Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Beatitudes pt.4

  Jesus continues to describe the character of those in the kingdom of God. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled". To me, hunger and thirst are our greatest most powerful needs and desires. I have felt hungry, when I say that I feel ashamed, never in my life have I truly known hunger, and I have been thirsty from work, but again I never have been very far from clean water. The need to receive physical nourishment is absolutely essential to sustain life. Jesus is equating this human experience to spiritual reality. There are some, Jesus is saying, that hunger and thirst for God more than all else, you will be filled, he says.
  The Psalmist of long ago wrote, "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" (Psalm 42:1-2). To experience communion with God is the desire of the Psalm, to "behold the face of God", this certainly will be true one day literally, but isn't it also true now? When we are hungering for God we are looking for Him always and everywhere. I see God's work all around me, in the flowers, the blue sky, and the gentle noise the wind chimes make. I see God's goodness in the smile of a stranger I never will see again. I am being filled and nourished as Jesus said. I think this beatitude is about our priorities, what do we thirst after above all else? As Isaiah wrote long ago "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to Me; listen, so that you may live" (Isaiah 55:2-3).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Beatitudes Pt.3

  Jesus continued, "blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth". Jesus is still drawing from the wellspring of Hebrew scripture, this time from Psalm 37. The Psalm speaks of the actions of the "wrongdoers", "wicked" those who "carry out evil devices" and "prosper in that way". It continues to tell about how the "wicked plot against the righteous"and "watch the righteous to kill them". Then the Psalmist says "I have seen the wicked oppressing and towering like a cedar of Lebanon". Yet there is a contrast throughout the Psalm, the wicked oppress and do these things but they and their plans will not be established they will be overthrown by God who sees all these things and upholds those who look to Him. It would still seem the same today, many seem to prosper who are the aggressive, the scheming or powerful. But the message of the Psalmist and of Jesus is still the true perspective from God's view, the meek will be the vindicated ones, the poor and oppressed.
  What does "meekness" look like? It isn't exactly a word we throw around a lot in conversation and we probably wouldn't know how to receive being called a "meek" person. For starters it is how Jesus describes himself, "take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29 KJV). The word Jesus uses is in the Greek "praos", I know that is not a startling fact, but the meaning of the word and how it was used in his time tells us much about what meekness looks like. It means strength under control. The word would be used to describe an animal such as a horse that has been tamed. It is amazing at how such a powerful animal like a horse or mule can be tamed and that immense strength utilized for good, useful purposes. This is true for a disciple of Jesus, our tongue is a powerful part but is it out of control or tamed to speak what is good and edifying?  Our hands can be strong but do they tear down others or work to help others  and build community? Our legs are powerful but do they run to slander or journey to share faith. Our mind is perhaps the most powerful of all but does it harbor grudge and hate, or is it fertile soil for producing works of love, forgiveness and compassion? Meekness for us is self-control, a life that is trying to obey God with our body, it is this kind of a life that will be ultimately recognized by God regardless of what the rest of the world does and says.