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Blessed Are Those Who Hunger

A YouTube Video Premiere worship service led by Janette Ok based on Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

Blessed are Those Who Hunger

Song: “All Are Welcome”
Text: Marty Haugen; tr. Ronald F. Krisman and George Lockwood, alt.
Music: TWO OAKS, Marty Haugen © 1994, tr. © 2012 GIA Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. A-703303.
Led by Marty Haugen 

Call to Worship and God’s Greeting:
From Isaiah 42 and 2 Corinthians 13
Led by Marty Haugen

Song: “Jesucristo, esperanza del mundo / Jesus Christ, Hope of the World”
Text: Silvio Meincke © 1982; tr. Pablo D. Sosa © 1988 GIA Publications, Inc.
Music: João Carlos Gottinari and Edmundo Reinhardt © 1982; arr. Greg Scheer © 1994 Abingdon Press, admin. Music Services
All rights reserved. A-703303.
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Calvin University’s Capella; Pearl Shangkuan, director of choral activities; Linda Hoisington, piano; Joel Yan, violin; Greg Scheer, bass 

Song of Confession: “Pelas dores deste mundo / Imploramos tu Piedad / For the Troubles”
Text: Rodolfo Gaede Neto © 1998; tr. to English and adapt. by Simei Monteiro and Jorge Lockward © 2004 General Board of Global Ministries; tr. to Spanish by Juan Gattinoni © Juan Gattinoni
Music: Rodolfo Gaede Neto © 1998; arr. by Jorge A. Lockward © 2004 General Board of Global Ministries
All rights reserved. A-703303.
Led by Marcell Steuernagel 

Song of Assurance: “Let Us Be Known By Our Love”
Text and Music: Micah Massey, Ryan Flanigan, Matt Armstrong, Nate Moore © 2015 Common Hymnal Publishing, 10000 Fathers, Common Hymnal Digital, Ryan Flanigan Music, admin by, Wordspring Music, Eyes Up Songs, admin. by W.B.M. Music Corp., Mouth of the River Music, and Songs of Simply Hymns Music
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Wendell Kimbrough 

Prayer for Illumination, Scripture Passage, Sermon, and Prayer of Application
Matthew 5:6 (full text below)
Led by Janette Ok

Song: “Cornerstone” 
Text and Music: Edward Mote, Eric Liljero, Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan, William Batchelder Bradbury © 2011 Hillsong MP Songs, admin. Capitol CMG Publishing 
Used by permission. CCLI #400063. 
Led by Ekko Church 

Led by Arbin Pokharel in Nepali 

Song: “We Will Feast in the House of Zion”
Text and Music: Sandra McCracken and Joshua Moore © 2015 Drink Your Tea Music, admin., and joshmooreownsthismusic, admin. Music Services
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Sandra McCracken 

Led by Janette Ok 

Sermon by Janette Ok

Sisters and brothers, please pray with me. Lord, awaken in us a hunger and thirst for you. Open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit so that as we hear your word proclaimed we may feel a holy discontent rise up within us. Amen.  

Our scripture reading today comes from Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” 

A question that's often asked among Korean friends, acquaintances, and family is “밥 먹었어요?” (bahb mug-ut-suh-yo?) or “Have you eaten?” It’s the Korean way of asking, “How are you?” To which you respond, “Yes, I've eaten” or “I'm fine, thanks.” But if you've been asked “밥 먹었어?” (bahb mug-ut-suh?) or “Have you eaten?” by a Korean mom or a close friend, it's not simply a greeting, but an expression of care for your well-being. “Are you well? Have you been taking care of yourself? Have you been cared for? If not, let me feed you something, or let's go out to eat.” 

The greeting “Have you eaten?” arose during war times in Korea when food was scarce, so to be hungry meant that one was not well, and to be full or physically satisfied was a sign of well-being. But really this desire to be satisfied, to satiate hunger and thirst, it's not unique to a particular culture, but an experience felt by every living creature. When Jesus in Matthew says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” he's getting at the most basic and primal human desire: to be satisfied. 

Now, we all know to varying degrees what it means to hunger and thirst for physical food and drink. But what does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? The word dikaiosune, rendered here in the NRSV as “righteousness,” characterizes God and being in right relationship with God that results in right relationships with others. So then righteousness has vertical and horizontal dimensions. And it could also be rendered “justice,” referring to God's justice and to the human response to enacting God's justice. And we hear this in Margaret Aymer's translation: “Greatly honored are those who are famished and parched for justice, for they will be satisfied.”  

Rebekah Eklund connects both aspects of dikaiosune when she explains how “the story this beatitude tells us is about human and divine agency. It's a tale of bodily and spiritual human longings and how they intertwine. It's about God's justice and human obedience, and about the limits and possibilities of human goodness.” 

In Matthew, “hunger and thirst for righteousness” are not simply abstractions for Jesus. Jesus himself hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, he laments over Jerusalem. In Matthew 23:37, he cries “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent out to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” 

Jesus speaks here of his ardent longing to gather Israel to himself. Jesus desires for Israel to be in right relationship with God and gathered under God's motherly wings. He yearns for Israel to be blessed. We hear that hunger and thirst, that deepest desire when Jesus cries out with a loud voice on the cross, “My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?” in Matthew 27:46. Here he quotes Psalm 22:1, expressing the agony of bearing God's wrath for our sins. The apostle Paul proves helpful in providing a lens to understand righteousness in Matthew's fourth beatitude. He writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake, [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus, in his obedience, is the form of God's love who takes on God's wrath and removes and destroys everything—sin, evil, death—that would separate us from God.  

