Some scholars argue that the most significant archeological find of the Reformation happened when they discovered Martin Luther’s toilet.
Calling it his “secret place,” it is thought that Luther did most of his writing while he battled chronic constipation.
While modern science may have been able to cure his reformational angst with pills and tonics, it was fear that paralyzed his bowels.
Luther carried the fear that he would go to hell deeply in his gut.
So when Luther had his breakthrough realization that he was freed in Christ to serve, that there was nothing he could do to screw up the salvation promised to him in his baptism and fulfilled by Christ on the cross, I imagine that the “a ha” came from inside his guts, which started to become unloosed (the literal translation of the Greek word used by Jesus for forgiveness in the Gospels).
This Fourth of July holiday, I’ve been thinking about how the traditional American understanding of freedom compares to the Lutheran understanding of freedom.
In contemporary American politics, it is much easier to find people who are paralyzed by fear, or paralyzing others with their rhetoric to be afraid of their neighbors, than people making gutsy on-the-record efforts to ensure that all Americans are not only free, but that we are the most free when we are seeking wholeness and health for all our neighbors, regardless of nationality, ability to obtain official paperwork, identification, a mailing address, work or any other difference real or perceived.
Even if we were able to imagine an America that lived up to the ideals crafted in our Constitution or Bill of Rights, they are still only focused on individual freedom.
Justice for all
Lutheran freedom seeks corporate freedom, encouraging communities that become kin as they share communion with each other to be like the widow searching for a lost coin, relentless in our pursuit of justice for anyone who is labeled “the least” by society.
Any parent who has advocated for their child when it seems like the world is against them, knows what it’s like to be compelled by their gut. We of the ELCA are called to be people ever learning and listening to the needs of the world so that we can become mindful and train our Lutheran guts to act without hesitation when we are called to be God’s hands, heart or conscience in the world.
Beyond this, during the weekend of celebrating freedom, let us rejoice that our Lutheran freedom is given to us as a gift without need of war to create or defend it, a majority vote to decide who it applies to, electrified walls to contain it or the need to be blind to poverty, racism and all the other ism’s that prevent us from truly feeling free.
Let us join in the chorus of ELCA congregations around the country that will be praying for the members of our armed forces, police officers, fire fighters, politicians, all civil servants and many others.
And though I know it sounds strange, next time you visit the bathroom, remember that faith and a real sense of forgiveness can come from the most ordinary and sometimes from unsanitary places. Be open to the ways that God may be calling you to unloose.
Megan M. Rohrer is an ELCA pastor called by four congregations, who has served as a missionary to the homeless in San Francisco since 2002.