Sunday, 1 May 2011

Hype or hope?

I'm glad John commented on my last post and asked what I thought of the Bishop of London's sermon, as it made me return to listen to it carefully. I was especially pleased as I had missed the significance of its ending when we watched the service en famille yesterday. I reckon that was the high point of the day. Of course it's hard to tell what's going on behind the inscrutable façades of polite society, but it seemed to me that the couple were genuinely happy. As far as I could tell, they're nice people. I positively enjoyed seeing them drive to Clarence House in his dad's vintage, environmentally friendly Aston Martin. Altogether it was a good show.
from Telegraph website
There were one or two off notes surrounding the event, such as the failure to invite our last two prime ministers to what was in part a state event (Downing Street's asseveration that invitations were purely the affair of the Palace was disingenuous, after David Cameron's vehement opposition to Gordon Brown becoming the next head of the IMF and then in the light William Hague intervening to get the Syrian ambassador's wedding invitation withdrawn. It was simply inconceivable that there'd been no liaison about invitations between No 10 and Buckingham  Palace.), and historian, Andrew Roberts' spin, on the wedding morning's Today programme, that 550 street parties was an overwhelming indication of popular support. (How many streets are there in the UK? One answer I found is 250,000....). But I'm not carping. At heart, it was a happy day for two families and one couple.

But back to the question. I thought Bishop Chartres' sermon was excellent. Short - 8 minutes. Not parsonical - let the reader understand, and beware! Full of content. Straightforward and practical. I liked the fact that it was addressed to the couple almost entirely, but its message was for anyone. "In a sense, every wedding is a royal wedding, with the bride and groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together...." The strapline from Catherine of Siena, "Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire," is a great truth and the theme of helping your partner to fulfil their potential of course ran through the sermon. "In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life." "The more we give of self, the richer we become in soul" - the sermon was jam-packed with quotable quotes, or, rather, pithy nuggets to chew on. Marriage is a reflection of God's generous love to the world - the Bishop gave a beautiful one-sentence summary of the Christian good news.

On the importance of the marriage ceremony, he profoundly pointed out the significance of the decision, the public "I will": "It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. People can dream of such a thing but that hope should not be fulfilled without a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love." That would be part of my answer to 'Brotherly Love's' comment on my last post. Although in practice I too became 'flexible' with regard to couples' pre-marital sex, in principle true love needs first to make that public covenant commitment, which turns the hopeful dream into practical reality. Until then it remains a conditional love - which is love minus. That remains the best way.
from Westminster Abbey website
I could go on about the sermon but it's easily available to read and to watch at I loved the idea of our being "each other's work of art", and his sentences about the future were acute. But, as I said, the high point (as it should be) was the end, the prayer which William and Catherine had composed themselves - What a good idea, by the way, to invite a couple to express their feelings to God on their wedding day! I wish I'd thought of that! - "God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen." I've no idea how it came to be written, but I like to take it at face value, that it is signed "William and Kate" and represents the heart of their marriage aspirations. Not bad - for a future king and queen - or for any of us!

And I almost forgot this postscript to the day from YouTube, Westminster Abbey verger celebrates a good day at the office. It reminds me the way children would skip back from the communion rail in Hazel Grove - "How appropriate!" I used to think.


  1. Thanks for those excellent thoughts! What I liked most about the sermon was the conviction--there too in the couple's prayer--that 'the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves'.

    Much of the trouble in life comes from trying to have it both ways: we want to go beyond ourselves in love because we know that's where genuine happiness is found. And that is where it's found! but if we're loving others simply to become happy ourselves, then we've not yet gone beyond ourselves in love.

    Secularization has wrought many unfortunate changes, but perhaps it's prepared the way for a renewed appreciation of just how radical Christian love really is. An age so given over to 'love minus' is ripe for the rediscovery of God's full-blooded love to us in his Son.

  2. I agree. Radical love is quite different from the in-vogue "happiness agenda" - but is "where genuine happiness is found", as you say.