Would that be Political or Biblical?
May 27, 2018
[An op-ed published in The Morning Call, Sunday, May 27]
There is power in love," Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached at the recent royal wedding. He was quoting Martin Luther King Jr.
"If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire," he continued, quoting French Jesuit Teillard de Chardin.
Think about an American Episcopal bishop quoting a Baptist minister and a Roman Catholic theologian at an Anglican royal wedding. I owe that quip to Wilkes-Barre City Council President Tony Brooks.
"There are some things you come to expect from royal weddings," the Washington Post said. "One thing you don't expect: That sermon."
Commentary in the U.K. Guardian asserted that Curry's 14-minute "royal wedding sermon will go down in history as a moment when the enduring seat of colonialism was brought before the Lord, and questioned in its own house."
Some would criticize that sermon as political.
"Many noted his emphasis on applying the Christian faith and Jesus' teachings to contemporary social justice issues," according to Episcopal News Service. "Curry didn't shy away from such issues in his sermon, asking those gathered to "imagine a world where love is the way."
"Imagine our governments and nations when love is the way," Curry preached. "When love is the way, then no child would go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty would become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more."
Curry has called that "the Jesus Movement."
After I preached at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem a few months ago, someone gently remarked on his way out, "Don't you ever preach about anything but politics?"
I replied that I take my cue from the Bible which is filled with politics. "Keep reading," he said, implying that I might find something else.
I don't preach much these days. So, he may have been referring to my Facebook page where I frequently criticize the current U.S. administration.
When I did preach that day, the gospel passage was Mark 1:29-39. It's about Jesus casting out demons.
"If you've seen movies like 'The Exorcist,' get them out of your head," I said. "If you've heard anyone equate demons with mental illness, get rid of that lie as well. Stay with this: A demon is anything that has power that is not of God."
I asked the congregation to think about what/who are today's demons, and suggested three examples.
Then, fear of strangers, leading to denigration of those not like us. Accordingly, ban immigration. Get rid of the "Dreamers," the Haitians, the Salvadorans and, of course, the Muslims. Just as people before us wanted to get rid of or make life difficult for the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, Lithuanians and Slovaks.
Finally, whatever it might be that leads a person into addiction and keeps him/her there.
Was that political or biblical?
At my former parish, some 125 people once gathered for the funeral of a 52-year-old recovering drug addict, recovering alcoholic and a client of AIDS Outreach. Pablo may have truly loved and helped more people than I might imagine.
One who spoke reminded the others how often Pablo said, "Flacco [the drug dealer] doesn't love you. I love you."
Most were there because they loved Pablo in whom they saw someone from "the rooms" who had chosen not to use and wanted to turn their lives around.
They experienced, in Pablo — though they might not have put it this way — the healing touch of Jesus. They experienced themselves in need.
Flacco, the drug dealer, was the demon. Pablo was the healer.
To use that story in a sermon, for example, to speak against a lack of governmental aid to defeat the opioid crisis? Would that be political or biblical?
If humanity ever captures the energy of love!
Canon Bill Lewellis, an Episcopal priest, served on the bishop's staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years before retiring. His email address is [email protected].