Just ask any pastor – preaching a wedding is tough.
The day is fraught with emotion and expectation. For many of those in attendance – including the bride and groom – this may be one of the rare times they even darken the door of a church.
Crafting a message that both celebrates the occasion and points to larger truths is a tall order.
In the weeks leading up to the royal wedding, I don’t remember hearing a single word about the sermon. I had no idea who would deliver it, and I honestly didn’t give it a second thought. I couldn’t for the life of me recall any detail about who delivered sermons at previous royal weddings, much less the contents of their message.
That makes Bishop Michael Curry’s moxie all the more remarkable.
Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church, delivered a memorable message that electrified the proceedings and lit up social media. Weeks later, the message is still resonating. Why? Let’s take a look at Bishop Curry’s moxie:
People with moxie are true to their calling, wherever they might be.
When Bishop Curry was asked to deliver the message at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, he might have been tempted to equivocate. To pull punches, or perhaps get in a few jabs. After all, the whole world would be watching. Who could resist the opportunity to show off a bit when you’ve got the mic and a big audience?
But Bishop Curry didn’t do that. He prepared to deliver the sermon just as he might have any other. He considered the couple’s choice of scripture – the eighth chapter of the Song of Solomon – and let it flow from there.
“And although the church was filled with celebrities and some of the world’s most prominent people, when I was giving the sermon, it really felt like Michael the priest was giving a regular wedding sermon,” recalled Bishop Curry. “It was no different than any other type of service — I think that’s where God really came in. Part of me suspects that, in spite of me and my foibles, he was trying to say something to the couple and everyone there. I was just a small vessel in that transaction.”
And say something He did.
People with moxie speak the truth in love.
Bishop Curry has long raised his voice on behalf of the marginalized, the poor, the vulnerable. As a pastor, he helped found ecumenical summer day camps for children, helped create networks of family day care providers. He worked for investment in inner-city neighborhoods. As a bishop and as the eventual head of the Episcopal Church, Curry advocated for marriage equality and immigration issues.
It’s not surprising that the same sort of message would fall from his lips on Harry and Meghan’s special day.
Bishop Curry spoke of their love, then threw the lens out wide to bring focus to the larger, greater love of God Himself. He encouraged those listening to consider the sacrificial love of Christ and to imagine what the world would look like if that same self-sacrificial love were acted out today in imitation of Christ.
“Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way. Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive,” he intoned from the pulpit. “When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.”
People with moxie unite rather than divide.
Bishop Curry stood in the pulpit at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle before a crowd of the wealthiest, most influential people in Great Britain, and perhaps the world. He stood as a black man facing a sea of mostly white faces. He stood as an American facing a mostly British crowd.
Some in the crowd were visible enchanted (Meghan) while others were visibly uncomfortable (pretty much all the British people). The style and tone of Bishop Curry’s address was certainly unexpected to British sensibilities, while perfectly expected to anyone who grew up in a Black American or Southern church.
Utterly comfortable in his own skills, Bishop Curry used his words to reach across all the social and cultural barriers to declare the common brotherhood that unites all who could hear his words.
“Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well… like we are actually family. When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God. My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family,” said Bishop Curry.
The words were powerful as two people from very different worlds chose to become one. And powerful words for all of us listening, who wonder if humanity has any hope of ever uniting in our increasingly fractious and fickle world.
Bishop Curry has the moxie to believe it is possible, and the hope to declare it will one day be so.
May we all have the moxie to do the same.