The talk of William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 was Pippa’s dress (I’m putting it euphemistically). The talk of Harry and Meghan’s wedding this last Saturday has astonishingly been the sermon given by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Michael Curry.
There has been no end of discussion of this sermon, a few people claiming it was too long, others that it wasn’t relevant enough to the couple and many declaring it one of the best sermons they’ve ever heard.
What has amazed me is that the sermon given at the service on Saturday afternoon was being discussed in a feature on that bastion of sneering atheist superiority (that I avidly listen to every day) – the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme!
In true preacher style, I would like to suggest that Bishop Michael gave us three gifts in his sermon:
1.The gift of expectation
I think a lot of people went to church yesterday (and anecdotally some went to church yesterday precisely because of Bishop Michael’s sermon to ‘see what all the fuss is about’) with higher expectations than usual. What the sermon did was to remind us that we have a message worth hearing. That the Gospel is exactly that: Good News.
For me, I felt that there was a sense of expectation before I preached that I haven’t felt in a while. Bishop Michael reminded us what good preaching can be like: that the sermon isn’t dead yet, that a good sermon can be a place of encounter with the living God.
2. The gift of challenge
Writing as a priest that has to preach every week, I’m grateful for the challenge to my own preaching that Bishop Michael’s sermon gave me. I posted on Facebook:
His sermon reminded me that preaching matters, as expressed in this tweet here:
I am grateful for the challenge to preach (in my own style – not try to mimic him) with equal passion and enthusiasm for the gospel. The challenge to communicate well what it means to follow Jesus. The challenge to find my voice (read Michael Sadgrove’s piece on this).
3. The gift of joy
I genuinely think Bishop Michael’s joy rubbed off on us. Joy is a gift from God and as Michael expressed in his sermon, can be found in the most desperate of circumstances. When did you last think of the word joy (let alone feel it) in response to a sermon?
There are many more things I could say about the sermon but they’ve mostly been expressed elsewhere. I think it’s a shame that there have been so many pulling it apart and criticising it when the reality is that 2 billion people tuned in on Saturday and heard the gospel message of God’s transforming love for all. For me, he preached a blinder and God used him and I thank God for it: