Reflecting on What Martin Luther’s Famous “Freedom of A Christian” Means to Me

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(Transcript automatically generated.)

a few days before writing this piece
i gave this speech at a local
university’s
rainbow graduation to celebrate the
lgbtqia plus students
preparing to launch into the wider world
there’s a unique tension when sharing my
witness
as a black lesbian christian
in an lgbtqia plus space
i represent a reclaiming a healing
a rebellion and a restoration
i also represent what for many is still
a throbbing ache and a living struggle
even amongst the younger rainbow
population
there is suspicion or resentment towards
the church
common enough that it’s just to be
expected
it’s a heavy weight to carry offering
good news
in a way that still acknowledges
possible memories of rejection
or judgment pain that may render my
words hollow
or even harmful as i spoke to these
young graduates
i shared with them how i was able to
release
my own sense of shame i was curled up in
a ball
my knees tucked up under my chin beneath
a steaming water hot shower
i wept those gasping ugly tears of
total adolescent abandon for several
minutes
before realizing that i still had all my
clothes on
and that i was still gay
my mom wasn’t a perfect woman but when i
called her from a pay phone at the side
of a highway
she drove more than six hours through a
swirling midwestern snowstorm to get me
she never
asked me what happened behind the doors
of a
retreat space for sexual healing and
reparative therapy
i couldn’t speak about it aloud for more
than a decade
in that shower what i believe
to be the holy spirit brought me the
words of psalm 139
god had searched me god knew me
no part of me was hidden from god
every lie i had told to conceal my
identity
every cowering withdrawal from a place
to share my story
was privy to god yet i was still somehow
fearfully and wonderfully made
if god had not answered the prayers of
church leaders
who held me to the floor of a darkened
room
and cast out what demons possessed me
it must be because i was as god wanted
me to be
perfectly whole not in myself
but in the god who made me
along the way somehow i had lost faith
in that promise i’d given trust in the
precious gift of salvation
wrapped up in those words if jesus loves
me from my childhood
words i cherish since the age of five
i’d given that power into the hands of
the world
a world that i knew by the pain that it
caused
to be flawed and broken
i had taken what was god’s my heart
my hope my faith and i’d given it to
something
and someone else in that moment
i grasped firmly the freedom
that comes from god’s grace and i took
it back
in that baptism of a shower i remembered
what was mine
in jesus why do you say
one of the students asked that you are
willing to stay
how can you still love so deep so deep
that you would pledge your whole life on
bended knee
in service to this church that has hurt
and that has harmed and that’s a fair
and it’s a frequent question as luther
wrote to pope leo
surrounded by the monsters of this age
nevertheless
throughout this time i have never turned
my
soul away because i do still sometimes
doubt the beauty that i am
in christ it’s only after hearing those
words
over and over and over again that i can
actually hold them
clinging to the word alone sunday after
sunday
i kiss the silk of my rainbow stole
and i whisper the prayer that hangs in
my sacristy before i step
into the streets of public witness
martin luther’s sacristy prayer
without your help i would have ruined
everything long ago
i discipline this lesbian body
to remember its wholeness i use
mirror-taped affirmations i journal
poems of gratitude
i deliberately interrupt the continuing
assault of
every stubborn and faithful church
person
who uplifts anything but faith in christ
for you and for me
i’m called to live in this tangled
community
of pan and buy and trans and ace
and gay and non-binary and straight and
cisgender humans
and i see the battered brown body of
jesus christ in each and every one of
them
i love us so very much
rejected and outcast for something that
someone
feared a long time ago
i love us as holy and
overflowing with all good things
because christ sees us
not as much as the world still does in
many places
but as we were made
in their image
because i have so deeply experienced
both the feeling of love and its absence
i know that love feels like celebration
love feels like something beyond
tolerance
beyond acceptance
love feels like named and specific
celebration of who we are
love feels like showing up even in a
midwestern snowstorm
love feels like justice
if i’ve been changed in any way
it’s to believe that love is something
god has created
for all of us even you
and even me and without the freedom
of being a christian and experiencing
christ’s love
i wouldn’t be free to share that with
all of you
i certainly wouldn’t be free to share it
with my congregation
and perhaps most importantly i wouldn’t
be free
to share it with myself
god’s peace be with you i’m the rev
carla christopher wilson
in lancaster pennsylvania