint Paul, followed by the “African” school of Cyril of Alexandria and St Augustine.
”Over the last 1000 years the Catholic Church has been saying it’s noble to be poor. But Jesus never said it was good to be poor. What he said was that rich people are greedy and corrupt. That’s what Socrates was saying, as well as Aristotle and the Stoic Roman philosophers, the biblical prophets in Isaiah.”
Neither did Jesus say that it was good to be poor because it made you noble.
What Jesus did say is that if you have money, you should share it with other people.
”But that’s not what Evangelical Christianity is all about today,” says Professor Hudson. “American Fundamentalist Christians say don’t share a penny. King Jesus is going to make you rich. Don’t tax millionaires. Jesus may help me win the lottery. Tax poor people whom the Lord has left behind – no doubt for their sins. There’s nothing about the Jubilee Year here.”
What would Jesus do?
To understand how to fix today’s economy, Hudson says that the Bible’s answers were practical for their time.
”When you have a massive build up of debt that can’t be paid, either you wipe out the debt and start-over like Germany did during ‘the 1947 Miracle’ when the Allies forgave all its debts except for minimum balances, or you let the creditors foreclose as Obama did in America after the 2008 crisis and 10 million American families lost their homes to foreclosure,” he said.
”If you leave this wealth in place then it’s going to stifle society with debt deflation.
”Today’s world believes in the sanctity of debt. But from Sumer and Babylonia through the Bible, it was debt cancellations that were sacred.
The economist recommends replacing income tax with land, monopoly and natural resource tax, banning absentee ownership, and empowering the government to distribute land to the population.
”If you want to be like Jesus then you become political and you realise that this is the same fight that has been going on for thousands of years, across civilisation – the attempt of society to cope with the fact that debts grow faster than the ability to pay,” he says.
’ … And Forgive them their Debts: Credit and Redemption’ will be
available for purchase just in time for Easter on Amazon. (still not out).”
Just as the ruling military, economic and religious establishment need to forgive businesses, governments and individuals of the money-valued debt of our making, we likewise in return need to forgive them of the life-valued debt of their making to Mother Earth, the many indigenous and displaced First peoples, and all of the sentient beings of the biosphere.
It is only within this light and with the proper ventilation of this rediscovery of the redemptive power of love through the forgiveness of all of our debts in all of their manifestations and embodiments would we be able to harness the energy of fire within to find peaceful living as children of one family, and would all for one and once for all make war no more.