Its a quiet, rainy Sunday after the Royal Wedding and a week out of my best friend’s wedding in Siena–which was royal in its own ways–and I’m still adjusting to Florida time (and let’s be honest, the reality of no longer being in Italy). I am struggling to stay up past 9:30 PM and rising unnaturally early, so much so that I didn’t even set an alarm yesterday for the nuptial’s of everyone’s favorite bad boy, Prince Harry. I woke around 5:30 AM ready to go and eventually migrated to my couch as the celebrities started rolling in. I can confidently say that the Clooneys are now giving the Beckhams a run for their money, in more ways that one. Amal, you are my queen!
Fashion aside (I realize this is a fashion blog, but there are more important themes here, and I really don’t want to get into my critique of our American Princess), I am so glad I woke and was able to watch and really listen to the message that was broadcast to millions of viewers yesterday during the ceremony. Because it was beautiful, it was critical, and it desperately needed to be heard by this world. Reverend Michael Curry was smart enough to realize the platform he had and used it so wisely, albeit a little enthusiastically. Watching the faces of those attending–whether they were shocked, or smirking, or even sleeping–was entertaining to say the least.
If you grew up in the Deep South–or any church family, for that matter–you’ve probably gone to a few sermons that seemed never ending. Its safe to say that is not the first time I’ve witnessed those facial expressions. We can all relate. But the difference between some of those long sermons I’ve survived and the one that was being preached yesterday was the content. Reverend Curry’s really hit home for me and a lot of other viewers. His words were relevant. They were captivating. They were powerful.
Yes, his delivery was dramatic, and I do think he could have been more concise/left out the part about cell phones, but that is the struggle for a passionate person. And he was so passionate, it was contagious. Even Posh and Becks were cracking smiles (Victoria Beckham is famous in the fashion world for not smiling).
I spent this morning re-reading the full the text, allowing the words to really sink in, and trying to find my own understanding of them. His theme, the power of love, is perfectly timed, and something we could all stand to implement a little more in our lives.
Reverend Curry’s notion of the power of love is not a new one, however. And he openly references to Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “Where Do We Go From Here” sermon, which has spouted other recognizable quotes such as:
“Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that….”
“…I have also decided to stick with love….hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Many of these sentences have been ‘smushed’ together over the years for creative purposes, but while skimming this lengthy sermon (I’ll admit, the last time I looked at this was probably high school), I realized there are entire paragraphs that have been cut-out. Although they can be painful to read, I am glad I read them. The irony of this speech recognizing events in places that I call home is not lost on me.
While Reverend Curry hails from Chicago, he has spent much of his life in the South. Without a doubt, he has lived these words. And he took no time to lay out, to the surprise of some of the royal family, the intent of his lesson that morning. The first sentences of his sermon read:
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it out.’ [Song of Solomon]
The late Dr. Martin Luther King 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.
There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even oversentimentalize 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 center around you and your beloved. There’s power, power in love.”
He goes onto say:
“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. 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 it’s strong as death.”
The purity and the potency of those words felt like a punch in the stomach, but the necessary kind. He didn’t stop there. In his live speech, he really emphasized this statement (for good reason):
“Love God, love your neighbors, and while you’re at it, love yourself.”
How often do we forget the latter, to love ourselves? If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past couple of years, it is the importance of loving yourself first. It doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how good you are at giving love. It takes work, an effort, a real relationship with yourself. Its downright scary, but rewarding. I truly believe it sets the stage for all of your other relationships, including one with God.
His pause after this statement signified its importance, and to some, that he was finally coming to a close. If Reverend Curry’s goal was to leave his sleepy viewers teary-eyed and slowly re-evaluating the way they approach every aspect of their lives, then he succeeded here. I sat, not so much distracted by images of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but more captivated by the words of this ‘crazy man’ from the Carolinas. He was the real star of this show (or circus) to me.
Even as I write this a day later, I’m still in awe of (and processing, not a morning person) his performance and his delivery. I now understand why he was so sensational in his style: he was exemplifying power. You can’t deliver a speech on the power of love quietly; you have to show it, show the passion and the purpose. Just like you would in your own life. Because at the end of the day, who really loves quietly? We fight for the things we love tooth and nail, and it is neither a quiet nor painless thing.
Love is loud, its messy, and it always stings. But its also very powerful. So much so that it often surpasses our own understanding. Yet love has the duality to both school us and to save us, to hurt us and help us through, to end and to create life. It ultimately shapes and transform our very existence, both emotionally and physically. Clearly this notion is something that Reverend Curry thought important enough to share, because he ended his speech with these hopeful words:
“…we must discover love. The redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.”
If you haven’t heard this speech, listen to it. If you’ve already read it, read it again. If you thought getting up for this wedding was dumb, if you don’t like going to church, even if you haven’t read anything of substance in a while **guilty**, read this sermon. It is important. It is (or will be) historical. And I promise, it will leave you better than before you came.