What’s the similarity between the gospel and a close-up TV camera?
“For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Their reactions said it all; Kate Middleton’s side-eye glance to Camila, Zara’s jaw drop, Beatrice and Eugenie’s smirks.
Disdain. Surprise. Nervous laughter.
That’s the thing about the gospel of Christ’s world transforming, unconditional love. It has always, and will always, make people profoundly uncomfortable.
As Bishop Michael Curry began preaching at St George’s Chapel in Windsor it was so obvious that he had said to himself. “This is my chance to preach authentic Christianity to billions of people and I WILL take it.”
As a consequence of Bishop Michael’s courage, and YES it took courage, an often much underrated virtue in the Church of England, the world is now talking about the gospel of Christ.
The BBC, CNN, Fox, Esquire, Time, even Town and Country Magazine, were last night publishing full transcripts of the sermon.
Countless interviews were springing up asking for people’s opinion. “He’s very ‘liberal’ though isn’t he?” Asked one reporter of a priest. “Actually.” She countered. “I’d say he was a conservative. He’s trying to bring the Church back to the original Gospel of Christ.”
For too long preachers in the Church of England have placated the powerful with anodyne addresses divorced of any true feeling. We daren’t go over the 8 minute mark as ‘churches are cold and people want their lunch’.
Since when did we become so spineless and so apologetic of our faith? Since when did we forget that what we claim to believe about Christ has the power to redeem, to save our souls and transform our lives?
This is Pentecost. The coming of the Advocate. The gift of the Holy Spirit. With love. With fire. With passion. With feeling. And yes, when you speak from that fire of the Holy Spirit people will invariably dismiss you in the same way as they dismissed the first disciples, as ‘drunk’, as ‘over-zealous’, as a temporary annoyance to be sneered at with that ‘oh so English’ side-eyed glance to a neighbour that says to the world.
“We’re better than this! Aren’t we?”
A side-ways glance we needed to share because for one excruciating second the power of the gospel cut through all our insecurities and self-reliance to remind us that we are not “better than this”, nor are we worse, we just need to put our faith and trust in Christ as much as anybody else.
In the words of Bishop Michael Curry… “Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history: a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world – and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives, but the very life of the world itself. I’m talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.
If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says, “There’s a balm in Gilead …” a healing balm, something that can make things right.
“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole,” and one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said:
“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.”
We may not preach like Peter, we may not pray like Paul, but this Pentecost each of us are called to get out there and through our love, our lives, and our words to tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all.
So risk the side-eyed glance. Go on too long. Do more not less. Show your feelings. Challenge institutions. Mess with power. Be accused of being drunk! After all, you’re in good company. Since the first Pentecost this is how the Good News of Christ has always been preached.
Remember what Christ has done to save you. Remember how you first felt when you first believed and proclaim to others the life transforming faith you yourself have known.
Make ‘em laugh. Make ‘em cry. Show ‘em Jesus.