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Presiding Bishop's royal wedding sermon inspires church sign

The Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas

I had no intention of watching the royal wedding. Those kinds of opulent displays are not really my cup of tea, and besides, on May 19, we had a new bishop to elect! A local restaurant was holding an early morning high tea fundraiser for our Jubilee Center, so my plan was to stop by and thank the proprietor before gathering with my delegation to head out to Morristown for the electing convention.

And then came the announcement that our presiding bishop would give the “address.” Well, we all know that when the Most Rev. Michael Curry climbs into a pulpit, it is not an “address” that he plans to give. It is a sermon. It is an arm-flailing, head-bobbing, amen-provoking discourse about the love of God. However, while we may know what one of his sermons looks and feels and sounds like on this side of the pond, I was pretty sure that those on the other side were not going to know what hit them. So, I knew I had to tune in at least for that, because our siblings in the Church of England were about to be taken to church, as they say.

Gallons of ink have been spilled and hours of commentary written about that sermon. Too long, too short, not theological enough, not confrontational enough, too loud, too demonstrative, greatest sermon ever, worst sermon ever. The variety of opinions was all over the map.

Yet one thing was undeniable: our presiding bishop had preached about the love of God for all God’s people and the power of that love to set the world on fire.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like the gospel to me. And for those of us in the Episcopal Church, it was an evangelism moment that captured the imagination of 11.5 million people on this planet who tuned in to watch and untold others who listened or read or heard Curry preach.

If the presiding bishop is our standard bearer, then we cannot let this moment pass. It may seem crass to capitalize on the new-found celebrity that is Michael Curry, but are we not to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves?” I am not above using this global evangelism moment as our own evangelism moment right here in the Mile Square City of Hoboken.

So, we have acquired a new sign that faces the corner of 7th and Washington, one of the busier intersections in this city. It’s a little risky, because if we aren’t willing to live out this kind of love, folks will smell that inauthenticity from a mile away.

But I believe we do live out that kind of love. New folks are finding their way to us almost every week, and what I hear are words of astonishment that they are welcome in the fullness of who they are: gay, straight, single, coupled, with restless children in tow, struggling to find a place, searching for belonging, searching for meaning. The message they hear, and that we must make sure that they know we mean, is that God loves them.

Following the royal wedding the Rev. Canon Rosie Harper, Chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham and Member of General Synod of the Church of England, wrote:

Faith is what you believe and live. All the theology, doctrine and liturgy in the world might delight your mind but if it leads you to judge your neighbour instead of loving then it’s toxic. As evangelists we need to put our energy into the Michael Curry route. He talked about changing the world not the church. He talked about the end of slavery and warfare. He talked about God as love and he meant it.

By God’s grace, we’d better mean it, too.