If someone asked you, “Who are you?” -- how would you describe yourself?
It might depend on who was doing the asking. If you were in an airport – facing a ticket counter or a customs agent – you might declare – I’m an American.. and state your name. And then you would bring out a drivers license and passport to prove it. If you were at a family reunion, you probably would share your parents or grandparents names and look at a family tree to prove it. If you were at a job interview, you might talk about your strengths - and share your references to prove it. If you were on a computer, you would type in your password, again to prove you were who you said you were. But since you are here – and you just heard the children’s sermon – you would just as likely say, “I am a child of God!” And you would not need to “prove it” because God has declared it to be so.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew answers the question of “Who is Jesus?” by beginning with Jesus’ family tree. Jesus is the answer to the covenant promised to Abraham & Sarah and to David and Bathsheba and through the prophets of the exile and the return. He’s got credentials. Matthew goes on to show how Jesus is the answer to the prophecies both old and new and is the answer to the prayers of star gazers and wise sages from the East. Again, he’s got credentials. Finally, the newest prophet, John the Baptist, baptizes Jesus and a voice from heaven comes down to say, “This is my beloved Son.” That’s better than a passport, driver’s license, passwords, references or security questions. It would seem as if Jesus would not need to “prove” who he is. After all, God has declared it to be so!
And yet, Jesus is sent out into the wilderness [Matthew 4:1-11]. In the Old Testament, the wilderness was often used as a time of testing. There’s no distractions, no internet and no social engagements. But… there is the devil, otherwise known as “Satan.”
The term “Satan” literally means “adversary” or “opposed.” We so often imagine the devil or Satan as a human-like figure or evil power figure – and in some ways it can be helpful to personify evil. But it can also be dangerous – because the power of evil is not so easily contained. And as we see from the craftiness of the serpent in Genesis and Satan in the Gospel, evil can often use things that are good – like God’s word – to try to trick or deceive. So it might be helpful to think of Satan as “anything that opposes the love of God” and tries to make us think we need something else in order to belong or to be good enough.
When the serpent approached Adam and Eve [Genesis 3:1-7], the serpent, playing the role of the one who is opposed to God’s will and God’s way – sought to separate Adam and Eve from God by tricking them into seeking their own solutions. Eat from the tree of good and evil. How easy it was for Adam and Eve -- and humans ever since-- to trust in their own power – and the seductive words of the serpent – and to mistrust God.
“Satan” tries to play upon Jesus’ human weaknesses: would he trust God or would he take charge - Would he make bread out of stones to feed himself? Would he jump off the temple to prove that the angels would save him? Would he take the power Satan offers? Jesus says no to all of Satan’s challenges… even when Satan starts quoting scripture. Instead of taking the bait, Jesus reminds Satan – the one who is opposed to God’s love -- and reminds us – to and worship God – and no one and nothing else.
Again remember that Satan is “anything that opposes the love of God” and tries to make us think we need something else in order to belong or to be good enough. For Adam and Eve it was an apple leading to wisdom. Satan tried to tempt Jesus with food when he was hungry, status and privilege which belonged to him already and the power of God – which was not Satan’s to give.
Our world has plenty of temptations too. Our consumer culture can sometimes make us feel as if we aren’t worthy or good enough just as we are. After all… what is the basis of advertising? You need this product to be better, stronger, bigger, faster. Which means… you are not good enough the way you are… you need…designer clothes, fast running shoes, the latest appliances, medicines that make you better, stronger, faster, smarter, thinner. The message is: you are not good enough… And people believe it. Too often we believe that we are not good enough, strong enough, fast enough, smart enough or thin enough.
But because God loves the world… including you -- God sent Jesus. And Jesus says to you: you don’t have to be better, stronger, faster, smarter or thinner. You are enough. God loves YOU – just as you are. God claimed YOU. God wants you to be healthy and happy and well but your health is not what makes God love you. God loves you and claims you not because of how good or bad you are – God loves you because that is the nature of God. God loves… You. – You are a beloved Child of God.
But that is not all. You belong. You belong to Christ – in whom you have been baptized. That’s WHOSE you are.
We say this in Church. We are reminded every time someone is baptized. But our identity in Christ goes beyond the walls of the church and beyond Sunday morning. I know that it is harder out there. And so sometimes we need to remind one another of who we are – and whose we are.
This past week I went to visit a member, Linda, who is struggling with dementia. Sometimes she knows who I am – and sometimes she doesn’t. On this day she remembered. And so we chatted for awhile – and I reminded her of you, the body of Christ here at Faith-Lilac Way and I told her that you were praying for her. She smiled. I read scripture to her. Again, she smiled. Then an aide came in the room. After greeting her and telling her who I was, I began to tell this aide who Linda was – how she had been active at church, a ready and capable volunteer, as sharp as they come. I told of the many responsibilities that Linda had undertaken – never wanting to take credit but always doing her part. And as I told the aide this story – I suddenly realized that Linda was listening intently. A glimpse of recognition came to her face as she remembered who she was – and whose she was.
Sometimes it is our job to not only remember whose we are – but to remind one another too. We are the body of Christ – together. And so… I would like to ask you to do something this week. Could you remind at least one person this week of who they are – and whose they are?
Let’s practice. Please repeat after me: You are a child of God. You are a child of God. And that’s good enough for God. That’s good enough for God.
And as you go beyond these walls – it’s good to remind one another – and to be reminded of who we are and whose we are. And remember – you are not alone. For Jesus walks with us too. Thanks be to God. Amen.