It was Sunday night and Sojourners Community was gathered for our weekly worship. Our preacher was Nathan Jernigan, a young African American. His text was from the beatitudes, Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Last fall we did a series on these foundational sayings of Jesus, taking one each week and asking someone who had a particular interest or experience with that beatitude to help us all understand what it might mean for us right now. When I asked Nathan which one he was drawn to, he immediately leapt to Matthew 5:6. The King James Bible says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right, for they shall be filled."
As I listened to this young man preach, I realized that he was making his listeners hungrier and thirstier as he spoke. In the scriptures, "righteousness" is often synonymous with "justice" and the two words are sometimes used interchangeably. Over the years, Sojourners Community has heard many sermons on justice and righteousness. Nevertheless, I could feel the hunger and thirst growing again within me as Nathan went on. Why? I quickly realized it was because he was so passionate, so hungry and thirsty himself.
Nathan Jernigan is the director of the children's program at the Sojourners Neighborhood Center. What this Howard Divinity School graduate student sees every day in our neighborhood and center makes him very hungry and thirsty for justice and righteousness.