The following is a lightly edited transcript of a message delivered by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during the July 6 morning worship service at the Episcopal Youth Event in College Park, Maryland.

And now in the name of our loving, liberating, and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. I didn’t know they were going to put a picture of Denzel Washington up there. Oh, I want to thank you for your prayers—I’m coming along, moving a little bit slower, but coming along, coming along and, and it’s just so, it’s so wonderful. I was determined to get here and to be with you. It’s just a privilege, a blessing. And I’m just filled with more joy than you can know.

And I just want to thank you for being here. I know you’ve got to travel through the heat wave but thank God we’re here—and here together. It’s great to be here with the president of the House of Deputies. You met her, you met her yesterday, our president, Julia Ayala Harris. It’s always great to be with her and great to be with your design team who’s worked so hard. Give them a shout-out. Give them a shout-out. And with Myra and Shannon and Bronwyn and Wendy, and all the folk who are here and participating and with this band, I heard y’all just got together. You’re all right. I like y’all. You’re all right.

And I don’t know what you did to these bishops who were here, but I’ve never seen them dance before. Keep on doing it. They look good. It’s good to be with them. But above all, it’s good to be with you. And I can tell you on behalf of this community of faith called The Episcopal Church, we are so proud of you and so thankful for you. And we pray God’s blessing on you while you’re here this week. And when you leave, because we’re counting on you to leave this world like Queen Esther did, a little bit better.

Well, I don’t have the mobility that I used to have, but I’ll get it back. Just give me some time. So I may stay here at the pulpit for a little while, but allow me just to pick up where Bishop Deon left off yesterday. I was in the airport and I was able to watch him and then listen to him yesterday, and I’ll pick up where he left off from the book of Esther.

Mordecai sent word to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you’ll escape any more than the other Jews, for if you keep silence at such a time as this relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter.” But who knows? Who knows, EYE? Who knows, youth of The Episcopal Church? Who knows, young people around the world? Who knows that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. 

This is as far as I’m going to go, but I want to talk for a few minutes. And bishops, this is probably the shortest sermon you’re going to ever get out of me, but that’s all right. For a few minutes on a simple subject, we need some Esthers today. Amen. We need some Esthers today. In fact, I want you to just turn to the people next to you. You tell them we need some Esthers today. Just tell them we need some Esthers today.

The story of Esther, as you know, is the story of a small Jewish community in Persia, which is actually modern Iran today. And they were there not by choice, but by fortuitous circumstance. They were there because of war. They were there because one nation, Babylon, now modern Iraq, conquered another nation. They were there because of hatred. They were there because of injustice. They were there because the world wasn’t the way God intends for the world to be.

And so when the armies of Babylon conquered Jerusalem and all the surrounding territory, many of the Jewish people were forced into exile in Babylon, which was kind of a virtual slavery. Many others fled and became refugees, and they emigrated to other countries. And some of them became immigrants in Persia.

But they weren’t always welcomed. They were looked down on, they were put down, they were mistreated, they were oppressed. Does that sound anywhere familiar? And, oh yeah. Let me go back. Let me, OK, it is familiar. It is familiar. Somebody say it’s familiar. Yeah. And that was the community into which Esther was born. But her parents died when she was young. And so her uncle Mordecai adopted her as his daughter and raised her up.

And eventually, and you know the story, eventually Esther rose up, and Mordecai was able to use his influence to get her a good position in the royal enclave. And Esther eventually became high up and became queen. But Mordecai told her one thing: “Don’t let anybody know you’re a Jew. Don’t let anybody know.” He wanted her in the closet. It ain’t nobody supposed to be in the closet. Nobody, nobody.

And everything went well. And Esther eventually became queen, but fortune changed. And a guy named Haman came to power, and Haman didn’t like the Jews. And so Haman went to the king, and he told the king, “Look, all these Jews, you can’t trust them. They’re other, they’re different. They’re not like we are. And you can’t turn your back on them.” And so the king took Haman’s advice, and he decided to issue an order. This is actually in the Bible—issued an order that all of the Jews in Persia were to be killed. This is not Nazi Germany. This was centuries ago. And so Mordecai sent word to Esther; he said, “Do not think that in the king’s palace, just because you’re the queen, do not think that you will escape more than all the other Jews. But who knows, perhaps you have come to the royal palace, perhaps you have come to this difficult moment, perhaps you have come for such a time as this.”

