Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
Song of Songs 8:6-7
Like many I was captivated and stirred by the passionate message preached, let’s face it folks he did preach, by Michael Curry at the Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Saturday. It was a message that has caused quite a stir, like marmite it seems some loved it, others not so much! I fall firmly into the love it camp; I loved it because he spoke about love, and he spoke about Jesus, and he spoke about possibilities for a new way of living and being in response to that love.
I loved it because he spoke about the redemptive power of love, and the way that love calls us to action, for love is not a sentimental feeling, love is powerful beyond our wildest imagination. Quoting Martin Luther King, Curry began:
“We must discover the power of love,
the redemptive power of love.
And when we discover that,
we will be able to make of this old world a new world.
Love is the only way.”
Love is the only way, for love breaks down barriers and sees beyond differences, love even celebrates those differences by daring to see them as equally valid and important reflections of love’s self, and love of course originates in the divine, the creator and sustainer of the universe who cares enough about us to number the hairs upon our heads and collect our tears in a bottle.
We all need to be loved, and we all need to show and share love, studies have shown that love heals many things, that infants deprived of intimate touch suffer not only mentally but physically as a result. To reject someone, to tell them they are not worthy, to dismiss them because of their class, race, gender or sexuality is to tell them that they are not loved. Such actions hurt and harm and leave deep wounds, and the church that says that it bears and proclaims the name of love has been guilty of this over and over again.
Bishop Curry’s call to us is if anything a call to repentance, a call to turn again to love, and to allow love to enfold and fill us and give us a fresh vision for who we are as the people of God. As I think back over my Christian journey, and I am an adult convert who was not brought up in the church, I remember trying to get to grips with the notion that some were in and others out, it never did sit well with me, and thankfully as I matured and heard teaching from, and received the encouragement from those who dared to tear down barriers, I came to realise that nobody is beyond love, that all are included and all can know that they are included.
All can know that they are included, and that is where we come in, for knowing that we are loved demands that we respond with love, and that can be a challenge, because love will not be stopped, and we might find ourselves called to be more radically open to “the other” than we have dared to be before, to see the image of God in the unlikely and sometimes the unlovely, discovering a deep beauty there beyond our limited vision.
For years I thought that I had to earn love by doing and saying the right things, now I know that I simply need to be brave enough to receive it, and that there is always more to receive. To quote Bishop Curry again:
“This love, this is the way of Jesus. And it’s game changer.
Imagine our homes and families when this way of love is the way.
Imagine our neighborhoods and communities when love is the way.
Imagine our governments and countries when love is the way.
Imagine business and commerce when this love is the way.
Imagine our world when love is the way.
No child would go to bed hungry in such a world as that
Poverty would become history in such a world as that.
The earth would be as a sanctuary in such a world as that.
We would treat one another as children of God, regardless of differences.
We would learn how to lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more.
There would be a new heaven, a new earth, a new world. A new and beautiful human family.
The very dream of God”
The very dream of God, you and I are a part of that dream, called to play an active part in it. We cannot move swiftly on from this message, but must let love do its deep and life changing work, in us, in those we share love with, that the ripples of love reverberate throughout our families, our communities, our countries to embrace the whole world.
Nobody is excluded by love.