Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sermon 3/2/08 The Beatitudes Part Four "Can't Get NO Satisfaction"

Can’t Get No Satisfaction
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Some people are familiar with The Onion which is an on-line news sources. I read an older article entitled New Pen Brings Fleeting Moment Of Satisfaction To Local Man. I normally do not read articles out loud, but I wanted to share this with you.

HARTFORD, CT–Duane Grunfeld, a 44-year-old Hartford-area insurance-claims processor, experienced a passing moment of satisfaction in his otherwise agonized existence Tuesday when he purchased a new pen.

"It's a nice pen–smooth-writing and easy on the hand," Grunfeld said of the $2.79 UniBall Gel Writer XT he purchased during his allotted 30-minute lunch break.

With its retractable fine point and rubberized grip, the quality pen briefly helped Grunfeld forget about his thinning hair, the severe reprimand he received from his supervisor Monday for tardiness, and the Aug. 11 death of his only companion, a 9-year-old parakeet named Mr. Whistles.

"It's got a really nice feel when you click it," Grunfeld said during his three minutes of pen-induced solace. "I like how the body is made of clear plastic, so you can see the springs inside."

Added the spiritually broken Grunfeld: "The ink seems really sharp, too. Pens of this kind often tend to bleed."
Grunfeld, a longtime widower who has been passed over for promotion six times during his 10 years with Hartford's TriState Mutual Insurance, said he purchased the UniBall Gel Writer to cheer himself up after "a particularly tough morning at work."

"Let's just say things weren't going well," Grunfeld said, "so I decided to treat myself to something nice."
Also factoring in the decision to purchase the pen, Grunfeld said, was the cramping he had recently been suffering in his writing hand.

"The claim forms I process all day long have to be filled out in quadruplicate, so my choice of writing instrument is important," he said. "TriState provides Bics for its employees, but with those cheap ballpoints, you have to press pretty hard."

Grunfeld made his purchase at a local office-supply store, where he reportedly tested over two dozen pens for fluidity, ease of use, hand comfort and overall "writing feel." After trying out pens for 10 minutes on the small scratch pads provided by the various pen manufacturers, the clinically depressed Grunfeld settled on the UniBall Gel Writer.
Grunfeld then returned to his office cubicle and broke out the newly purchased pen.[i]

"It writes through all four forms with a lot less pressure," said Grunfeld, using the pen moments before returning to his usual deep malaise. "I could process claims all day with this pen

As I was reading this article, I could not help but think about this poor guy taking such delight in a stupid pen. I do wonder what his life will be like when the pen runs out of ink or when he gets tired of it. I also think that if we are honest with ourselves we use things like this pen to bring us momentary feelings of satisfaction. Jesus though, tells us that the was a person can be truly satisfied is to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Notice Jesus does not say we should hunger and thirst to find satisfaction. So, what does it mean to find satisfaction by hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

Hungering and Thirsting for God

Psalm 42:1-2 captures the meaning of hungering and thirsting. I love the phrase used in the NASB, “As the deer PANTS for water, so my soul PANTS for you, O God. My soul THIRSTS for God, the living God.”[ii] This is the kind of thirst that calls us to drop everything and search for water. Psalm 63:1 says, O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul THIRSTS for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” If we have this kind of thirst for God, we will drop everything until we find God. To be sure, this is not something that a simple drink will quench. Often, when we say we hunger and thirst for God, we seem to be looking for a quick fix, but this beatitude is about something deeper.

The Message says, “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He is food and drink in the best meal you will ever eat.”[iii] The best way to work up a good appetite for God is to spend as much time with God as possible. Reading God’s word causes you to desire it more. Being in worship will cause you to desire it more. Serving God will cause you to desire it more. We will find the more we take in of God, the more we will hunger and thirst to be with God and the more filling God will be to our lives.

Every year youth groups all across the country take part in an event called The Thirty Hour Famine. As the name indicates, the goal is for the participants to go 30 hours without eating. In the process, they get sponsors for the event to raise money for World Vision. I remember the first time I did the fast; I kept imagining how much I was going to eat when the fast was eventually broken. I was so excited. When breakfast was served, I was starving. We were at a buffet, which I was very excited about. I got my first plate piled high with bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, and even grits. I began to eat and discovered that I could not even finish my plate.

