Welcome to my ‘Layman’s Lectionary’ series where I stumble my way through the liturgical year and share my layman’s testimonies and confessions on modern culture and daily life as it corresponds to scripture.
First Sunday in Lent
Click here for Revised Common Lectionary readings.
We live in a temptation-fueled world and maybe always have.
When I speak of temptation, I risk sounding like an overprotective parent. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. (And in Lent) Don’t eat that.
Unfortunately, religion has cheapened temptation by attaching it to petty (and sometimes not so petty) external things like moral and dietary transgressions. We’ve been taught that we’re tempted towards things like these. But if we look deeper at today’s readings, we see we’re directed inward and are warned that the root temptation actually tries to move us away from something.
That something is our identity as a beloved child of the divine. This is what temptation does. The things it seduces us towards are merely surface results of the thing it seduces us away from.
Now, back to this temptation-driven world we live in. This is a good time to step back and see how many things in modern culture try to chip away at our identities in God and substitute their ‘solution’ as our saving grace.
Advertising creates a sense of lack and inadequacy in us and tells us that if we drink the right beer, buy the right products, and subscribe to the right subscriptions, that we’ll be safe, secure, worthy, and wanted.
Even the social media posts of our friends, who may not be trying to sell us anything (unless you happen to be friends with someone who sells doTERRA — those people are ravenous!) showcase only the highlight reel of their lives so as to weaken our identities through comparison.
In Chicago’s mayoral race and in our impending Presidential race, we have a swarm of people who paint a picture that we are unsafe and vulnerable without them in office, but if we can just get them there, peace and justice will be restored and heaven will be brought to earth — through them.
When it comes to temptation, Jesus had it easy with just that one devil character. We get hit from every angle across countless digital devices and mediums.
The devil (also known as the accuser in scripture) seeks to erode Jesus’ confidence that he is enough, that he is secure, and that he is worthy of God’s love. But Jesus is reminded through scripture that he has and is enough. He doesn’t waver from the faith that he — like all of creation — is of infinite worth in the eyes of God.
This is the meditation for today. What if we knew — really knew — that God (or whatever you call the divine) loves us more than anything? That we don’t have to do anything to secure our worth or security but be who we are. And that any move away from this core identity actually makes us weak.
In the Christian tradition, we celebrate that God loves us enough to slip into flesh, take on our human struggles, suffer the same temptations and yearnings, be rejected as we often feel rejected, and die the most excruciating human death imaginable, all so that we may know that God is with us and for us forever.
The crescendo comes when Jesus is raised from the dead so as to demonstrate that God’s love is more powerful than hate and that the life that God offers is more powerful than death.
Today, we remember and acknowledge our true identity as beloved children of God so that we can turn and share that love with each other — even the most vulnerable and marginalized.
May you not suffer identity theft from the seductions of this world
May no icon of this world convince you that it is your redeemer
May you forever know your eternal worth as a beloved child of the divine
May you not be lead into temptation
But know that you are forever worthy and forever enough as you are