Wednesday, August 3, 2016

3 August 2016
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8 (NRSV)
“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” Psalm 24:3-4 (ESV)
“Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold”. Psalm 73:1-2 (NIV)

            Good morning (it’s still morning here, barely). Today we consider what it might mean to be pure in heart, and how we might be able to demonstrate that purity to the world around us. I’m thinking many of Jesus’ listeners already believed their hearts were pure and their hands were clean. Then again, maybe not. For the religious of that time and of this time it is easy to fall into the trap of works-righteousness, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought (I myself am prone to this. Who’d have thunk it?). Paul speaks to this in Romans 12:3 and Colossians 2:23. The idea is we are not made pure by what we do; rather a pure heart defines and guides what we do. I think Jesus had something similar in mind.
            Jesus here echoes Psalm 24, asking and answering the question ‘who can see God-who can dwell in His presence’? Well, none of us. We have neither clean hands nor a pure heart. But Jesus does and He gifts them to us. I think one way to see Psalms 22, 23, and 24 is as a kind of trilogy speaking of Jesus’ crucifixion (22), death (or crossing over, if you prefer) and resurrection (23) and ascension (24). There is a bit of a parallel here for us. Psalm 22 echoes our struggles with sin and the flesh. Psalm 23 assures us we are not left to our own devices, even in our worst moments. In psalm 24 we enter, with our Lord, into the presence of the Father. We hear Jesus say “my clean hands can be yours; my pure heart can be yours. I have taken away your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh, my heart”. Ezekiel warned us this would happen (11:19 and 36:26); he was right indeed.
            So what’s the point to all this? Psalm 73 answers that. The psalmist gives a timeless lament. The arrogant and the wicked are prospering (at the people’s expense) and getting away with it. They seem immune to conditions that plague normal people-well fed and comfortable they believe themselves to be beyond God’s reach, if indeed there is a God at all. The Psalmist was flummoxed-how could God let this happen? Why not just join them? Finally, in the sanctuary, in God’s presence, he figures it out. He realizes God is enough. Indeed, God never left him and will continue to guide and council him.
            Friends, could it be we are God’s sanctuary for those facing similar doubts and struggles today? Could it be our purity of heart, such as it is, such as we receive from God, might be a lighthouse of sorts guiding someone in to safe harbor? Some small kindness shown to a stranger; a listening ear to a friend; evidence of a purity of heart that enables us to see God now without judgement in the faces of those in need (or those we disagree with) and later, when God calls us to His gates. Seeing and being seen; knowing and being known. Standing against evil, oppression and exploitation whenever and wherever we see it. Being the voice for those who have no voice even when it makes us uncomfortable or unpopular or both. Looking beyond our narrow self-interests in favor of a greater good. Purity of heart that restores and polishes the Imago Dei in all of us. Who was it that said ‘when one is lifted up we all are lifted up?
            One more thing, for those of you still with me. I want to take a moment to put a plug in for another blog. Here we focus on being the presence of God for others; there we share and celebrate signs of God’s presence. When any of you see or sense God’s presence in your day to day lives, I encourage you (actually, I’m not above begging) to post it there. Let us rejoice and celebrate together. You can find that blog at and I’m pretty sure you can get there at
May the Lord bless you and keep you this day. JRG


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