Now I know the world’s not what it’s supposed to be. I know the climate is crazy. We know there’s injustice. We know some folk are put down. We know some folk are mistreated. We know that nations invade other nations. But who knows, perhaps you, EYE, were born and made for such a time as this. We need some Esthers. We need some Esthers.

And Esther rose up, and she used all of the intelligence, all of the wisdom, all that she had learned over the years, all of her skill. And she used it to fool the plotters. She used it to trick old Haman. She used it to convince the king. She used it. And she saved folk. Folk lived because of Esther. Justice was done because of Esther. Folk got free because of Esther. And we need some new Esthers right now in this world today. We need some Esthers.

But there’s another part of the story that gave rise to the text because Esther didn’t want to do it. She really didn’t. That’s not an uncommon experience. In the Bible Moses didn’t want to do it, either. And the Lord said, “Well, get over that.”

And when Esther says she didn’t want to do it, that’s what Mordecai said, on behalf of the Lord. He said, “Get over it. See, you ain’t just here just to be cute. You’re not here just to be enjoying the palace. The Lord has put you here to do what the prophet Micah said:  ‘What does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.’ You are not here by accident. You are here for divine purpose. You are here to help God realize God’s dream.”

Yeah, I was probably 12 or 13 years old when my father wanted me to do something. I don’t remember what it was now, but I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t. And my face must have betrayed me because he clearly knew what I was thinking. And he just blurted out. He said, “You know, the Lord didn’t put you here just to consume oxygen.”

Now, I’m a parent and a grandparent and I know how parents are. That’s a reaction, that kind of thing. A parent will say one day, you’ll understand this, trust me. But actually there was some wisdom in that that I hadn’t thought of. And I know he didn’t think about it at the time. There was wisdom there because the Lord didn’t put me here just to consume oxygen. But in fact he did put me here in part to consume oxygen. Stay with me. Go back to your science in school. Y’all remember studying about photosynthesis? It is the process whereby, well, let me ask you this way. What do we inhale?


That’s right. And then what do we exhale?

[Carbon dioxide.]

All human beings, all 6.8 billion of us do that. We take in oxygen, and we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In, in fact, all animals do that. Anybody here got a dog? Raise your hand if you got a dog. Oh, we got a lot of dogs around here. All right. Those dogs are taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. How many folk got a cat? Oh, we got some cat people. OK. And Episco-cats. Anyway, your cat takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide….Yeah, all animals do that. But then now think about photosynthesis, plants, and vegetation, right? They take in the oxygen, I mean take in the carbon dioxide that we release and then with a combination of light and water. That’s why you’ve got to water plants and vegetation; photosynthesis happens. And in turn they release oxygen. We give them what they need. They give us what we need. We are not here just to consume oxygen. We’re here to make some plants happy.

That’s why we’ve got to take care of this environment. That’s why we’ve got to fix it. Fix it. The Lord put us here to fix it and take care of it. No, no, no. We give them what they need. They give us what we need. I want you to notice something. This pattern of giving and receiving is at the core and essence of life. That human beings, God put us here to receive, to be blessed. And he put us here to give and to bless. Lord didn’t put us here just to consume oxygen. You see where I’m going with this? Now stay with me. I’m coming to a point. … What I also meant to add a second ago was that this pattern of giving and receiving is actually built into the ecosystem of the creation, right? And I was, when I was looking it up, one of the scientists in Wikipedia probably said that this oxygen, carbon dioxide, this process of photosynthesis makes life possible.

We could not and most of the creation cannot live if we don’t release carbon dioxide, and they don’t produce oxygen. This is one of the keys to life on planet Earth. Now, I’ve got to tell you, you, I’m a Christian. I mean, I hope you knew that. One of the reasons, I mean, there are a number of them, but one of them is that I really do believe that Jesus came to show us the key to life.

He came to show us how to live, how to live with each other as children of the one creator who made us all, how to live with each other as brothers, sisters, siblings, as God’s human family. He came to show us how to have life. That’s what he actually says in one of the Gospels: “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” We’re not here just to consume the oxygen. We’re here to make life possible, life abundant, as the hymn says, meant for each. Oh, that’s why we are here. Oh, my daddy had some wisdom there. He didn’t know it at the moment.

We are not here just to consume the oxygen. And that’s what Mordecai was saying to Esther: You’re not here just to be cute. You’re not here just to be in the queen’s house. You’re not here just to enjoy everything you’ve gotten. Oh, that’s nice. But you are here to save lives. You are here to do justice. You are here to do your share to make a better world. And I’ve got to tell you, that’s what Jesus was really about. That’s why we’re here. We’ve got to go to church every Sunday or however y’all go. But you’ve got to keep going and get reminded and to get some energy to do it.

