Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Royal Wedding: How Bishop Michael Curry's Sermon Was Not Royal Enough


So there was a royal wedding this weekend. Did you know that? You've probably had little contact with the outside world in the last several weeks if you hadn't at least heard about it. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, an American actress, were proclaimed husband and wife yesterday during a fairy-tale wedding at Windsor Castle in the English county of Berkshire.

As you might expect, it was quite lavish: the bride wore a 16-foot veil, the couple rode in a 1968 Jaguar E-Type Concept Zero converted to electric, and they had a wedding cake worth more than I've ever made in a year. An estimated 1.9 billion people tuned in to watch worldwide. Yet I was not one of them.

I've always been fascinated by royalty, and Britain's is one of the oldest monarchies in the world (after Japan as the oldest, followed by Cambodia, Oman, and Morocco for your trivia pleasure). I've even watched the show Suits a few times (it was on right after Psych) and knew who Meghan Markle was. But I had other things to do on a Saturday. Hey, it's an internet age, and I can always catch it later.

Though I didn't watch the whole wedding, a brother told me that Bishop Michael Curry's sermon was great and I should listen -- it would only take me 10 minutes, he said. Actually, according to the YouTube video, the whole message was exactly 13 minutes and 37 seconds long, but who's counting (that was still considered long-winded to Piers Morgan).

No offense to my brother, but I was not impressed with the sermon. It was the kind of sermon a 60s era hippie would love. George Clooney and David Beckham had no problem being all-smiles during Bishop Curry's repeated refrain, "Love is the way!" Anyone can say that. Elton John says that (yes, he was among the 600 guests at the chapel). As Saturday Night Live joked last night, the Bishop's message could have been a Subaru commercial.

What is Love?

The Scripture that Bishop Curry opened with was Song of Solomon 8:6-7: "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it." (I'm not sure what translation he read from, but his version didn't include "the very flame of the Lord," and not every translation does.)

Bishop Curry went on to say that we were made for love. "Ultimately, the source of love is God himself," he said, "the source of all of our lives. There's an old medieval poem that says, 'Where true love is found, God himself is there.'" Is that correct? Surely it is! The Bible says, "God is love." The Bishop went on to quote that passage as well, saying those who do not love do not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:7-8).

But again, anyone can believe that and not have to give up much to believe it. Without clarifying what godly love is, a person will believe that whatever they love must be of God. You can sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend outside of marriage, and God is alright with that as long as you love each other. Hey, a man can sleep with another man as long as they love each other.

Lest you think I'm being hyper-critical of Bishop Curry's sermon, that's exactly what he believes. Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, an Episcopal priest, is a gay-rights activist. Why else would Vanity Fair be so praising of him? Or the leftist Vox.com, who pointed out Curry's liberation theology? Or the gay publication Pink News, who also loved that Bishop Curry quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

Do not be led astray, my beloved: friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Not everything the world calls love is truly loving. Many pair the words "love" and "God" yet do not know the love of God, for it is not loving to encourage people to engage in sinful behavior that God has promised He will judge with fire!

Bishop Curry says that Jesus "sacrificed His life for the good of others" and that His love was "redemptive." But Bishop Curry's idea of sacrificial love is the kind that sets aside the sound teaching of the word of Christ and encourages a man and another man to sodomize each other or pretend to get married. His idea of redemption is gaining possession of something you previously weren't allowed to have, like gay marriage.

Indeed the Bishop talked about Jesus sacrificing His life for others, before the royals and all the celebrities in that room and 1.9 billion people watching at home. But the Bishop does not understand the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, nor would anyone learn by listening to the Bishop's sermon what His death on the cross means for us.

An Atoning Sacrifice

Christ's sacrifice was an atoning sacrifice. When Jesus died, laying down His own life on our behalf, He took the wrath of God upon Himself that we deserved for our sins, and He clothed us in His righteousness. Whoever believes in Jesus, God sees not a man or woman deserving of His wrath, but a righteous son or daughter deserving of His love. No longer children of wrath, we become children of the promise! The promise of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Therefore, you must live as a recipient of that promise. Do you not want to please the one who paid such a price for you, giving up His own life so that you might live? Then love Him, and to love Him is to obey Him. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). If you have been clothed in the purified garments of Jesus Christ, you must not return to a soiled life of sin and debauchery.

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus talked about another wedding, the wedding of a king's son. Guests were invited from everywhere to attend, but they had to wear a wedding garment. When the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there was a man who had no garment. "How did you get in here without a wedding garment?" the king asked. He ordered that the man be bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In the book of Revelation, we read about the wedding feast of the Lamb at the consummation of Jesus Christ and His church. Those who will enter His kingdom forever will be those who have been clothed by Christ in righteousness. "For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" the Scripture says (Revelation 19:8). They displayed that they were recipients of His grace by turning from sin and obeying His commands. Those who did not obey and went their own way will be tread with "the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty" (Revelation 19:15).

Be sure of this, my brothers and sisters: God's love covers over a multitude of sin. His grace is greater than our worst sins. There is not a sin God will not forgive. There is no sin that will not be covered by the atoning blood of Christ. Whether you've lied, cheated, coveted, stolen, hated others, committed adultery, engaged in homosexuality, or blasphemed the name of God, you show that He has forgiven you if you have repented and asked God for mercy.

But then you must do as Jesus commanded: "Go, and sin no more" (John 5:14, 8:11). If you continue in the sins you were in before you asked for mercy, you show that you are still enslaved to your sin and you have not actually been set free from bondage to your flesh. No matter how loving you think you are in the eyes of the world, if you do not have the love of Christ, you're worthless (Romans 3:12). You're still whoring after the world rather than loving God.

A Wedding More Royal

Christ is even now sanctifying His church and preparing her for the day of glory. He is cleansing her, the Bible says, "by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:26-27). If you love Jesus, you will love His word, the Bible, and be as a bride prepared for a royal wedding -- the most royal of weddings.

So while Rev. Michael Curry did talk about loving God and loving your neighbor, the most worldly people in that room would have agreed with everything he said. It was a gospel of the world, not the gospel of God. The Bishop even pulled a Joel Osteen and said, "Love yourself," when explaining how the first and second greatest commands summarize all the Law and the prophets. Wherever Oprah was sitting among the 600 guests, she was surely smiling.

It took an exclusive invite to get into that royal wedding, and it takes an exclusive invite to get into the Royal Wedding -- the one between Christ and His church at the end of all things. According to the Bible, those who will enter into God's kingdom, forever in His love, will be those who believed in Jesus, repented of their sins, and were clothed in His righteousness. And they will sit with Him on His throne forever. Amen.