EMPTY TO BE FULL
The first three beatitudes describe various states of emptiness that God takes note of. Blessed are the spiritually bankrupt, those who experience insufferable loss (mourning) and the ones who are gentle and undemanding. Our Father is observant of our deficit and works to bring goodness and rightness into the void.
There is great happiness in the emptying of our lives; making more room for God to fill. Food always tastes better when you’ve missed some meals. Water is most delicious when you are very parched.
What is the righteousness that we hunger and thirst for? Righteousness describes the character of God and includes the qualities of justice; truth; mercy and love. In the emptiness you experience, is there an appetite for WWGD (What will God do?)? How will God fill your empty places with Himself?
It is not enough to be empty and broken. We need God and our desire for His presence longs to be satisfied. It is the cry of the Psalms and Prophets.
In a world that demands payment for everything we need to survive, God invites us to His Kingdom where emptiness is the currency of sustainability. What kind of justice, truth, mercy and love is that; when the poorest have their needs met without any more demand than the fact that they are hungry? It is the nature of God’s grace to take care and reward people who have not earned it.
The emptying experiences of our lives leave us hungry and parched with thirst. God offers to fill us with His Spirit. Jesus, the bread of Heaven is freely offered to the hungry.
Jesus' teaching is the opposite of Buddhist philosophy which seeks a state of nirvana in which one desires nothing. The solution to hunger is not to kill it, but to fill it. Our desires are not too strong, but too weak.
C. S. Lewis said, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."[i]
Jesus spoke to a crowd on the hillside who were familiar with emptiness. Empty stomachs, empty wallets, humiliated by oppressors and chasing the empty promises of religion; Jesus called them to envision the Kingdom where God will have His way. In that Kingdom, your worldly status and achievement will go unnoticed. Kings will be servants and slaves will be governors. Sick people will be healed and the broken will be fixed.
· Everyone who feels inadequate and damaged before God has a fresh start upon the declaration of their spiritual bankruptcy.
· To the one who knows only tears and depression a banquet of comfort is waiting.
· The one who is unassuming and allows people to take advantage of them is highly esteemed by God and written into the will. They will inherit more than the strivers.
The banquet table of the Kingdom is spread with every good thing from God’s hand. The beatitudes call us to a vision of God’s heart.
In their book ‘Resident Aliens’ Hauerwas and Willimon write:
Imagine a sermon that begins: “Blessed are you poor. Blessed are those of you who are hungry. Blessed are those of you who are unemployed. Blessed are those going through marital separation. Blessed are those who are terminally ill.”
The congregation does a double take. What is this? In the kingdom of the world, if you are unemployed, people treat you as if you have some sort of social disease. In the world’s kingdom, terminally ill people become an embarrassment to our health-care system, people to be put away, out of sight. How can they be blessed?
The preacher responds, “I’m sorry. I should have been more clear. I am not talking about the way of the world’s kingdom. I am talking about God’s kingdom. In God’s kingdom, the poor are royalty, the sick are blessed. I was trying to get you to see something other than that to which you have become accustomed.”[ii]