A wedding sermon
Of all the things that could possibly transform the mainline church, a wedding sermon?
Think of the countless hours of meetings, the dollars spent on consultants and supposed experts, the physical and spiritual labor poured out, the tears shed, the failed strategies. When all else fails, it’s a wedding sermon that saves us mainliners.
To be fair, this was no ordinary wedding; three billion people watched the new royal couple tie the knot. Bishop Michael Curry preached a splendid sermon, as he often does. The fact that is was such an occasion makes it more improbable that people are still talking about the sermon days later.
Mainline church friends, I would hate for us to waste this opportunity. God would hate for us to waste this opportunity. It’s not that Bishop Curry dropped some new theological discovery or great church strategic plan on us. Instead, it was a simple yet powerful message of God’s redemptive love for all of creation. He echoed Dr. King’s vision that this was the way forward for humanity.
Many of us, including me, lamented the fact that this same message is preached quite effectively in many churches across the world on a weekly basis. Why is everyone acting like this is the greatest thing to happen to religion since contemporary worship? (That’s a joke). Here are three things the mainline church can do with this opportunity before us.
Quit Hoarding the Gospel.
Once you really think about it, it’s a shame that the world is just now hearing a message of inclusive, redemptive love. Mainliners only need to look in the mirror to see who needs to be doing better at sharing. I have a neighbor who goes to one of the local conservative megachurches. Each time I see him, he invites me to church. He tells me about his small group. He informs me about the new church they are planting. The guy just goes on and on. He shares because he believes in what his church is doing and he wants others to be a part of it. We lament that our churches seem to be the best kept secret in town, yet we don’t want to talk about our church or tell anyone about our church. This isn’t about church growth, rather its about transforming the world. If we believe the Gospel as we understand it has the power to transform why would we want to keep it all to ourselves? Don’t be worried about who might steal your seat at church, rather hope that someone new does!
Quit Being Ashamed of the Gospel
Have you ever been in a room full of people and found yourself hesitant to tell others how you live out your faith? Christians who are advocates for justice, for mercy, for inclusion, and for peace are marginalized and labeled in many communities. Either that, or we simply don’t want to stand upon the principles we believe are biblical. Mainliners do take the Bible seriously, yet we are often too afraid to claim how the Bible shapes our lives. I don’t find justice, mercy, peace, and the like to be liberal principles, I find them to be the principles the Bible and my church teach. It’s way past time for the phrase “biblical principles” to bring forth images of justice, peace, mercy, and love rather than far right political talking points.
Quit Accepting our Present State as our Future Reality
We are in a national moral crisis. It’s not the first time and it probably will not be the last. The mainline church is in the middle of our own survival crisis. Maybe the way forward is not disconnected, but connected in ways we can only begin to imagine. The mainline church message could be the antidote to what ails us all. One of Bishop Curry’s comments that continues to resonate with me is “think and imagine a world where love is the way.” What if each church meeting started with asking “in what ways can our church make love the way?” By the same token, what if community gatherings and conversations with neighbors asked how we can make love the way?” As Bishop Curry so eloquently stated, this is how we make a “new heaven, a new Earth, a new Human Family.” I will add a new mainline church as well.
Of all things…a wedding sermon