Happy February, Presbyterian women! Here we go on another of the beatitudes. This month, it's the sixth beatitude: the pure in heart who will see God. Of course, in our culture, February is usually less about "pure" hearts and more about these hearts:
Photo by Dave Parker, cc license, http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveparker/2264374058/
But this is not what Jesus means in this month's beatitude. In this month's beatitude Jesus calls us to honor those whose pure. In Jesus' day, someone with a pure heart waled with integrity before God and the community. This is not an easy thing to do, is it? Even when we know that things are unjust -- that the poor don't have what they need for food, or shelter, or heat or medicine -- it is hard for us to know what to do about it. It is hard to live a Christian life of integrity in a society that pushes our hearts away from purity to selfishness, greed, or apathy.
For those of us who do strive for that kind of integrity, the promise of the beatitude is that we will see God. But what a promise that is! For one who sees God may end up wrestling, like Jacob. One who sees God may be sent out with an unpopular message, like Isaiah. One who sees God might end up bearing the Christ, like Mary. One who sees God might end up being an evangelist, like Magdala. And often, one who sees God ends up with a new name. So Jacob becomes Israel and Simon becomes Peter.
Are we ready to think about hearts this month: not candy hearts but our hearts? What might that mean for us? Might that mean taking a decision at work that might call to task our way of doing business? Might that mean choosing where we shop, or making it known to those from whom we buy that we expect them to do justice? Might that mean standing up against bullies who would silence those without power and status? Might it mean preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to a community that hears nothing but bad news-- bigotry and abuse and condemnation-- from the body of Christ?
As we think of the implications of having pure hearts this month, a month that is also black history month, perhaps we might consider the example of Isabella Baumfree, the slave of John Dumont of New York. Isabella was a slave in upstate New York, a woman of the late 18th and early 19th century. Like so many slaves before her, she was abused by her master and her mistress. Like so many slaves before her, Isabella went in search of the living God. And she began a relationship with the living God that, after she became a free woman, would forever change her.
Somewhere along the way, she had a vision of the living God, this woman who tried to walk with integrity of heart. And as she grew closer to the Christ who loved her, Isabella heard the call of God on her life, a call to live out the rule of love -- Love your neighbor as yourself. And she heard the God of her understanding give her a new name: Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner Truth spent the rest of her life speaking truth to power through her Christian faith. In a time when women were rarely ordained, she preached the gospel to all who would listen, sometimes sleeping outside. At a time before war seemed inevitable, she stood against despair and the yearning for war in her compatriot Frederick Douglass, asking him if his God was dead. At a time when women were not really citizens at all, she stood up to those stereotypes that separated poor and rich woman, black and white women in her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech. And she continued to stand for the rights of those that Jesus calls us to honor until her life's end.
Friends, February truly is heart month, purity of heart month. We begin it by studying this beatitude. In its midst, we celebrate love. And, we end it on Ash Wednesday by praying David's famous prayer: "Create in me a clean heart, O God." So may it be with us. May we, like Sojourner Truth, walk in integrity before the God of our understanding, the God who created us, saved us and calls us to be sojourners, speaking truth. And when we see our God, may we be forever changed.
Grace and peace to all of you,