In the midst of spring break a new season began. (No, not spring; that is actually today.) On March 6th the church began the season of Lent. It is a season where the church journeys towards the cross and eventually the resurrection of Jesus. The 40 days of Lent (not including Sundays) comes from the 40 days that Jesus was in the wilderness after his baptism.
During Jesus’ time in the wilderness he was challenged by Satan in ways that questioned his identity. I think this is the experience that many of us have in the wilderness moments of our lives. We wonder who we are. We are tempted to think that our identity/worth is tied up in our power, privilege, and wealth. Right before Jesus was sent into the wilderness he was baptized and God declared, “This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased!” This is the identity that Jesus clung to in that wilderness place.
It can be easy to look for identity and worth through titles, bank accounts, brands of products we purchase … fill in the blank.
Lent invites us into a time of trying to re-center and remember that our identity is as a child of God.
Our identity and worth comes from being created by God and being a carrier of the image of God in this world. By doing this we will, hopefully, also be led to see the worth and dignity of others as children of God created in God’s image. When we feel insecure in the wilderness we can be tempted to try to find security in who we are through acts of power and control over others.
On Friday, I awoke like many others to hear of the hate crime in New Zealand fueled by xenophobia that led to the death of 50 Muslims who were in prayer. There are many reflecting on the rise of hate speech in our world. It isn’t hard to find places and people that spread messages of hate and fear. In our world we often try to find security in our life or in who we are by putting down or controlling “the other.” We may do this in subtle ways of putting others down. However sometimes it is done with hate speech, through systems of laws or regulations that take away the human dignity in others, or through acts of violence like we witnessed in New Zealand. During this wilderness moment in our world, I hope our Lenten journey might help us lean into our identity as a child of God and in turn to see our neighbors as fellow Image bearers.
The story of Jesus in the wilderness ends with angels waiting on him. I love this detail; even Jesus needed others in the wilderness! We are not meant to navigate these spaces alone, but with others in community.
How are we supposed to reach out and walk with our Muslim neighbors during this time of wilderness? How do we walk with each other during the finally weeks of the semester stress? How can we be open to those around us for support during our own wilderness? The Muslim Student Association has organized a chance for all of us to stand together and support one another during this time. On Thursday at 5 p.m. outside of the Chapel they are holding a Vigil for Muslim Communities. This is a chance to say that the path through the wilderness is not more hate and fear, the path forward is through seeing the humanity in one another.
During our wilderness journeys, during our journey of Lent, we are invited to lean into our identity as children of God. To realize that we are invited to not find our worth and way of being through a worldly standard that says it comes from power, control, position, and wealth. We are invited to a journey that reminds us who we are — and whose we are — as beloved children of God.
March 20, 2019
*Note: People of all races and religions are urged to join the Muslim Student Association at VU for 51 Seconds of Silence, a vigil for the Muslim communities of New Zealand. This vigil will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 21, 2019, outside the Chapel.