I had worked on it so hard over the weekend. I rewrote it twice, trying to fine tune it and get the language just right. I wanted it to be so easy for me to remember as I'd had problems the week before getting through my sermon without my notes.
Because of some significant things in the last week and because of a death in the cathedral family on Tuesday, I didn't have the energy or the strength to preach what I'd written. It almost felt hollow, a little too academic or planned to be right.
My heart pounding in my chest as I stepped outside the chapel altar rail, I stood before the few people gathered and preached. More specifically and more truthfully, the Spirit gave me the words and I was as much part of the audience as everyone else.
My sermon focused on a different understanding of what is really at the heart of martyrdom; the image of the devout Christian being fed to the lions for confessing "Christ is Lord" is correct but misses the point. Martyrdom is rooted in being who we have been called to be. As Christians, it means never giving up our faith in the face of oppression, violence and injustice.
"Christ has come that we might have life, and have it abundantly." The abundant life is in living out our call: our call to be humans who are created not for violence and abuse but for love and justice. When the world laughs at our belief that human beings were made for love and not brutality or when we're told to deny who God has called us to be, then we must be ready to live and die in the belief that God has called us to life in Christ and has created us for love.
Given that in the past week I've been struggling with how to work my gay identity into my ministry and that I realized I'd been sort of hiding my gayness for fear of repercussions, I realized through the sermon that God was giving me the words that I myself needed to hear. I don't know what it meant to people hearing, but it was definitely powerful to hear those words and to know in my heart the truth of them.
Today I received confirmation of the truth of the sermon God gave me: the two most important thngs I said today were, "That's not how I roll," and "I'm a Christian."
Let me put them in context. I went down to the local youth organization as I like to do and was asked to once again open the weight room. After doing some benchpresses at their request, I started closing down the weight room when one of them asked me, "Why doesn't your girlfriend tell you to work out more?" Yes, teenagers can be awkward. To this I responded, "I don't have a girlfriend." He asked why, and I responded, "That's not how I roll." I don't know why that phrase popped into my mind, but it did. He looked at me quizzically for a second then remarked that he understood what I meant.
Just a minute or so later we were all in a discussion about college, and I remarked that I was a religion major in college. I was asked what religion I was, and I replied, "I'm a Christian."
In those two sentences I uttered today I was bearing witness to the truth the Holy Spirit had revealed yesterday. I was being true to who God has called me to be, and being a gay Christian is exactly who God has called me to be!
The lesson of the story?
The Holy Spirit is wild and free, indeed, and do not be ashamed to be yourself.