The Testimony of Sojourner Truth
I think it’s an error in much of the Christian Church today that salvation is simply a personal thing, and that it is only all about you and Jesus. I’m reminded of that song made famous by country singer George Jones, (may he rest in peace): “Well, me and Jesus we got our own things going. Me and Jesus, we got it all worked out. Me and Jesus, we got our own things going. We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about”.
A right relationship with Jesus is a personal thing, but it is also a social thing, a responsibility of the church together. Salvation calls out for social responsibility. It’s pretty difficult to read the Bible, both the Old and the New testaments, and especially the teaching of Jesus and say that salvation’s just a personal thing between you and Jesus and it ain’t anybody else’s business.
Again, I do think it is personal, but it goes much deeper than that. The passage that we read in our morning’s gospel tells us that if the salt has lost its flavor it is no longer effective. Unless our message is seen by others as a light on a lamp stand, the message might be that it’s only about you and Jesus alone, but according to Jesus, that’s short-sighted and dim of us to think that way.
In other words we are called to set an example. If you see something that is not in keeping with the kingdom of God and the teaching of Jesus about what the kingdom of God is and what it isn’t, it’s your responsibility to set it right to the best of your ability, to make a stand, even when that stand is not popular.
One thing I do not do and will not do is to intentionally preach the virtues of a political party from this pulpit, but I will preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, I will preach the Bible, and the Bible is going to hit you wherever you may be on your journey. If Jesus walked into a room and spoke, he would make Democrats, Republicans and Independents uneasy.
Because this Message hits home, it cuts to the heart. Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
It challenges our worldview. It challenges our views on justice. It challenges our view of equality. It challenges our views on mercy and charity. It challenges our ethical views and how we treat others. It brings our ethical responsibilities into perspective. We are challenged to light our lamp and set it on a lamp stand and not hide it under a bushel.
We are told to reach out to the marginalized. Offer food to the hungry, satisfy the needs of the afflicted, and then as Isaiah points out, our light will rise in the darkness. It will be visible. It will be easy to see. We are not going to hide it. It will be visible because of the way we proclaim the justice of God. And our gloom will be like the noon day, even in the dark times, the difficult times, the light will be seen, and the Lord will guide us continually. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy our needs in parched places, and make our bones strong; and we shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)
This was the testimony of Sojourner Truth. Paul says:When I came to you I didn’t come with smooth talk and lofty words of earthly wisdom. I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. I came in the sincerity and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:1-12) This could also be said for Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery. She had no rights as a person about where and how she lived, if and who she would marry, and no rights over her children. She had thirteen children, most of them sold and sent elsewhere. Sojourner Truth made her voice clear. She stood up when it was not easy for her to do so, at a time when her voice was not highly respected or appreciated. But, she stood up anyway and preached against the injustices of her age; injustices of racism, favoring one person over another and economic injustice. Sojourner Truth was gifted as a speaker and an advocate for truth. She put her light on a lamp stand for all to see. Her light broke forth in the darkness, like the dawn breaking open the night”, as it says in Isaiah. (Is. 58)
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere.
Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.