Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hunger gets you to the table

There are a whole lot of character traits I could choose for my "H" List - things like humility, honor, honesty, hopefulness, and holiness.  Yet, I choose to focus on one character trait today:  Hunger.  You see, if hunger is one of your character traits, humility will follow, honor will be your adornment, honesty will be your way of doing business, hopefulness will spring from your heart, and holiness will be evident in your words and actions.  So, hunger really is an all-encompassing character trait for our "H" List today!

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.  (Matthew 5:6 MSG)

This passage is taken from the Sermon on the Mount.  I'd like to back up a little to get some perspective though.  First, we find Jesus climbing a small mountain or up onto a hillside.  Why?  The crowds were gathering and this gave him position to speak to the vast crowd - his voice would carry since what he did was actually create something of an outside amphitheater.  Next, we see he did not climb alone - those who were "apprenticed" to him, the committed, climbed with him.  In other words, those who were in service with him.  These were his disciples - those who would be in for the long haul.  Not to be missed is the "posture" of Jesus as he began to teach - he sat down.  Now, at first this may not say much, but think about it - he sat down.  This suggests a place of comfort and a time of personal sharing.  Last, but not least, catch who it was he began to teach - his "climbing companions".  It was those who were committed to the long haul he sat with that day - opening up his heart and sharing his treasured teachings.

This brings us to the posture of his "climbing companions" - they sat down, too.  They were ready to receive from him - expectant for what he might share.  This is probably the most important part of "hunger" - there is a desire to receive because their is an intensity of need.  If you have ever been hungry, stomach rumbling a little, you have an urgency of need which compels you to find something to satisfy the hunger, right?  You either prepare it yourself, or you go some place where you can find it prepared already.  For these disciples, the latter is true - they come expectant to find that which will satisfy their hunger for truth.  We cannot miss their posture - they sat down.  This is more than a casual pursuit for them - it is not fast food!  They are assuming a position which suggests they are there to receive - not just get a "quickie" infusion of spiritual advice!

Then Jesus begins to "deliver" their "meal":

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule." - This may not seem like the way to open up a good "meal", but think about what he is saying here - when you are hungry enough, you are empty!  Emptiness is the opportunity for filling.  

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you." - Loss leaves us empty, but through loss, we are free to embrace things new to us.  Hunger is built in the times of loss - for we move from being comfortable, to beginning to seek something to satisfy the longing of our hearts.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought." - Hunger moves us because we are no longer content with the quick fixes or the tidbits of stuff we take in to fill the space inside.  Yet, it is not until we realize what really satisfies our hunger that we are content in "being filled". 

And this brings us to our passage today:  “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat."  Hunger is a compelling need - it drives you.  It is often associated with a feeling of weakness.  The body is uniquely designed to "crave" that which it needs most.  For example, when you need minerals, your body actually "craves" things which provide you with those minerals - such as salt!  The spirit of man is similarly created to "crave" that which satisfies the inner longings of a searching heart.  

Looking at how he leads up to this passage about hungering for that which really satisfies the inner man, he reminds the disciples about weakness.  I think this is because weakness is an innate part of hunger - it is the evidence of need.  Until we recognize our need, we don't stop to be fed.  Until the disciples sat down, they weren't in a position to really feast upon what Jesus would provide.  I think the same is true for us - hunger drives us to his feet, but intensity of need (weakness) compels us to actually sit down long enough to take in what we have need of.  Did you ever stop to consider the root word of hunger?  It carries the meaning of being "dry" or "burning" with need.  Hunger is a place of dryness.  There is a burning for something more.  In this respect, it brings us to the place of filling.  Maybe this is why Jesus sandwiched this right between being empty, at a sense of loss, and ready to be filled with what really matters and the next truths:

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for." - When we are filled, we have something to give out - fullness actually produces something for others.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world." - In being filled "inside", there is something evident "outside".

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family." - There is just something about gathering around the place of nourishment, sharing a good meal with others, isn't there?  In those moments, something happens - the doors open to communication, intimate exchanges occur.  The place of filling actually becomes a place of exchange.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom." - You may not want what you are fed, but in learning to appreciate the provision you receive, you learn to see it as the bounty which will sustain you.

Hunger is a powerful thing - being in a position to be filled with what really satisfies is a matter of settling in for the feast.  Hunger gets you to the table, but emptiness and weakness gets you to sit down long enough to be filled.  Just sayin!

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