From the royal bride walking herself down the aisle to the African-American choir singing “Stand By Me” at the ceremony, the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will go down in history as a multicultural moment. Topping the list of royal wedding firsts was a sermon by Bishop Michael Curry, presiding head of the American Episcopal Church, who quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his moving sermon on the power of love.
“The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, and I quote: ‘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, for love is the only way.’”
Curry was quoting a sermon King gave on November 17, 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. The church was where King first served as pastor, and acted as a headquarters of leaders within the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
King was sick that day. But in the sermon, titled “Loving Your Enemies,” an ill King made his way to deliver a message that he didn’t think could be postponed. This move came against the instruction of his doctor, according to the opening remarks in a transcript of his sermon.
“I insisted that I would have to come to preach,” King said of his response to his doctor’s recommendation. “So he allowed me to come out with one stipulation, and that is that I would not come in the pulpit until time to preach, and that after, that I would immediately go back home and get in the bed.”
In the sermon, King championed the importance of loving not just your neighbor, but your enemy. A task he deemed difficult, he picked apart the ways in which a person could love someone who meant to tear them down in his sermon.
“[Jesus] realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you,” King said. “But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point.”
The message came at a time that King knew the difficulty of loving his enemies firsthand. At the beginning of that year, King became a co-founder and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a group dedicated to advocacy, protests and demonstrations for equality in the Civil Rights Movement. In the face of a nation divided by race, and a world divided by ideologies, King spoke in favor of love across cultures and all that it could accomplish.
Curry’s sermon, “The Power of Love,” effectively used King’s words to sum up his speech and bring the civil rights leader’s lesson of affection and passion into the 21st century through the mention of technology and social media.
“Fire makes it possible for us to text and tweet and e-mail and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other,” Curry said. “And [Jesus] said, fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history. He then went on to say, 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 have discovered fire.
His message reached an entirely new generation across borders and cultures, and was a passionate start to the marriage of Prince Harry and Markle.