Depending on where in the world you live, you might have noticed that a certain Royal Wedding took place over the weekend. And even if you didn’t watch it, you might have noticed that what got trending immediately wasn’t just the dress, or the cute kids, or the kiss, but a sermon. For perhaps the first time in the internet’s history, a Christian sermon was trending on social media, and the responses to it were going viral.
There’s a lot that can be commented on about this sermon. It was given by Bishop Michael Curry, a bishop of the US Episcopal Church. Not every view of his is in line with the Catholic Church’s teaching, but that’s not what I want to focus on. Rather I want to comment on the reactions he and his sermon got.
As a Brit watching the Royal Wedding, it was pretty hilarious just to watch the formality of the Royals being challenged by Bishop Curry’s rousing address, and to know that it’s not just us mere mortals who get church giggles sometimes. And it was a breath of fresh air to see someone preach with so much passion, enthusiasm and lack of reserve (something we’re not overly used to in Britain), not to mention his straight up inclusion of slavery, Martin Luther King, love (is the way!) and a Roman Catholic Jesuit.
But what really interested me is the secular reaction that followed immediately after. The notoriously biased and very secular BBC website ran several positive articles on it, as did The Guardian, whose journalist wrote that: “Curry’s sermon was one of three moments during the royal wedding when I felt moved. I had not expected to be moved. I had expected to remain full of cold indignation at the pomp and aristocratic indulgence of the day.”
I’ve overheard conversations in public about it. A wedding guest- a British rugby player- interviewed after the wedding said that he thought it was “a message that needed to be heard”. And Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been awash with memes and comments- some funny, irreverent, on just down right astonished- on the situation. Here are a few:
Rev Michael Curry could almost make me a believer
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) May 19, 2018
(Ed Miliband is a British left-wing politician).
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) May 19, 2018
British weddings: “God is love, slight ooh-er joke, anyway good luck with being married, it’s hard work, let’s stand and sing Jerusalem.”
American weddings: “I HAVE A MESSAGE FOR YOU AND YOU WILL HEAR IT"
— Janine Gibson (@janinegibson) May 19, 2018
The preacher is doing 50 in a 30 zone and it's brilliant #RoyalWedding2018
— Jeremy Vine (@theJeremyVine) May 19, 2018
Love, Justice, Poverty, MLK, Fire and Slavery in one sermon from Bishop Curry. Amen brothers and sisters, Amen. ???????????? #RoyalWedding
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) May 19, 2018
Obviously some of these responses are just humorously pointing out the differences in American and British culture. But something in this sermon and its address has captured the world’s imagination. It is a rarity that Christianity has a positive moment in the spotlight, and we Christians would do ourselves a favor by considering why. We are not, of course, expected to pander to the world, and the heart of being a Christian is to expect persecution, but what I believe the world is responding to in this viral sermon is this:
“[that] God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
(2 Timothy 1:7)
What the world is responding to here is that fire, that courage, that passion that is willing to take what we believe in and run with it- out to anyone and everyone. We are not meant to have a faith of timidity, yet so often we are afraid to be open about our faith, afraid to be enthusiastic about it, afraid of what people might think or how people might judge us.
I’m not suggesting we have to go and be exactly like this preacher. We all have to be true to our own personalities and the individual gifts God has given us, which might be subtler than what we saw at the Royal Wedding. But what we could all do with looking at is whether or not we are being timid about our faith. Spirit speaks to spirit, and in daily conversations and questions, people do not want to engage in a faith that is presented hesitantly, or with embarrassment, or with a lack of conviction. It’s a turn off. People want to engage with a faith that is robust, unapologetic, enthusiastic and grounded enough in the love of Christ to know that no matter the potential for persecution, we know what we stand for. People are very attracted to those who are grounded, who know where they have come from and where they are going to, and who do not apologise for it. Can we say that about ourselves and our faith?
So it’s less of the content of the sermon that I want to comment on- as important as that is- and more the world’s reaction. Humor and jokes aside, I think we can be encouraged by this. Ask for strength, courage and fearlessness in your faith, and ask for ways to show that to others when necessary. The world doesn’t want, or need, our apologies or embarrassment. It wants a clear, undivided, forthright message. It wants the truth and no matter the reaction, we must keep speaking that truth. We must speak it with joy, warmth and love, as Bishop Curry did, and it will be taken notice of.