The American Baptists of Los Angeles, Southwest and Hawaii practice the Season of Lent in many different ways. Our Region is rich with shades of traditions in congregational life and worship.
The forty days of Lent provide a defined space and time to reflect and meditate upon the deepest and elegant act of God’s Grace in His Son, Jesus our Savior. From my heritage as an Asian Indian, I have lived in the interwoven cultural/religious dominant context of Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist and other faith traditions. Many of those traditions are also practiced here in our Region of the U. S. A. When we reflect upon them, it is often observed that in these faith practices the common thread is man’s ultimate desire to connect with God. In the quest to gain God’s favor, several Religions have created ceremonial acts of human suffering experiences. We have been observing some of these on our media. Some forms of Christian Faith practices also embrace Human Suffering acts to imitate The Suffering of Jesus Christ. Ultimately all this is human endeavor for Spiritual Relief and connection with the Divine presence.
Christianity’s annual observance of the forty days leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross reminds us that it was God Himself who took the initiative to close the distance between Himself and humanity. His Answer was through man’s own instrument of a tortuous death on a wooden cross. God used this painful and shameful slow death as an eloquent process of self-sacrifice in giving His own Son, Jesus, to redeem humanity back from sin to God self. This was an incredible act of our Holy God who provided His own perfect sacrifice for man’s sins. The profound significance of God’s sacrifice for our lives is what we reflect upon in the season of Lent leading up to “Good Friday”. Lent reminds us that as Christians, we do not earn God’s Grace through our practices but we believe and trust, that God was in Christ redeeming our lives. It was God’s love and efforts alone which have provided the way to obtain forgiveness and eternal life for us. (John 3:16)
The intentions of God were very clearly described by Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi, when he wrote:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
Who, being the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God, something to be grasped? But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in the human likeness.
And being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient to death- even death on a Cross. And therefore God exalted him to the highest place….” (Philippians 2: 5-9, NIV)
This passage begins with a reminder for our lives to have the same attitude as in Christ Jesus. It is an elegant love story which has touched men and women of every faith through the ages to yield over their devotion and lives to serve the living Savior. Man’s efforts to justify himself before a Holy God can only stand still and mute in awe of this revelation. With little good news in the media, in a world of “fake news” and “alternate realities”, it is refreshing to be reminded by the Apostle Paul about our Christian Faith Heritage in Jesus Christ. The take away from this passage is we as the disciples of Christ, will impact this world, when we imitate the mindset of our Lord Jesus Christ. The elegant behaviors such as Humility, and Sacrificial leadership, is still the better way of life in a world filled with selfish, and self -serving actions. The impact of our Lord is still the biggest story, and the transformation of lives and communities is continuing even among challenging contexts. May this Lenten Season be an opportunity for you to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Dr. Samuel S. Chetti
American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles, Southwest & Hawaii