Jesus told this story about this lawyer who came up to Jesus and said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In other words, what must I do to find life that matters, that makes sense?

And Jesus said, “Well, what, what did Moses say in the Hebrew scriptures? What did he say in the law?”

And the lawyer said—anybody here want to be a lawyer? Nobody’s going to admit it. Oh, there we got one. OK, yeah, we need some lawyers like Queen Esther. We need those kind of lawyers. Anyway, he said, “Well, you know, Moses wrote in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

And then Jesus adds, “Do this and you will find life.” Do you see? Love God. Because God is good all the time. And God is good. Love God. Just love God. Even when you don’t agree with God, that’s OK. He can handle it. God can handle whatever you throw at him, but love him because the truth is that God loves you; and love your neighbor, the ones you like and the ones you don’t like.

Love, love, love your neighbor. Like Bishop Deon said yesterday, love even your enemies. Now that doesn’t mean you like them. Loving and liking are not the same thing. Loving is a decision and a commitment. Liking is just an emotional response. Love your neighbor and love yourself.

That’s why I—some of y’all have heard me say this before—but I love myself. I was in the hospital and all hooked up to the oxygen. My wife came in; I said, “Baby, don’t I look pretty?” You’ve got to love yourself no matter what’s going on. Love yourself because God made you and there’s not another you on this planet. And God means for you to love you. Turn and tell your neighbor, I’m gonna love myself. I’m gonna love myself. Oh yeah, yeah, love.

And the amazing thing is this is the key to life. This is how it works. We were made to love and be loved, to give and to receive. And there’s a reason for this. I’ve got one dream. Well, I’ve got a lot of them for The Episcopal Church. I’ve got one very basic dream that before I retire next year, I’m going to get every Episcopalian to know one passage of Scripture. Just one. I’m not worried about the whole Bible. Just one.

And it’s this one. It’s from 1 John, chapter four, verses seven and eight: “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God and those who love are born of God and know God.” And here’s the part I want to get Episcopalians to remember. Not the whole passage, just these three words, right? “Those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God because God is… God is—adults? [Love.] God is—youth? [Love]. Bishops, God is? [Love.] Everybody? God is love. Remember that passage? That’s the key that unlocks the entire Bible. Because if it’s not about love, it’s not about God.

And when love rules, then there will be peace on earth. Amen. When love rules, then the creation, then the environment will be whole. When love rules, truth will be declared again in the public square. When love rules, everybody will be treated as God’s somebody, no matter who they are. When love rules, we will find life abundant meant for each. I’ve got to tell you now, I’m going to stop now—oh, somebody said no, don’t stop; oh, that’s a preacher’s dream. But there really is power in this thing love. We sometimes think it’s just sentimental and nice and all that. No, no, no, no, no. There’s power. Because if God is love, there is no greater power in the entire cosmos beyond God.

And when we live in love, God’s love is actually living in us. It actually says that later in 1 John chapter four, God’s love is living in us and God is in us. In fact, the passage says no one has ever seen God, but those who live in love, God lives in them. There is no greater power that you can ever have than God living and working through you. That’s power. And that’s the key to life. That’s the key to life.

Well, let me sit down. This is my last EYE, I guess, as presiding bishop. You’ll be graduating and gone off to school. But I have had a tradition over the years of telling this one story. I was a young priest, and my wife and I moved to Cincinnati. Oh, Southern Ohio is here. Oh, I heard Cincinnati. Anyway, we moved to Cincinnati and I had a church in Lincoln Heights, which is just outside of, just north of Cincinnati. And we lived in the rectory, which was next door to the church. In fact, it was actually connected to the parish hall, which was connected to the church. And so I never had to go outside to go to the church. In snowstorms, I would go over to the church; I’d be the only one there, but I would go over anyway.

Anyway, we lived in the rectory and our oldest daughter, who’s now 40, was a toddler at that point. We were doing well and things went well. But there was a field behind the church. And when the winter came, when it got cold–because it does get cold, even in southern Ohio—the field mice who were out in the field would overrun the entire church complex, which means, man, we had mice everywhere. I like to think of it as the mice decided to get confirmed and become Episcopalians in the winter. Anyway, we had a mouse problem. And so I got the vestry. I said, we’ve got some exterminators to come and take care of the mice. And we got this one guy and we told him, we’ve got a little child so you can’t put these heavy poisons around, you know, and all that.

