St. Luke’s Episcopal Church nearly packed both Sunday morning services for a visit from the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who sermonized on the power of love, keeping with a theme from his sermon at the royal wedding in May, where many first discovered his ebullient style.
Curry is the presiding bishop and primate, the elected chief pastor and senior most bishop, of the Episcopal Church of the United States.
Millions outside the church first heard Curry in May, as he presided at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and shared a powerful sermon at Windsor Castle in England.
Curry’s last visit to the Vancouver church was in 2007, said St. Luke’s Rev. Jaime Case. At the time, Curry was the bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, and the church rented out the hangar at Pearson Field.
They managed to pack the event into St. Luke’s this time, Case said, which was a feat considering the interest.
“We certainly have a lot of people here today who are not part of this congregation. People from All Saints and St. Michael’s and Holy Spirit and St. Anne’s and, oh my God, just everywhere,” he said. “They all came to hear him preach.”
Curry’s sermon mirrored some themes from his royal wedding homily, namely the power of love and compassion, and was based around the week’s assigned reading, from Chapter 5 of the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
“There’s power in love. Don’t discount it. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t be ashamed to be a Christian defined by the love that Jesus has taught us,” Curry said.
What Paul was talking about, Curry said, on how “the love of Christ urges us on,” is Christ’s message of how, through unconditional love of God and your neighbor, is the real heart of their confession.
“On that hangs everything,” Curry said.
“If it doesn’t sound like love, it doesn’t matter how sanctimonious it sounds. It doesn’t matter if it sounds like a preacher, talking about Jesus,” he said, exaggerating his preacher-at-the-pulpit voice to laughs. “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God, period.”
The real opposite to that, he said, isn’t hate, but selfishness.
“Think about it — selfishness is self-centeredness,” he said. “Where I’m the center of the universe and you and everybody else, including God, is on the periphery. And when that happens, you have a formula for personal and social self destruction.”
He called selfishness the root of all evil, with the power to destroy personal relationships, communities, nations and the world if left unchecked.
“That’s what sin is,” he said. “Love is the cure.”
The sermon touched on Jackie Robinson and the integration of pro baseball, the work of other theologians, even an Indian spiritual teacher by way of Jimi Hendrix.
The sermon was largely based on the reading, he said after the service, but the passage gets at something he’s often trying to say.
“We’ve got to rediscover the way of love as a way of living. And I mean that not just as Christians, as Christian folk, but as a human family,” he said. “That’s a world not motivated by greed or self-centeredness. That’s a world motivated by seeing the common good, for real, and that’s different world. That’s a different world, but it’s the only one that’s going to work.”
The visit to Washington had been planned in advance, and took Curry and others with the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia to churches up and down Interstate 5 in Washington.
By its count, the Episcopal Church has 88 churches and 40,000 active baptized members in Washington, out of close to 2 million nationwide.
Unsurprisingly, he’s busy, but his appearance at the royal wedding added another flavor to his usual work, he said.
People recognize him on the street, and he’s squeezing in more interviews, among other changes.
“For me, it’s taking the universal selfie,” he said.
After all the people looking to snag a photo, he’s learned how to shoot with any phone, he said, and the young people at the Episcopal youth conference helped refine his technique.
“They said, ‘Remember, up and out.’ “