As a mother—I'm a mother of three—I try to raise my three children, these school-aged kids, to be good people. I want them to be kind and generous, thoughtful and compassionate. I want them to be hardworking and honest. And if I'm honest, I want them to be awesome, to be excellent in every way and in every sphere of life. How's that for pressure? But being good isn't good enough for God. “Awesome” by human standards pales in comparison to God Almighty. Compliance to God's will isn't enough, either. In order to be righteous, we need to be in right relationship with God so that we can be also in right relationship with others, and we cannot will this right standing upon ourselves or others as much as we try. And this is why George Hunsinger emphasizes how “righteousness represents not only Jesus' deepest desire, but also his supreme achievement. Jesus himself is our righteousness because he bears and bears away the unbearable consequences of sin for our sakes. He takes our sin and death to himself and gives us his righteousness and life.”  

God created human beings to be in loving and trusting relationship with their Creator and with one another and the earth. Yet we see so much brokenness in this world and harm inflicted on people, often on the most vulnerable, sometimes even by ourselves, by us. Creation, which was not subject to sin and death, becomes subject to the sting of sin and death, as we read in Romans 8:20–22. Humanity and creation groan for righteousness. There's this connection between the hunger pangs we feel as a people living in a broken world and who contribute to its destruction and the groaning of creation. Together, humanity and nature groan for righteousness because all creation longs to be set free from the consequences of sin. Thus our care for creation is linked to our care for those who hunger for food, clean water, and just distribution of natural resources. But it's even more cosmic and redemptive in scope than that. When humanity and creation groan and cry out for justice, are they not ultimately hungering and thirsting for Christ’s righteousness? As Harry Hahne reminds us, when humanity is restored to right relationship with God, is not the rest of creation restored to God's intended purposes? 

Our commitment to caring for creation and alleviating physical hunger is not based on the presupposition or the presumption that the members of Christ’s body, the church, can satisfy every need. We can't. It is God in Christ who promises to satisfy those who hunger and thirst for God's righteousness on earth as it is in heaven. But that means that on this side of heaven, we bear witness to Christ and his righteousness with hope and holy discontent. 

Hunsinger reminds us that Christ’s righteousness is both a blessing and a promise. It is and will be, has come and is to come. And God's righteousness, God's justice, is both a gift and a responsibility. Throughout Matthew's gospel, Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven, the reign of God, to be like a mustard seed, or like yeast that leavens the dough. Anna Case-Winters expresses this yeasting of God's kingdom in the present reality when she says, “Matthew sees God's reign not only as a future hope, but also as something we work for and live into even now, if we would even now live under the reign of God. There are implications. The alternative reality will chafe against the present reality. To love as God loves is to be discontented with the present reality.” 

To chafe against means to rub against and irritate. Those whom Christ has made righteous are people of hope and discontent. We have hope in Christ who hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Who is our righteousness? We proclaim and trust that Christ will fulfill every form of hunger and thirst. But until that time comes, we will struggle with the present reality that hunger and thirst abound, and unrighteousness leads to brokenness and suffering. So we must ache and yearn and work for all to live under the reign of God, even though that time is both already and not yet. It's the “not yet” that leaves us dissatisfied, hungry, thirsty, and yet full of purpose.  

Friends, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, lay leaders: You don't need me to tell you that these are very hard times. You experienced this full well for yourselves. People are hard hit by unrelenting and seemingly never-ending challenges on a daily basis. Members of your congregation who finally return to the pews after months away are now needing to worship at home again online if they have the technical and emotional bandwidth to do so. People are depleted and famished for an enlivening, nourishing Word. They need this Word to get them not only through the day, but to connect them, to unite them fully or more fully with Christ's body.  

Can our liturgies and preaching provoke the collective redemptive imagination, draw out living water, and offer a taste of the bread of life? Yes, I really believe so, with the Spirit's help. And so I ask—I ask you; I ask myself: Have you eaten? Are you being nourished during this challenging time of ministry during this pandemic? Please take, eat and drink of God's Word. It is a matter of life and death. Have you eaten? Take, eat and drink from the Lord's table. The promise of righteousness is not promised to those who are filled, but to those who are hungry and thirsty, to those who know their need. And oh, how much need we have for God! We do not earn our fill. We receive it through the body, blood, and the person of Jesus Christ. And so, sisters and brothers, when you take the communion during this conference, perhaps, or in your churches, when you gather around the table, remember that when we do so, we declare, we confess, and we profess that only Christ sustains us; only Christ satisfies us. 

When we invite believers to take, eat and drink the body in the blood of Christ and proclaim the word of God in creative, embodied, faithful, and fleshy ways, we are not encouraging them to stand idly by while others go hungry. Rather, we are reminding them that God desires to nourish the physical and spiritual hungers of this world, of their neighbors, of themselves. We invite them into the ministry, the ministry of asking others, “Have you eaten?” and responding with the offering of food and drink as an experience, as a tangible taste of God.  

Let us close in worship.