And this one exterminator said, “Don’t worry about it. We practice nonviolent extermination.” I’m thinking, OK, I don’t know what that is. Anyway, it was the glue traps, you know, the little glue things. Yeah. Which meant you had to get the trap with the mouse still trying to get out of it. Anyway, that really wasn’t working a lot because you can’t have that many glue traps. And finally nothing seemed to be working. We had mice all over the place. And so finally I was talking to a friend of ours and telling her about this and, and Liz said, “Well, I’ve got two cats and a dog. And the dog and one of the cats keep beating up the other cat and I need to find her a new home.”

So I went home and talked to my wife and said, “Look, we may have a solution. You know, the manmade stuff ain’t working. Let’s get what God put on this Earth to get mice.” So we went back to Liz’s house and she had a little carrying thing for the cat. She had all her shots and everything. The cat, she really had been beaten up by the other; she was missing a little hair here and there. I mean, she wasn’t the prettiest cat in the world. God love her, but she wasn’t. But anyway, she was so desperate to get out of the house. And so finally I said, “Liz, what’s the cat’s name?” And she said, “Muffin.”

I said, “Muffin? I don’t need a cat named Muffin. I need a cat named Killer or something.” But she was the only cat we had. So we took Muffin home and she sniffed around, came out of the cage and was just so happy. She was looking for that other dog and cat. She said, they’re not here. Is this my house? And so she came on out and she just got real friendly with everybody. I mean she was so friendly. When you’d pet her, she’d start dribbling out her mouth and stuff. People would come over to the house and she would jump on their laps and just kind of saddle up and, you know how cats rub. It was like, this cat has some issues, trust me. And she even became friends with our dog.

We had a German shepherd dog. His name was Bishop. I named him in a clergy group. They dared me to name the dog Bishop and I did; I mean, I thought that was funny and cute then. I remember one time the bishop did come over to the house. We had him over for lunch after the service. And Rachel was sitting in the high chair. And I was telling her, I said, “Now Rachel, this is the bishop.” And I could tell she had that look on her face, and she started to say something. I said, “Rachel, no, no, don’t, there’s not time to talk now. Just I talk now.”

But anyway, Muffin and Bishop became good friends. I mean it was really quite beautiful. She was actually a nice cat and everything, but I said, she’s not killing any mice. And then one night I got up to go in the kitchen to get something and it was dark and the moon was out so you could see somewhat. And I walked through the living room and went to the kitchen.

And as I was going to the kitchen—coming back actually, I stopped because Muffin was in there. I hadn’t noticed her before, but she was in there and she was, you know, have you ever watched a cat hunt? She was in that crouching tiger position, and she was down and she wasn’t dribbling. I said, look at this cat—that’s just something; the same cat that was dribbling and dysfunctional was down there in crouching tiger position. And she was just intent. And you know how they don’t move. And then she just leapt up and got that mouse. Mickey Mouse bit the dust. I saw it.

And it really was a beautiful thing to see—unless you’re the mouse, I mean. The next thing I knew, Muffin was hunting. Every night she would go out hunting because you know, cats, they’re nocturnal creatures. Every night she would be out hunting. I mean, we’d go out in the morning, you’d go through the living room, and it was like walking through a cemetery. You had to walk around—there were carcasses all over the place.

I remember one time I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and put my foot in my slipper. Picked the slipper up and said, ohh. My wife said, “See, people just give you change in church. She gave you half of what the Lord gave her.”

Anyway, this cat was hunting constantly to the point that I think she took care of the mice in the house, and we never had mice again in that rectory because of Muffin. And I thought about it since, and one of the things I realized was that when Muffin was loved—y’all with me now? When Muffin was loved, she was able to do and be what God put her on this Earth to be. And when Muffin was loved, she was no longer an ordinary cat. She was super cat. In fact, I wanted to get a little cape and put it on her and let her go around in it.

And the truth is, love has that power. It has the power to lift you up when the gravity of reality will pull you down. Love can do that for you.

Oh, and I’m going to sit down, but my grandma used to sing a song, I think it was about St. Paul, in her church. They said it is no secret what God can do, what he did for Paul, he’ll do for you. Well, I’m here to tell you, it is no secret what God can do; what he did for Muffin, EYE, he can do for you.

God love you. God bless you, and you didn’t come here just to consume oxygen. God bless you, Esthers.