“Sojourner Truth” Print by Jeb Loy Nichols
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
We are familiar with mountaintops. We have longingly starred upon their majestic beauty from afar. We have stridden in confidence and trepidation towards their sturdy feet, looking up at the insurmountable task. We have endured, step by step up the mountaintop until, exhausted, we stood on upon it and surveyed the lands below. We are intimately familiar with both figurative and literal mountaintops.
Mountaintops are not just physical earthly forms that divide continents and riddle her landscape with water. Mountaintops are the moments where you dream dreams of liberty. Mountaintops are the times when you dare to hunger for equality. Mountaintops are shelters in which you discover your true self away from the violence and hatred of the here. Mountaintops are the not yet realized in the fallen world apart from the garden.
Mountaintops are alluring. Mountaintops are attractive. Mountaintops are intoxicating. Mountaintops are dangerous.
Mountaintops are places where mysterious things transpire and what you see is not always what you get. Mountaintops reach in to the heavens beckoning us to look up in to the sky and testify to the glory above.
There is a problem with mountaintops they do not sustain life. Mountaintops cannot support life. They are semi-barren with little there to support you. Mountaintops have the power to transform but they do not have the power to maintain.
It is hard to not visit the history of African-America without holding on to or visiting mountaintops. This nations history is filled with the ebb and flow of black mountaintops yearning for freedom and equality. Demanding the fullness of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made decree.
One such mountaintop is Sojourner Truth. She was born into slavery in New York. By the time she reached her 29th year she had been bought and sold six times. Truth lived a hard life.
She fought and struggled against injustice and was the black woman to go to court against a white man and win. She was tenacious in spirit and had an indomitable will for justice.
One of her famous addresses was delivered at the Women’s Convention in Ohio in 1851. Ten years before the start of the Civil War. In here address she challenges the cultural norms of the day. She contrasts and compares the value and worth placed in ones gender. She stands firm in her blackness, visible to all gathered. Her words are simple and plain. Her presence is powerful and evocative. Sojourner Truth offers a critical eye of the injustice bound up in society and delivers to us a mirror in which we ought examine ourselves.
“I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble. I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.”
Truth became a leading abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She was also a minister. She preached the good word and sought to live the Gospel in deed. Sojourner Truth emancipated the hearts and minds of many and walked in the valleys below as she sought to bring all she could to the mountaintop.
Mountaintops shake the foundations of our institutions. Mountaintops challenge the status quo. Mountaintops are dangerous. They are dangerous because they challenge, provoke, and demand. Mountaintops are dangerous because they magnify silence and invite in to the presence of a whispering God.
Life cannot be all mountaintops. If you walk log enough your mountaintops become valleys and so enough those valleys return to that mountaintops. This is not a sprint or a race to the top. This is an endurance race of step by step, moment by moment, relationships by relationship of God working, wonderment.
I invite you to close your eyes. We are in the valley below, looking up at that mountaintop. Imagine the air, is it cold? Is it warm? Are there trees as we make our way up that mountain? Feel the earth beneath your feet. What does it feel like? Feel the breath fill your lungs. What do you hear as we make our way up the mountain? We near the mountaintop…pause and survey the view. Let us rest. Now, What is God speaking you up on this mountaintop?
Transformation is there. Purpose is there. Now that you’ve been to the mountaintop, what are you gonna do? Now, that you’ve been well rested what will you dream? It’s good to visit the mountaintop, we are just not supposed to stay there.