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Is love all there is?

Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) preached at the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the newly titled Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In doing so he may well have spoke into many homes and lives of those who profess no faith or no Christian faith, in a way some may have thought very ‘American’. He was certainly passionate and engaging, rousing and full of rhetorical flourish and he captured the essence of the moment. The essence of Love.
But I have also been aware of the ‘storm’ of both admiration for the open message and also, of concern, that it fell short of the Gospel message.
He was applauded as an ‘eccentric Bishop’ by the Sun and as the ‘star of the ceremony’ by USA Today, but as the leader of the Episcopal Church in the USA, was his sermon on the mark? I am not convinced it was.
Clearly the overall theme was that of the ‘redemptive power of love’ – a love that can right the world’s wrongs and “make this old world, a new world”. Love was what the sermon was about, and appropriately so at a wedding. In fact love was mentioned 65 times, fire 20 times, God 19 times, Jesus (Son) 7 times, Father once and Holy Spirit once. The sermon electrified many Christians I have spoken with—it resonated because they understood the redemptive message of love. They understood the words in the spiritual of some ‘old slaves in America’s Antebellum South. “If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all” which Bishop Michael quoted.
But the sermon stops there… and I guess for good reason. This was a wedding after all, and a royal one watched by just a ‘few’ folk. So what could we expect to get from this sermon?
Well not the whole Gospel message. It falls short of understanding who Christ was and is. It doesn’t talk of repentance. There is no mention of sin. Bishop Michael states that “He [Jesus] gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world…for us”. And it would be churlish to deny this. I know I and those who turn to Christ are saved by the sacrificial death of Jesus; that His love was redemptive. But I know I must play my part too?
Bishop Michael quoted 1John 4.v7-8 “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 know love do not know God. [Why]? For God is love” but didn’t expand this. His message was one of redemptive love for all, but without mentioning need for repentance. And repentance from what you may ask?—sin, I would answer.
Not once did Bishop Michael mention sin, and as I have said this was a wedding and perhaps was not the place. Yet, the message to the large numbers of non-believers watching and listening was that all is good as long as you love. But what love, whose love?
He said “there’s power in love, not just in romantic love, but any form, any shape of love”… and goes on to acknowledge the source— “ultimately God, the source of all of our lives”.
So, where does this leave us? The quote from 1John 4.v7-8 needs to be understood in context. John’s Gospel says in 3.v16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. The background to the bible, to the New Testament, to the gift of Jesus, and his redeeming sacrifice is human sin.
Yes, Jesus died to save us, but there is something we have to do—turn to Him from our fallen ways. The sacrifice of Jesus the Bishop talks of though only shows the ‘example’ made by Christ and says if we just love like Him, then the world will be saved by our love. This ignores the atonement of the cross. Jesus died for our sins! From the same letter 1 John, as quoted in the sermon it says this in verse 8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”.
Yes, the commands of Jesus are to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind and strength… and to love your neighbour as yourself.’ But the commission or instruction is also to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28.v19-20).
To love God is to share the Gospel, everything He commanded… the fire that Bishop Michael mentioned is not ours to harness, but too accept as the gift of grace that is it. The fire is the power of the Holy Spirit—when we discover that fire—we will know the love of Father and Son.

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