“…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.”
(Matthew 5:6)

While working with protestant Christians in Argentina and Uruguay, I was introduced to a prayer that is sung in Spanish and offered as grace before meals. It is a simple prayer with profound theological depth and understanding of who we are called to be as a people of Christ. In Spanish, it goes like this – “Bendice Señor este pan y da pan a los que tienen hambre – y hambre de justicia a los que tienen pan. Bendice Señor este pan.” Translated into English, it would go something like this – Bless this bread Lord and provide bread to those who hunger – and provide a hunger for justice to those who have bread. Bless this bread Lord.

I remember being both struck and moved by the power of these words – they were essentially asking those of us who have never really worried about physical hunger, who did not worry about having food on our tables – instead to develop a hunger for justice. Hunger and thirst are powerful forces – physically and mentally. We need to satisfy them in order to live – one in order physically to function and focus. The other, in order to live with a passion that frames our character and reflects the deepest longings of our souls.

For more than two decades, the words of this prayer have remained etched in a corner of my heart, revealing themselves when I am tempted to define who I am by what I have, instead of who I am called to be. Like many of you, I have sought to satisfy my inner hunger and yearnings with the cultural symbols of the world. I hungered for more education – believing it would bring me more respect along with a sense of inner strength and self-worth. As we know, education, status, power, alcohol, money – can only satisfy a moment in time. They can feel good (and they are not intrinsically bad) – but they will not satisfy that deeper hunger and thirst that affirms who we – a people created in the image of God. We are a people called to a hunger and thirst that will never be satisfied – as we work to make right what is broken within and around us. It is this deep hunger and thirst that define who we are because of whose we are. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Consider what these words mean for you at this time in your life. What hunger and thirst do you seek to satisfy?

This week many pastors will reflect on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – focusing on the teachings of the beatitudes. In this Christian season of Epiphany, the beatitudes continue to reveal who God is through the presence of Christ in the world. We get to understand how God’s heart blesses and embraces the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted for righteousness sake. Friends, this was a radical message then and today. Jesus reframes the cultural understanding of power and significance. We often call these teachings the upside-down kingdom. And what was true in the first century continues to be true in 2020. The teachings of this ‘Jesus upside-down Kingdom’ will cause a continued dissonance between the values of the world and the values of God.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Like the opening prayer offered – may those of us who have not hungered for our next meal, hunger for justice. May we be a people shaped by a deep hunger and yearning for God’s righteousness, love, and resurrection hope. May that hunger and thirst be reflected in our insatiable commitment to be the hands and legs of Jesus in this world. May we resist the hunger of fear, anger, and resentment – quenching our thirst instead with the hope of the redemption, reconciliation, and grace that God so generously sheds upon us with and through the saving work of Jesus.

May our witness together be relentless – insatiable and unquenching – until God’s righteousness and justice is experienced in the places closest to our hearts – and in those places furthest from our reality.