I have also noticed that when I eat breakfast, usually I am hungry before lunch time. When I skip breakfast, I am not as hungry. You would think this would be the opposite, however, I have heard that this is a normal pattern. When you go a very long time without eating your stomach shrinks and you cannot eat as much. When you eat breakfast it gets your metabolism going early, so that by lunch you are hungry again.

The same is true when we hunger and thirst for God. When I am reading my Bible and spending time in prayer, it makes me want to read my Bible more. When I stop for some reason, the longer I go without reading and praying, the easier it is to miss. When we spend time with God in worship, prayer, reading the Bible etc, our hunger and thirst is not quenched for good, but we find ourselves wanting more.

What is Righteousness?

In comparing this beatitude with the one in Luke’s gospel, we will quickly notice that Matthew adds the phrase “thirst for righteousness.” When I was writing the beatitude study for the high school students, I was in Cynthiana, Kentucky. I went to the Wal-Mart there to buy some things for the worship service and I was standing in line behind this lady who was having a conversation with the clerk. By the way, this was also Election Day and one of the big items on the ballet for Kentucky was Gay Marriages. I just happened to be listening in on the conversation and I heard the clerk make this statement, “I hope that Gay Marriage Law doesn’t pass because we will be in big trouble.” Then she said this, “We will be in big trouble, because God is righteous you know.” One of the reasons this caught my attention was because I had just been wrestling with the term “righteous.” What does it mean to say that God is “righteous” or that we are to hunger and thirst “for righteousness?”

I once heard someone say that “righteous” means being “rightly related to God.” I believe this to be a very helpful definition and it is a starting place for our exploration of “righteousness.” The word is used often in the New Testament and it seems to be used to denote something that only God can do. Notice this beatitude does not say, “Blessed are those who are righteous”, it says blessed are those who seek after God’s righteousness. God is the one who make things “right” and the one who makes us “righteous.” We need to hunger and thirst to be rightly related to God which will allow God to make us righteous.

I believe this is one of the meanings of the word. We are to hunger and thirst for “being rightly related to God.” However, I think the word “righteousness” is larger than that. I think it means that everything is to be “rightly related to God.” If this is true, God must be upset when things are not related to God the way they should be. This is why God hates sin so much. Sin destroys and it separates God’s creation from God.

The reason we say God is just is because God is opposed to the things in the world that cause destruction in our lives. Often times thinking about the righteousness of God and God’s justice in the world gives us nightmares. We are reminded of street preachers standing on the corner telling of God’s condemnation of the world. I think there is however, a better way to understand “righteousness.” Because God is righteous, God wants what is best for all of us; therefore, God’s justice is to see the right things prevail, such as love, peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

It seems to me that the opposite of “God’s righteousness “self righteousness.” Jesus warns about this later on in the Sermon on the Mount. To be a faithful Jew and to show you were righteous, a person had to partake in three disciplines. One had to give alms to the poor, fast, and pray. These are good things, but often times people would not only do theses things, but they would go around bragging about it. Jesus said that this would bring momentary satisfaction because they would get their applause from people, but seeking true righteousness meant to do these things in private where you would be rewarded by God. Then you would find true satisfaction.

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Jesus tells us that if we will hunger and thirst for righteousness instead of all these things our culture offers us, we will be filled. The Greek word for chortazo is a passive verb and literally it means to “eat ones fill.” Jesus is saying that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be able to “eat our fill” and be truly satisfied.

Many people have heard the Rolling Stones song, “Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” I had never really listen to the lyrics, but when I went back to read them they really point to one of the saddest realities we face in our culture today. The second verse says,

When I'm watchin' my TVand a man comes on to tell mehow white my shirts can be.Well he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smokethe same cigarrettes as me.I can't get no, oh no no no.Hey hey hey, that's what I say[iv]

We have so much stuff out there that is supposed to bring us satisfaction. If we would just buy this or do this or go to this place we would be happy and truly happy. With our faith sometimes we think if I could be as spiritual as the next person then I would find my faith to be satisfying. Just like the song suggests, we find that these things do not bring satisfaction.

I think we all know deep down inside what we hunger and thirst for. We all know deep down where it is getting us. We know if we are being truly satisfied by what we are seeking after. If you are someone who knows that you are unsatisfied, then maybe it is time to give up on that pursuit and seek after being “rightly related to God” and allow God give you water that will always quench your thirst.

[ii] NASB Psalm 42:1-2. Capitalizations added
[iii] Eugene Peterson, The Message Matthew 5:6
[iv] Rolling Stones, Can’t Get No Satisfaction

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