Discovering a Beatitude Filled Life
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 3/02/2014
Based on Matthew 5:6
Once a month we come to this table for communion. There have been many words used to describe communion over the centuries: the Eucharist, The Lords Supper, The Passover Meal, and Communion. In more recent times I often hear it called the Love Feast. I like the sound of that one, for it integrates two aspects of my theology about what the faith community of Christ is supposed to represent, love being that of extravagant welcome, and for the feast, the body of Christ, and the body of Christ goes beyond the symbols of the wine and bread for me, to includes the teachings of Jesus.
I find it amazing that the last Passover meal that Jesus had with his inner circle, the disciples, has become the most powerful ritual that we practice in any gathering within a Christian faith community that of breaking bread with one another and how it ties in so intricately with this week’s Beatitude of hunger and thirst. We invite any and everyone who seeks Christ to come and eat from this table, with the idea of being filled. Throughout the telling of Jesus’ ministry, the Gospels bring up story after story about Jesus and food in one fashion or another. His very first miracle of turning water into wine was at a wedding feast; massive crowds coming to hear Jesus are reportedly feed, and there were leftovers. Jesus was always attending dinner parties hosted by the upper classes such as the Pharisees, as well as by sinners and tax collectors. The point being Jesus and food go hand in hand. Even in the Hebrew Scriptures, we read about how God provides a banquet table, even in the presence of our enemies.
So, if the Hebrew Scriptures offer the promise of God providing enough food, and Jesus engaged with a multiplicity of dining experiences, why would Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, lift up the idea of hunger and thirst as a blessing, especially to an audience who generally didn’t have enough money to feed themselves sufficiently? And more importantly how do we who live in the land of milk and honey, relate to this particular blessing?
Most of us in this room have never truly known hunger or have we? As an example, how often in conversations with friends, does the topic of “have you eaten at such and such restaurant” come up? Most of us tend to tip the scales on the upper side of what Doctors say is the appropriate weight for our build. So what do I mean when I imply that maybe we are hungry and thirsty, even though we have enough to eat; and not just enough to eat, but enough of “stuff” in general. I live in a house that is bigger than what I grew up in. Paul and I have more bathrooms in our house than occupants, yet we are not fully satisfied with what we live in. Paul wishes we had a master bedroom on the main floor, and I want to change the color on many of our walls. We both want to have a garden retreat in our backyard. For those of you who have been in our home, you know that it is a nice house, so why are we not satisfied with what we have? What is missing that makes us want more? Let’s expand this question to include: Why do people in our country move from one relationship to another, one restaurant to another, one diversion to another, and still happiness, contentment, and peace seem to elude us?
We are reared to expect a broad satisfaction, physically and emotionally in our culture. These expectations come by way of a free capitalistic philosophy, which promotes the idea that having more is what will ultimately make us happy and provide satisfaction, and yet Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones tells us that, “He can’t get no satisfaction. But he tries and he tries and heI tries and he tries, but he can’t get no satisfaction.” We are not a people who can easily relate to the first century hears of Jesus’ words, who were physically hungry and didn’t have enough clean drinking water available.
You may wonder why I am equating physical attributes to the Spiritual attribute that Jesus was talking about as he said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Because what we want, what we purchase, how we act are expressions of how we are doing spiritually. Song writer Harry Carroll expressed this spiritual deficit so artfully in the song, “I’m Forever Chasing Rainbow’s”:
I’m always chasing rainbows, Watching clouds drifting by, My schemes are just like all my dreams, Ending in the sky. Some fellows look and find the sunshine, I always look and find the rain. Some fellows make a winning sometime, I never even make a gain, believe me, I’m always chasing rainbows, I’m watching for a little bluebird in vain. If we are forever chasing rainbows, it is a sign of lacking something inside, a satisfaction that comes with feeling incomplete. Author Maggie Ross observes: “We fell empty, but feeling has little to do with being empty. Don’t we feel empty because we are full of the wrong stuff?”
As we discover what it means to have a Beatitude Filled Live, one of the neediness’s that we can find to propel us into fulfillment is in the need to be hungry and thirsting for righteousness. Rev Anne Howard points out that in this particular blessing, “Jesus again quotes the prophets. This is not a call for personal or individual righteousness or moral rectitude, as some have understood from the Greek translation of this saying. [In other words] It’s not a call about ‘getting right with God.’ This is a prophets’ call for restorative justice or distributive justice, an echo of Isaiah 61 (The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…), which restores the powerless and the outcasts to their rightful place.”Claiming the Beatitudes pg 62
I spoke a little about Mahatma Gandhi last week as being an example of meekness and how he had great power in his meekness. It was through his hungry and thirsting for righteousness, that he was able to move a country to defy the Imperialism of Great Britain through non-violence and non-cooperation and bring India to be an independent nation once again. It was an act of restorative justice as freedom from an oppressive government brought back the outcast population of India to their rightful place as citizens of their own country able to be ruled and governed by their own people.
We as individuals are under siege from the rule of capitalism. We must realize the oppression we live under by a system that denies equality of basic needs which is fostered by the illusion that we do not have enough and the only way we will have enough is if others go without. We as Christians need to come to understand the dangers of living in the land of milk and honey – that the lie comes in not having enough, but comes from having the wrong stuff. This can only come by first recognizing that we need to be poor in spirit, relying on God not on external stuff.
Discovering how to live this particular beatitude is hard, not because we have plenty, or because working toward justice is hard, whether it’s in working for immigration reform or helping newly released inmates Claiming the Beatitudes (which by the way will be topics in upcoming Hot Cakes and Hot Topics), but it is hard I believe, because it calls upon us to trust not in our own power, but solely in God’s economy of justice for all; on God’s extravagant invitation to each person. As we come to this table, the table of the love feast, let us come hungry and thirsting for justice, not for ourselves but come seeking God’s justice throughout the world. Amen
The Harambee Circle of Hope for Flood Relief is a one-year commitment to come alongside Georgia Medina and her family from Evans, CO who lost their mobile home and all of their possessions in the September flood. Georgia is a
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