The World Stops for Worship
Is it only me, or did one worship service just inspire the whole world?
To be honest, I wasn’t interested in The Royal Wedding. If I am completely honest, in a real world, of real people, many of whom are struggling day-to-day to get through their real troubles, I’m not much interested in Royalty at all.
My one British church member has reminded me of their value to that society: heritage and symbol and inspiration. And I get it. But the existence of such a class, for me, just makes too vivid the unjust and painful divide between the haves and the have-nots in this world. Any modern monarchy is a too-rude reminder that after all the eons we’re still no closer to the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven that Jesus envisioned.
Whether you were interested in the royal wedding or not, though, you could hardly have escaped it. By common consensus it was spectacular, and it was not just a wedding – it was a moment in history, as in, one of those moments that might just change the world.
Worship has that power.
The moment was rich with a lot that can cure our ills. With one “I Do” the lily-white English crown became Kodachrome (to tweak a metaphor from Britain’s own Paul Simon). Imagine, a black mother, who has undoubtedly experienced the indignity of racial stigma, American-style, sitting in all that grandeur watching her girl become a real-live Duchess.
I felt a twinge of our subtle prejudice, though, in all the praise of a rare gospel choir singing in Windsor Cathedral. Kind of like, “You know, those black people can really sing!” Could it be that the only end to our sad, disgusting racism is gospel music and the mulatto justice that was on display at that altar? Maybe it only ends, to borrow another metaphor, from the not-quite-English Bono, “when all the colors bleed into one.”
Perhaps the Brits and their rebellious progeny have, after 242 years, found a true way forward. After our history of colonizing greed and righteous rebellion, maybe that event can teach them and us that our only future isn’t conquest or revolution, it’s marriage. The Right Reverend Curry captured it so well: what we need is the love of Christ, which is just the Christian way of saying, sacrificial living, self-less giving.
The English, decades removed from a vigorous Christian heritage, expected a spectacular celebration of fashion and fanfare. What they got in the bargain was a powerful reintroduction to the Church. The amazing event drew fawning adulation from sophisticated commentators around the globe, but what made it spectacular wasn’t the carriage, the dress, the flowers, it was… worship.
There was something More happening in that grand venue. You could feel that More as you watched a Prince sing “Guide Me, O Thy Great Redeemer.” You could feel that More as you listened to the wisdom and poetry of scripture. You could feel that More as an African-American preacher, with all the proper Episcopal pedigree offered the beautiful simplicity of the Christian Gospel.
It wasn’t just a wedding. There was More. That’s why we worship.
Secularization comes slowly to a religious nation, and I understand the reasons. Maybe it comes so subtly, so slowly, that the Brits hadn’t even known they were missing it, but I think the world recognized it in a Royal Wedding – not pomp and pageantry but the Sacred, the Mystery, the Transcendent, the More. Simply put: God.
Good worship has that power.
Some politically-religious commentators in the US whine about the coming of “European socialism.” I have no such concerns – though I do worry we may be following the English into a secularism that empties life of meaning and purpose and turns a culture and its people to the self-destruction of self-indulgence. Some might even argue there’s a foreshadowing of that already evident.
Maybe a Royal Wedding can show us what we’ll eventually need to come back to if we insist on continuing to run away from good religion. So, excuse me for sounding all preachy, I guess it’s a liability of the job, but I do hope to see you Sunday – in worship.
We all need it.
(Dr. Russ Dean is a graduate of Clinton High School. He and his wife, Rev. Amy Jacks Dean, also a CHS graduate, are co-pastors of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte.)