“Blessed Are the Hungry and Thirsty” (Matthew 5:1-12)

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Sunday, November 6, 2011

“Blessed Are the Hungry and Thirsty” (Matthew 5:1-12)

Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Yes? Good. That’s a good place to be. Blessed, in fact. That’s what Jesus says in our Gospel for today: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” And so our theme this morning: “Blessed Are the Hungry and Thirsty.”

Now it may sound strange to hear Jesus say that the hungry and thirsty are actually “blessed.” It doesn’t sound like any kind of a blessing to be suffering from hunger or thirst. But strangely enough it is. Because Jesus says this is a hunger and thirst for righteousness. And it is only when you realize that you don’t have a righteousness of your own that will do, that you need a righteousness outside of yourself–it is only then that you are in a position to be blessed.

Look, Jesus explains the kind of righteousness you need a little later in this same chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” And the scribes and Pharisees thought they had enough righteousness of their own to do the job. They were not hungering or thirsting. They thought that by just some outward keeping of the commandments and by looking better than the bad people, that that was good enough.

But it wasn’t. Jesus convicts them–and us–of insufficient righteousness, by amping up the true demands of the law to include all aspects of thought, word, and deed. If you are angry with your brother, if you cuss him out, you have committed murder. If you look at another man’s wife with lust in your heart, you have committed adultery. And so on. The message? No one is righteous, no, not one. All of us fall short of the righteousness we need to enter the kingdom of heaven.

That’s a word we need to hear, every one of us. For now we know we need a righteousness not our own. A righteousness outside of us. This is where the hunger and the thirst come in. We get hungry and we get thirsty when we realize we don’t have what we need, we don’t have what it takes, what we need in order to live!

For without this righteousness, we are surely damned. Lost, condemned, cast into the outer darkness, as the unrighteous sinners we are. Death and wrath and judgment would be our lot, if left on our own.

Are you hungry yet? Is there a thirst in your throat, as you contemplate your sins? I hope so, for this is the route of repentance, which leads to faith and eternal blessing. I see this lack of righteousness in myself, and it grieves me. I should know better. I should do better. I need help. I need mercy and forgiveness, from God.

Here is the answer to our hunger and thirst. It is Christ himself. Yes, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh. Jesus, who suffered hunger in the wilderness, fasting as he faced down the devil on your behalf. Jesus, who cried out on the cross, “I thirst,” as he suffered and died for your sins.

Here is the righteousness that does avail, that does suffice: Christ’s own righteousness, given as a gift to hungry and thirsty ones. Believe in him, trust in him, not in your own goodness. He will give you everything you need.

This righteousness, being right with God, is delivered to you in the gospel. The good news proclaimed into your ears that Christ died for you, God’s Son shed his holy blood for you, and then rose again to give you life. Forgiveness, sins washed away, in Holy Baptism. To use the language of Revelation: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” That’s you, that’s me, those are the saints in heaven. All of us clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness.

You have this gift now, yet there is more to come. There is a “now but not yet” to this righteous standing we have. John gets at it in his epistle: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. . . . Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared.”

John himself got a glimpse of what we will be, when he was given the vision in the Book of Revelation: “They are before the throne of God,” he writes, “and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.” And as if that’s not enough, John goes on: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore.” Ah, there it is! The fulfillment of Jesus’ promise! Remember? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” “They shall be satisfied”! Right now, in this life, you and I hunger and thirst for righteousness, for we sense this sin clinging so closely to us. Then, in the life to come, you and I will hunger no more, neither shall we thirst. Satisfaction guaranteed!

At that time we shall hear the blessed dinner invitation: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” This is what is in store for us, and for all the faithful departed: The marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which shall have no end. The heavenly banquet, the family of God gathered, with Christ at the center, celebrating in joy and fellowship and abundance forever.

Dear friends, we receive a foretaste of that feast to come, here today in the Supper at this altar. This is the appetizer, if you will, as we await the main course. Are you hungry? Come and receive Christ’s body, given into death for you. Are you thirsty? Come and receive Christ’s blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Here is the righteousness you need, given to you in this meal.

It is fitting on this All Saints’ Day that we dedicate a new and beautiful chalice with which to receive Christ’s holy blood. Likewise, a new paten from which to receive Christ’s body. The promise of All Saints’ Day is the promise found in this Sacrament: Life forever, life in joy and abundance, in fellowship and celebration, gathered in the presence of our Lord. This is something to look forward to, even as we thank God for what he gives us now.

This chalice and this paten, lovingly given in memory of our longtime members Grace Carrow and Charles Heineman–these beautiful Communion vessels remind us of how the Lord sustained these dear saints here for so many years. For Grace and Charles often communed at this altar. They drew their life from Christ’s own life, which he shared with them here at St. Matthew’s in Word and Sacrament.

The same gifts are here for you. Do what Grace and Charles did. Come hungry and thirsty and receive what the Lord has here for you: Forgiveness, life, and salvation, righteousness in rich measure.

And so I ask again: Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Good. Blessed are you if you are. Hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness in Christ is a good place to be. Because now you are on the receiving end of God’s good gifts.

And so, to paraphrase the man in the commercial: Stay thirsty, my friends. And hungry. You will be blessed if you do. Yes, with all the saints in the church triumphant, you will be more than satisfied in the feast to come.

Published in: on November 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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