Sermon Archives

Sunday, February 14, 2016
The First Sunday of Lent, Year C
The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
What Kind of Child Will You Be?

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen

When I was beginning middle school, my teachers used to ask me, “are you going to be like your oldest sister Karen, or your next older sister Lauren?”  As you can imagine, this was a loaded question – having something to do with their trust in me – What kind of child will I be?  A gifted, artistic and rebel child, like Karen? Or an all-A’s, girl scout, obedient child, like Lauren?  Who are you, they meant, and can I trust you - the bigger question. Oh, we sisters have shared the stories!

This passage from the gospel reading today is about Jesus’ identity – his identity as fully divine, and fully human.  The scripture just prior to this text outlines Jesus’ genealogy from when he was about thirty years old and he began his work.  Jesus was known as the son (as was thought) of Joseph, son of Heli, son of Matthat, who was son of … all they way back to Adam, son of God.  

The sacred story connects Adam to Jesus, who, so unlike Adam, was baptized with a voice from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  Jesus’ baptism affirms that he is the son of God. The pursuant temptations ask, what kind of child will you be? Will you be like Adam or like God?  

Let’s find out, the devil pursued, with temptations of bread, power and safety.

With each temptation, the devil tried to undermine Jesus’ trust and confidence in God, pulling him away from his identity as God’s son. Each temptation offered relief from his mission as a human.  Each temptation tried to erode and undercut Jesus’ trust and confidence in God.

When first tempted Jesus with bread, Jesus picked up on the real test: a detraction from confidence in God. Jesus responded by affirming his trust. When the devil next tempted Jesus with world power (in return for allegiance to and worship of the devil) the game was pretty clear – Jesus knew his allegiance could only be given to the one from whom Jesus had received his identity.  When the devil finally bullied Jesus, suggesting that God was not trustworthy, and so Jesus better test that relationship, Jesus refused to do so.  

What is the deal with temptations?

Pastor David Lose offers insight here about the nature of temptations.  He says, “…temptation is not so often temptation toward something – usually portrayed as doing something you shouldn’t – but rather is usually the temptation away from something – namely, our relationship with God and the identity we receive in and through that relationship.”   

In each case, these temptations attempted to tear away at Jesus’ confidence in God and in himself.  In each case, the devil tried to erode Jesus’ self-understanding that he is enough, that he is secure, that he is worthy of God’s love.

In each case, temptations attempt to tear away at our confidence in God and in ourselves as God’s children.  In each case, temptations try to erode our self-understanding that we are enough, that we are secure, that we are worthy of God’s love.  

We, too, are tempted to be pulled away. It doesn’t necessarily have to be bread, power and safety.  For us, it might be youth, beauty and wealth.  Or self-reliance, fame and security. We are surrounded with media messages from advertising whose goal is to create in us a sense of lack and inadequacy, with the implied promise that consuming the product or service will relieve our insecurity.  Political messages often tell of insecurity and fear: can we trust this politician to make us safe?  

These tempting messages try to lure us away from allegiance to the God who created us and redeemed us.  We wonder, who are we? Are we enough? Is God really sufficient to meet our needs?

In the face of the temptations, Jesus returned to the sacred story of Israel. He asserted to the devil his part in that story and therefore he reaffirmed, each time, his identity as a child of God.  Jesus remembered his story – our story - from the scriptures – and was reminded not only that he has enough and is enough but that he is of infinite worth in God’s eyes.  And through this testing,
Jesus was prepared for his mission. He was ready for ministry.

In the face of temptations, we are tempted to pull away from God’s gaze.  We are tempted to forget our relationship with God and the identity we receive in and through that relationship.  We are tempted to forget our sacred story: that God loves us more than anything.  We are tempted to pull away from the fact that God loves all of us, enough to send God’s only Son into the world, to take on our human nature and to suffer the same temptations and wants, to be rejected as often as we feel rejected and to die as we will die, so that we may know God is with us and for us forever.  

When we are tempted, we can connect to our sacred story, affirming that through Jesus’ resurrection God’s love is found more powerful than all the mistrust and hate in the world.  The life that God offers is more powerful than death. See, we receive this sacred story into our whole being at our baptism but we are tempted to forget.

This Lent, I invite you to take on a simple practice of remembering.  Remember your baptism, by simply tracing the cross on your forehead and say to yourself as you do so, “I am God’s beloved child.”  Silently or aloud, would you try this? (do this now).  

When you are tempted to be pulled away from your allegiance to God,  remember “I am God’s beloved child.”  In this way, you can affirm your relationship and remember that God draws near to you.  In every moment, God crosses your forehead and says, “you are my beloved child.”  

Lent is often full of self-denial, sacrifice and resisting temptations.  

Perhaps this is an ideal season to remind each other of the love and grace encouraged by this Lenten Prayer :

Fast from fear; Feast on Faith
Fast from despair; Feed on hope.
Fast from depressing news; Feed on prayer.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger and worry; Feed on patience.
Fast from negative thinking; Feast on positive thinking.
Fast from bitterness; Feed on love and forgiveness.
Fast from words that wound; Feast on words that heal.
Fast from gravity; Feast on joy and humor.

This Lent, we are invited to remember our sacred story in that difficult image of the cross, where we can trust God’s empowering love for us and all the world.  

Jesus was faithful to God and so God is faithful to us.  When we are tested and led to places of hunger and despair, we learn dependence on God, who defines who we really are.  God loves us and will keep loving us no matter what.  For this reason we are enough.  I know that I need to hear this declared again and again, in the face of messages to the contrary.

Who are you? What kind of child are you?  God’s beloved child, that’s who.

Amen