Making This Old World New Again
By Reverend Michael Curry
The late Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.” There is power in love. Do not underestimate it. Do not even over-sentimentalize it. There is power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. There is power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There is a certain sense in which you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you you love and you show it. It actually feels right. There is something right about it. And there is reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love. Our lives are meant to be lived in that love. That is why we are here. Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: the source of all of our lives.
There is an old medieval poem that says: “Where true love is found, God himself is there.” The New Testament says it this way: “Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; everyone who loves is of God. Whoever does not love does not know God (1 John 4:7-8).” Why? Because God is love. There is power in love. There is power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There is power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There is power in love to show us the way to live. Set me as a seal on your heart, a seal on your arm (Song of Solomon 8:6). Because love is stronger than death. But love is not only about a young couple. The power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we are here. Two young people fell in love; and we showed up. But it is not just for and about a young couple for whom we rejoice. It is more than that.
Jesus of Nazareth, one one occasion, was asked to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses. Jesus reached back into the Hebrew scriptures of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. And he said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment; and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).” And then in Matthew’s version, Jesus added that on these two commandments hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, and everything that God has been trying to tell the world. Love God. Love your neighbors. And while you’re at it, love yourself.
Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history: a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world; a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing, to change not only their lives, but the life of the world itself. If you do not believe me, 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 is the one that says there is a balm in Gilead, a healing balm. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. One of the stanzas actually explains why: if you cannot preach like Peter and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus and how he died to save us all. That’s the balm in Gilead!
This way of love. It is the way of life. They got it. Jesus died to save us all. He did not die for anything that he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He was not getting anything out of it. He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the well-being of the world, for us. That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial and redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives. And it can change the world. If you don’t believe me, just stop, think, and imagine.
Think and imagine the world when love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities when love is the way. Imagine governments and nations when love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way. When love is the way. Unselfish, sacrificial, and redemptive. Then no child will 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 and ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will 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 by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there is plenty of good room for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other 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, all children of God. That is a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, and a new human family.
Let me tell you something: Solomon was right in the Old Testament. That is fire! Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds and great spirits of the twentieth century: a Jesuit, a Roman Catholic priest, a scientist, a scholar, and a mystic. In some of his writings, he said that the discovery and harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all human history. Fire made human civilization possible. Fire made it possible to cook food and to provide sanitary ways of eating, which reduced the spread of disease. Fire made it possible to heat environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates. There was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, and no Industrial Revolution without fire. The advances of science and technology are greatly dependent on the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for good.
I know that the Bible says and I believe it that Jesus walked on water. But I have to tell you that I didn’t walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here. Controlled fire in that airplane got me here. Fire makes it possible for us to text and tweet and email and instagram and facebook, and otherwise be socially dysfunctional with each other. Fire makes all of that possible. And Teilhard de Chardin said that fire was one of the greatest discoveries of human history. He then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we discover fire. Dr. King was right. We must discover love, the redemptive power of love. When we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. My brother, my sister, God love you. God bless you. May God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.
About the Author
Michael Bruce Curry is the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Bishop Curry was born in Illinois, raised in Upstate New York, and educated at Hobart College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Ecumenical Institute at Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. The preceding remarks were delivered on Saturday, May 19th at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Windsor Castle, England.
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit that seeks to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Our mission is to serve the Church and to give witness to the Good News of Christ through formation and prayer, pilgrimage and retreat, and educating others about our way of life. In 2018, we will lead our eleventh annual fall pilgrimage to Assisi; meet monthly for Mass, faith formation, and faith sharing; and offer adults other opportunities to experience a Franciscan day of prayer and reflection. For more information about the Assisi Project and upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!
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