July 8, 2020

Matthew 5
The Pure in Heart v. 8 – Part 1

I was raised on the Canadian prairies, son of a preacher who pastored small town churches. His congregants were subsistence farmers, all poor and semi-literate. My view of church “buildings” was limited. Most of them weren’t even purpose-built houses of worship. They were converted halls, barns, and abandoned store-front buildings. A couple of them even had wood shavings for flooring. So you can imagine my amazement when, years later, I first saw a cathedra.

I was in Toronto on a high-school band trip. During some free time I was walking downtown and came upon St. James Cathedral. I marvelled at its beauty, the “frozen poetry of church architecture,” as Christopher Wren describes it. I noted the large, intricate, but muted windows, and wondered why they were darkly coloured. Then I walked in!

The sanctuary was brilliantly awash in the light bursting through the stained glass. Awesome pictures of Jesus, the disciples, and the saints shone down from above. The contrast between the outside and inside view took my break away. I had walked into kaleidoscopic brilliance, almost revelatory in its impact. It was stunning.

This “outside-inside” juxtaposition is rather like what Jesus is talking about in this beatitude. For those on the outside God is a study an object for analysis, and impassive steady structure for muted praise (if any should be required), but not inspiring or even noteworthy. For those on the inside he is a riot of colours, sensory overload, and overwhelming presence casting us on our faces in reverence. These “insiders” are the “pure in heart”. With the pure in heart there is not spiritual astigmatism. They may, like all of us, “see through a glass darkly” (1 Co. 13:12), but what they do see they see clearly. Indeed, in Jesus’ words, they see God.