For this First Sunday in Lent, please enjoy this devotional written by Rev. Dr. Leslie Carole Taylor, Board Member of UCCDM
At Jesus’ baptism, the voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, the Beloved.” Immediately after his baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The devil challenges Jesus’ identity and tried to get him to act in ways that are inconsistent with the claim on his life. We must fight the temptation of identity theft. In the wilderness, Satan tries to make Jesus’ identity conditional. “If you are the Son of God, then such and such.” There are no “if-then” statements in God’s love for us. God never said to Jesus, “there are conditions on my love for you.” There are no conditions on our identity as God’s children, as disciples of Christ, and as members of the church. There are responsibilities, but there are no conditions. God loves us; Jesus redeems us, and the Holy Spirit guides and leads us.
However, there is temptation to doubt our identity. There is an identity thief out there that steals something more precious than our money and our credit rating. Satan is sometimes called the “Tempter” because Satan can put doubt in our minds. We doubt our identity, we doubt God’s love for us, and we doubt our purpose in the world. Satan waits to do his “best work” until Jesus is at his most vulnerable—Jesus is hungry, angry, lonely and tired. He has not eaten, slept, bathed, or talked to anyone except God, for over a month! Satan subtly suggests that Jesus deserved better than God was giving him. So the test is about Jesus’ faithfulness to who he is and what God is calling him to do: not to ask for special privileges, a special place, or relief, but to enter fully into this human condition of want and need and pain. “In Jesus Christ, God came to us to share our common lot” we say in our UCC Statement of Faith.
This testing of Jesus begins with a ritual weakening caused by forty days of fasting. I would invite us to see hunger not as simply as a physical state. It is a theological reality, as well. Our hunger (our need? our vulnerability?) makes us human.
Today, we may hear a “devilish” voice in our heads that says things like, “If you are a child of God, shouldn’t things be going a little smoother for you? If you are really a Christian, I mean – shouldn’t you be happier, healthier, richer, or safer? If God really loved you, you would not be living with a disability or a mental illness, right?” These are lies—lies designed to doubt our identity.
When we begin to doubt who we are and whose we are, I would invite us to remember the words spoken at our baptisms, “Holy Spirit be upon you, child of God, disciple of Christ, member of the Church.” Our days may find temptations to doubt, but we are not alone, we find love and support in one another and in the church.
The temptations attack Jesus in those places, where humans expect the best: daily bread, sacred spaces, the devotion of the heart. Where are you most vulnerable? Where do you doubt your identity?